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Big money in state politics getting bigger

Feb 25, 2015

The 2014 election cycle saw unprecedented fundraising by political action committees in Michigan.

Robinson says citizens do not know where campaign money really comes from.
Credit FLICKR USER COOPERWEB / FLICKR

Big With that came a major increase in money raised by so-called Super PACs – the independent-expenditure committees free to accept corporate and union contributions.

This major increase raises fresh alarm over the way big donors and special interests can spend money to influence your vote.

“It’s an indication of the trend in elections generally – whether we’re talking about federal elections, state elections, or even in some cases now, local elections – that the candidates’ campaign committees are being overwhelmed by the spending of independent groups,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a non-partisan watchdog group that tracks campaign and lobbying spending.

Robinson says candidate committees face limits on the amount an individual or political committee can donate, while Super PACs do not. 

“Super PACs don’t have any limits on contributions going in, no limits on what they can spend and there aren’t really any effective limits on sources. They can take money a profit-making corporation, a non-profit making corporation, a union corporation, a wealthy individual, whatever it is,” Robinson said. “It means that large donors, those who are able to write six- and seven-figure checks, are dominating these political campaigns and I would submit they’re probably dominating policy results after Election Day.”

Robinson says there are also weak disclosure requirements for independent expenditures by political action committees.

“If it was a special election, they’d (independent expenditures) have to be reported in 48 hours. In a federal election, independent expenditures are reported in 24 hours. But these groups, any independent expenditures they made after October 20 weren’t reported until February 18 – 100 days after Election Day,” he said. “The idea that citizens are able to track who’s putting the money into campaigns really is laughable. We’re nowhere near that kind of transparency.”