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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Napster's Sean Parker Showers $100K on Marijuana Measure

Posted By on Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 2:15 PM

click to enlarge Napster's Sean Parker -- yes, the guy played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network -- put his pot money where his mouth is - RAMASCREEN
  • RamaScreen
  • Napster's Sean Parker -- yes, the guy played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network -- put his pot money where his mouth is
The e-mail came Monday from Oaksterdam University's Richard Lee, the main driving force (at least publicly) behind cannabis semi-legalization measure Proposition 19. Just like other e-mails he'd sent out in the previous month, the message was a fund-raising pitch for a $75,000 "money bomb," asking Tax Cannabis 2010 supporters to chip in small amounts online to hit that fundraising goal in less than 24 hours.

The plea worked: Tax Cannabis raised $75,000 in a day, the campaign reported Tuesday.

But that generosity paled in comparison to Sean Parker's. The 33-year old Napster co-founder and current venture capitalist donated $100,000 to the marijuana taxation cause on Monday, according to campaign finance records. That's on top of $100,000 gifted in June by Philip D. Harvey, the owner of adult products mail-order service Adam & Eve, and head of international philanthropy outfit DKT International.

With $200,000 in the bank -- and hardly any of it spent, according to records available Wednesday -- one would think that Lee wouldn't need to beg for bucks.

But that money isn't his.

Parker and Harvey donated to something called the Drug Policy Action Committee, which is separate from Lee's Oakland-based Yes On 19 committee (to which donations in Monday's money bomb went). The committee's Sacramento-based accountant, Shawnda Deane of Deane & Company, said that the Drug Policy Action Committee is the fund-raising arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. Calls to Stephen Gutwillig, the Drug Policy Alliance's California state director, were not immediately returned.

Richard Lee
  • Richard Lee
The $200,000 in the Drug Policy Action Committee's war chest is a substantial sum -- that's nearly quadruple what the No on 19 committee had on hand as of Monday, according to records. And it dwarfs the $67,000 Yes on 19 currently flaunts (though Yes on 19 has spent $842,000 in 2010 alone, on top of the $900,000 invested in 2009).

So what are they going to spend it on? Why give so generously to The Drug Policy Alliance when Prop 19 is also in need, according to Lee's pleas? What could possibly be up Prop 19 supporters' sleeves?

Multiple calls to Lee's cell phone went unreturned. E-mails to Dan Newman, a political consultant with Ace Smith's firm SCN Strategies, which has acted as Prop 19's spokesman up to this point, were not answered.

So, here's the score: It remains unclear why out-of-state donors Parker and Harvey dropped such serious money into this contest. It's also unclear when and how the money will be spent -- and if it will be spent in a manner Lee considers beneficial. When it comes to interpreting the larger ramifications of these marijuana moves -- well, we're a bit smoked.

Update, 3:45 p.m.: The Drug Policy Alliance's Gutwillig returned our messages

It may sound like a lot of money but it won't go far in statewide politics, the Drug Policy Alliance's Stephen Gutwillig said.

"It [the Napster donation] is likely to be the high-water mark of our fund-raising from major donors," he said. "And this is not that much money. This is not enough money for any kind of statewide television ad buy. This is enough money to do some targeted messaging in impact communities and to support the official Prop. 19 campaign's efforts to boost turnout."

This means targeting black and Latino voters via print ad buys in markets likely to cater to those voters, Gutwilling said. Exactly how the Drug Policy Alliance spends its money is all its business and not Richard Lee's, Gutwillig said, but they are taking efforts to make sure that they work in concert.

"We're independent but we're in communication with one another," he said. "We're looking to make sure that we're not being redundant."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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