2016 - Proposition 56
A coalition of public health groups, the largest healthcare union in the world (SEIU), and California medical providers hired Foundation Public LLC’s Founder Chris Lehman as Lead Strategist to design and pass a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. Lehman and the campaign leadership were determined to exceed the results of 2012’s $1-per-pack cigarette tax, Proposition 29, which narrowly lost in an excruciating post-election count that became the closest initiative race in California history (49.8% - 50.2%). In his first statewide campaign as Lead Strategist, Lehman directed a public opinion and legal research effort over two years to design a ballot measure that could withstand an intense opposition campaign from Big Tobacco. Then, during the campaign, Lehman created a somewhat controversial but extremely popular campaign message that flipped the burden of proof on the tobacco industry by pointing out that tobacco use costs taxpayers billions of dollars per year, whether they smoke or not, and asking voters to have “smokers pay their fair share”. Finally, Lehman designed and oversaw a thorough statistical modeling effort that narrowed campaign targets so that the underfunded Yes on Prop 56 campaign could use a fractional budget to compete with parity in certain addressable paid mediums with the much better funded No campaign led by the tobacco industry. The resulting campaign led to a stunning 29 point victory for Proposition 56 (64.4% - 35.6%) and a remarkable 16.6% reduction in cigarette sales and corresponding decrease in smoking in California.
2012 - Proposition 39
Tom Steyer hired Foundation Public, LLC’s Founder Chris Lehman to help him pass Proposition 39, a ballot initiative to close a California corporate tax loophole that sent over a billion dollars every year to out-of-state corporations and incentivized employment in other states. Lehman worked with “Master of Disaster” Chris Lehane on an aggressive 90-day asymmetric campaign with a goal of trying to discourage five multinaitional corporations from opposing Steyer’s initiative. Before the 90 days were over, and following an ethics complaint designed by Lehman, each one of the corporations called the campaign, pledged to not oppose Proposition 39, and the opposition campaign was eliminated due to lack of financial contributions. Steyer’s Proposition 39 campaign moved forward and delivered a 61.1% - 38.9% victory, sending billions of dollars to California’s public schools and clean energy investments instead of to out-of-state corporations.