Chiefs, Royals Stadium Tax Was Most Expensive K.C. Ballot Campaign Ever

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At $5.7 million and counting, the Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals spent more money than had ever been spent on any Kansas City ballot issue in the city's history, only to see voters reject a stadium tax to fund a new MLB stadium and upgrades to Arrowhead Stadium.

According to The Kansas City Star, citing newly released campaign finance reports, the amount spent was nearly twice the teams’ previously reported contributions to the campaign. The previous spending record was set in 2004, when the teams spent roughly $5.2 million in inflation-adjusted dollars in an effort to pass the unsuccessful Bi-State II sales tax campaign to benefit the Chiefs, Royals and the arts community.

"The report filed Monday covers the period that ended March 31, so the final tab for the unsuccessful campaign will almost certainly be higher, if only because the period does not cover Election Day," Mike Hendricks of the Star wrote. "That night teams hosted an election results watch party at J. Rieger & Co. distillery."

The stadium tax measure failed April 2. Question 1 lost 58 percent to 42 percent. For each of the losing side’s 56,606 “yes” votes, the campaign committee spent a little more than $100.

That does not count the $255,000 that the Royals contributed separately to Freedom Inc. and three campaign committees with close ties to county legislator and Freedom Inc. board member DaRon McGee for advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts, Hendricks reported. Records show that $20,000 of that was contributed to two McGee-affiliated committees two days after the election.

"When that quarter million dollars is added in, the cost of the vote-yes effort climbs to just under $6 million, or about $105 per vote," wrote Hendricks. "The opposition didn’t even come close in their spending."

The two organized groups that opposed Question 1 – the citywide tenants union KC Tenants and the Committee Against New Royals Stadium Taxes – spent roughly $150,000 between them, with KC Tenants accounting for at least $132,400 of that. That averages out to about $1.90 for each of the 78,350 no votes.

The teams' leases don’t expire until January 2031, and both the Chiefs and Royals say they are evaluating all their options, including whether to leave Jackson County at the end of those leases or come back with another proposal.

Campaign finance records released Monday show that the teams spent big throughout a six-week campaign, but especially in the final days before the election. Their goal was to convince Jackson County voters to repeal the current 3/8th-cent sales tax that supports the stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex and replace it with a new tax of the same amount that would have run for 40 years.

Revenues from that tax would have paid for the county’s share of a new $1 billion-plus downtown baseball park – about $350 million – and roughly the same amount to pay for the county’s share of an $800 million renovation of Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs, the Star reported.

"The Committee to Keep The Chiefs and Royals spent than $2 million on political consultants, including more than $300,000 to companies owned by Jeff Roe’s Kansas City-base Axiom Strategies and $1.6 million to Dewey Square Group in Washington, D.C.," Hendricks wrote. "They bought tons of ad time on TV, social media and radio. As of the end of March, the campaign still owed another DC-based political campaign shop, GMMB Inc., $498,225 for commercials that ran in the last week of the campaign and $156,000 to Dewey Square for canvassing costs, on top of what it had already paid the firm."

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