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Royals, Chiefs spent nearly $6 million on failed stadium tax push, breaking KC record

It will go down in Kansas City history as the most expensive voting campaign ever: $6 million and counting.

The Committee to Keep the Chiefs and Royals spent at least $5.7 million of that to promote the stadium tax ballot measure, which suffered a crushing defeat on April 2, newly released campaign finance reports show.

That’s nearly double the teams’ previously reported contributions to the campaign, making it the largest amount ever spent in support of a local ballot initiative in the Kansas City area.

The previous record was set in 2004, when teams spent approximately $5.2 million in inflation-adjusted dollars trying to pass the failed Bi-State II sales tax campaign to benefit the Chiefs, Royals and the arts community.

The report submitted Monday covers the period ending March 31, so the final amount for the failed campaign will almost certainly be higher, if only because the period does not include Election Day. That evening, teams hosted an election results viewing party at the J. Rieger & Co. Distillery.

Question 1 lost 58% to 42%. For each of the losing party’s 56,606 “yes” votes, the campaign committee spent just over $100.

That doesn’t count the $255,000 the Royals contributed separately to Freedom Inc. and three campaign committees with close ties to the provincial legislature and board member of Freedom Inc. DaRon McGee for advertising and voting efforts. Records show that $20,000 of that was donated to two McGee-affiliated committees two days after the election.

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

The two organized groups opposing Question 1 – the citywide tenants union KC Tenants and the Committee Against New Royals Stadium Taxes – together spent roughly $150,000, of which KC Tenants accounted for at least $132,400.

That works out to about $1.90 for each of the 78,350 no votes.

Neither team has announced what their plans are now. Their leases don’t expire until January 2031. Both the Chiefs and Royals say they are evaluating all their options, including whether they will leave Jackson County at the end of those leases or come back with a different proposal.

Kansas City manager Brian Platt said Monday on radio station KCUR that the city is in discussions with both teams and will take the lead in future negotiations, ousting Jackson County government from that role.

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Platt suggested the next deal for a downtown ballpark might not require a public vote, and said he still prefers the East Crossroads location because of its proximity to other downtown attractions and the streetcar.

Campaign finance data released Monday shows teams spent heavily over 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 3/8 cent sales tax that supports the Truman Sports Complex stadiums and replace it with a new tax of the same amount that would have lasted for forty years .

Revenue from that tax would have paid for the county’s share of a more than $1 billion new downtown baseball park — about $350 million — and about the same amount for the county’s share of an $800 million renovation at Arrowhead Stadium for the Chiefs.

But the ballot measure faced strong opposition from voters for several reasons. Many felt they were not given enough information to make a decision. Major financial questions remained unanswered, including the amount of money that would come from state and city government.

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Others opposed a downtown stadium because they want the Royals to stay in Kauffman Stadium. Still others worried about businesses disappearing at the intersection. Many also felt that the process was rushed and were deterred by the teams’ implicit threat—as reflected in the campaign committee’s name and advertising—that they would completely destroy the county and perhaps the Kansas City area as well. would leave if taxes were reduced. not approved.

To address that, the Committee to Keep The Chiefs and Royals has spent more than $2 million on political consultants, including more than $300,000 to companies owned by Jeff Roe’s Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies and $1.6 million to Dewey Square Group in Washington, DC.

They bought tons of advertising time on TV, social media and radio. At the end of March, the campaign still owed $498,225 to another D.C.-based political campaign outlet, GMMB Inc., for commercials that ran in the final week of the campaign and $156,000 to Dewey Square for canvassing costs, on top of what it had paid. the company has already paid.

A fuller account of the campaign will appear in subsequent reports later this month.

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