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Bill allowing unlimited political spending by corporations, unions passes state Senate

Sep 14, 2017

It’s been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations and labor unions can spend as much money as they want on political campaigns.

The court left it up to states to decide whether it institute their own limits. And today the Michigan Senate officially said, “No thanks.”

It passed legislation that would basically codify what the court said in its controversial Citizens United opinion.

State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says campaign donations are a way to exercise free speech.

“I don’t think it’s Democrat or Republican. All people have free speech regardless of how they’re organized. And that includes unions,” Meekhof said.

Critics of the legislation say it gives special interests too much influence over elections. 

Craig Mauger is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He says the bill goes beyond the Supreme Court case and allows candidates to effectively go around current limits on how much money candidates can raise.

“The state has these limits on how much individuals and PACs can give to people and this bill would allow an easy way around that. Because you could solicit unlimited contributions to an entity that you could then work pretty closely with,” Mauger said.

Super PACs wouldn’t be allowed to directly give money to candidates. But the groups could use the money to support candidates through things like mailers and TV commercials.

The bills are expected to be taken up in the state House soon.