Ballot initiative activism
Together with liberal billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis, Sperling has been a very active donor to ballot initiative campaigns to decriminalize marijuana. Sperling has donated to over 17 ballot initiative campaigns in 11 different states to end marijuana prohibition.
A profile in the Phoenix New Times in 2000 said, "Business tycoons George Soros, John Sperling and Peter Lewis use the initiative process as their own private laboratory, funding campaigns around the country -- including Arizona's two medical marijuana initiatives -- to the tune of millions."
Donations in 2008
In 2008, Sperling has:
- Given $500,000 in support of California Proposition 5 (2008).
Ballot measure campaigns to which Sperling has given in previous years include:
- Arizona Marijuana Legalization, Proposition 203 (2002), $1,323,716.
- Arizona Proposition 107 (2006). $91,000.
- California Proposition 36 (2000), $1,193,000.
- California Proposition 72 (2004), $150,000
- California Proposition 66 (2004), $500,000
- Utah Initiative B (2000)
John Sperling was born into a poor sharecropper family and spent several years as a sailor in the merchant marine, and even as a wandering 1950s beatnik. He received his undergraduate education at Reed College, Oregon, a master's from the University of California, Berkeley under the G.I. Bill, and then went on to attain a Ph.D. in Economic History at Cambridge University. Before becoming an entrepreneur (at age 53), he taught as a tenured professor at San Jose State University. He was an activist with several liberal causes in the 1960s, building a powerful new California faculty union, and was part of several conflicts with authorities and university leaders of his experimental adult education schemes.
He is also the co-founder of Genetic Savings & Clone of Sausalito, California. He spent seven years and more than $19 million trying in vain to clone a dog named Missy in a project called Missyplicity. A subproject of Missyplicity was called Operation CopyCat, which successfully created the first cat clone, named CC.
More recently Sperling has directed his attention toward extending the life span of human beings -- research into life extension technology or "biological immortality."Wired magazine reported in their February 2004 article John Sperling Wants You to Live Forever that his fortune is quickly approaching US$3 billion, and has plans to donate it to human biology research when he dies. If he does so, this would be the biggest private program ever devoted to human biology.
- Sperling: A Guide to the Drug-Legalization Movement
- Phoenix New Times, "Autograph Hound," April 13, 2000
- Follow the Money on Arizona Prop 203
- Follow the Money on Prop 107
- Sperling donations to Yes on 36
- Follow the Money on Prop 72
- Follow the Money on Prop 66
- A Guide to Drug-Related State Ballot Initiatives