campaign finance

Weekly Political Roundup
5:25 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Weekly Political Roundup: Campaign donation limits, impact on 2014 elections

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Each Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. 

This morning, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed new rules that would require more disclosure of who pays for issue ads. The Senate added language to block the Secretary of State’s proposal, and approved a bill that would double the amount an individual could contribute to a candidate or a candidate committee.

“What the Secretary of State is trying to do is level a very unequal playing field when it comes to financing campaigns,” Sikkema explains. “Right now, a candidate committee has to disclose everybody who gave any amount of money, and there are severe limits on how much an individual can give. But independent committees do not have to disclose and there are no limits as to contributions.”

After moving quickly through the Senate, this proposal now faces the House.

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Opinion
11:17 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Money and the Detroit mayor’s race

Today’s papers are reporting the results of a new poll showing one of the candidates in the Detroit mayor’s race leading the other by almost a 2-1 margin.

But there’s another, less well-known poll that may tell the real story of this and most elections. Unlike opinion polls, this one has hard numbers. It is the money poll, and in this one, Mike Duggan is leading Benny Napoleon by almost ten to one.

That’s based on the latest reports filed by Political Action Committes, or PACs, which raise money for campaigns in this state. They usually exist to raise money for candidates for office.

The PAC supporting Napoleon, Detroit Forward, had raised $303,000 dollars, as of ten days ago. The PAC supporting Duggan, called Turnaround Detroit, $2.8 million.

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Politics & Government
7:32 am
Fri September 13, 2013

In this morning's headlines: mental health courts, campaign donations, gay rights ordinance

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Plan to expand mental health courts moves forward

"A plan to expand mental health courts in Michigan seems to be gaining momentum in the state Legislature. A state House panel unanimously approved the legislation Thursday. People with serious mental health issues can avoid jail time and have certain charges erased from public records if they participate in treatment programs," Jake Neher reports.

State Bar wants to end anonymous campaign donations

"The State Bar of Michigan says it’s time to end anonymous campaign spending in elections for judges and Supreme Court justices. It’s asking the state’s top elections official to require committees that pay for so-called “issue ads” to reveal their donors," Rick Pluta reports.

Another Michigan community has gay rights ordinance

A Flint area community has approved an ordinance that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Associated Press, "The City Council in Linden voted this week to approve the ordinance covering employment, housing, public services and other areas."

Stateside
6:31 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

State Bar calling for an end to secretly-funded judicial campaign ads

Bruce Courtade

Confidence in the judicial system in our state has been undermined because funding sources for many judicial campaign ads remain secret, says the State Bar of Michigan.

Bruce Courtade, president of the State Bar of Michigan, discusses "dark money" in Michigan, and why the Bar is claiming Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land made a “bad ruling” back in 2004 on campaign spending. 

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Politics & Culture
5:30 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Stateside for Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

We continued our look at energy in Michigan on the show. Today, it's all about fracking. Horizontal hydraulic fracturing has led to an abundance of natural gas, but it is also raising a lot of concerns, both in the U.S. and Europe. We spoke with Andy Hoffman, Abrahm Lustgarten, and Russell Padmore about the risks.

And, you've heard of Benton Harbor and Whirlpool, Battle Creek and Kellogg - we explored "company towns" and what they mean for the Michigan economy.

First on the show, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network today released its 2012 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance entitled “Descending into Dark Money.”

I’m sure you’ll be just shocked, shocked I tell you - to learn record amounts of money were spent with even less accountability for who was spending that money. 

Rich Robinson with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network joined us in the studio today to discuss the issue. 

Stateside
2:44 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Michigan campaigns have been spending record amounts of money off the books

The cover of the report released today.
Michigan Campaign Finance Network

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network today released its 2012 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance entitled "Descending into Dark Money."

Record amounts of money were spent in Michigan with even less accountability for who was spending that money.

In his press release today, the man behind the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Rich Robinson, stated:

"We are victims of an anachronistic interpretation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act that allows unaccountable dark money to dominate our politics. Citizens should have the right to know whose money is driving critically important election outcomes, so they can evaluate how campaign spending correlates to policy outcomes."

Robinson joined us in the studio today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
8:38 am
Tue June 25, 2013

Commentary: Democracy and dark money

Today is the 110th birthday of one of my greatest heroes: George Orwell, who spent his too-short life fighting for fairness, honesty and democracy.

Orwell has been dead since 1950, and today, when we use the adjective Orwellian to describe something, we usually don’t mean something good. We mean something dark, sinister and hypocritical, something that reminds us of his book 1984.

Well, there’s no doubt that we have something of an Orwellian campaign finance system in this state, and today one of my living heroes, Rich Robinson, is releasing a new report showing in frightening detail just how much money dominates politics.

His survey, Descending Into Dark Money, shows that we don’t know where the vast majority of campaign spending comes from. And the system is designed to prevent us from finding out.

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Law
5:51 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

House Democrats push for changes to ethics, election laws during 'Sunshine Week'

State Representative Winnie Brinks at a June press conference announcing she'll run.
Courtesy photo Michigan Democratic Party

It's Sunshine Week, an annual push for open government and the public’s right to know stuff.

Democrats in the state House tied the introduction of a package of bills to Sunshine Week. The bills include a number of changes to Michigan's laws and constitution regarding ethics, campaign finance, and elections.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon February 18, 2013

The influence of money and politics in Michigan Supreme Court elections

A task force says electing Michigan Supreme Court justices should not be as partisan, or as much about money, as other political offices. But according to one watchdog group, last year the Michigan Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive, most secretive judicial election in America. Several recommendations to get some of the politics and secret money out of the Supreme Court elections were ignored by the legislature last year.

It’s coming up on a year since the Judicial Selection Task Force issued a report recommending changes to how we elect Michigan Supreme Court justices. Since then we elected three to the bench. Although the candidates ran on the non-partisan section of the ballot, politics was involved from the beginning.

“Michigan is unusual in that our Supreme Court race is so partisan. The candidates are nominated at a party convention,” said Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. Continuing, she said, “And, even though it doesn’t say on the ballot how they got nominated or which party nominated them, it’s really a farce, then, to put it up as a non-partisan election.”

And if politics is not far removed from electing Supreme Court justices, neither is money.

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Politics & Government
4:46 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Stateside: Dark money in campaign funding

Dark money is growing prevalent in Michigan elections
User: penywise MorgueFile

There is an ongoing trend of furtive campaign funding in Michigan.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said voters should demand transparency from their elected officials and their funding.

Robinson called this undisclosed funding “dark money.”

And the two biggest sources of it are, according to Robinson, Michigan’s Democrat and Republican parties.

“My basic premise is that people don’t spend large amounts of money in politics for philanthropic motives. Essentially, they’re advancing their own interests in politics,” he said.

According to Robinson, citizens have a right to know where the money comes from.

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Politics & Government
7:20 am
Mon November 5, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

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Where to go for last minute election research

"For those who still don't know how to vote in tomorrow's election, there are resources available. Voters can look at their ballots ahead of time at the the voter education Web site, publius.org. The website includes video clips that analyze the statewide ballot questions and some local proposals. The site also has a few hundred candidate videos from districts scattered across the state," Sarah Hulett reports.

Damaged cars from superstorm Sandy could end up in Michigan car lots

"Hurricane Sandy damaged a lot of cars along the East Coast. Consumer advocates say it's possible some of those cars could end up on Michigan dealer lots. Ronald Montoya is with Edmunds dot com. He says if the damage was reported, it will appear on vehicle damage reports, such as Car Fax or Autocheck. Otherwise, a mechanic should take a look at the car to see if there are signs of water damage," Tracy Samilton reports.

Michigan Congressional race spending down in Michigan

"Nationwide, U.S. House candidates are raising record numbers of money for their campaigns this year. But that's not the case in Michigan. Michigan Congressional races will raise about $35 million this year - down from $50 million in 2010. That's because Michigan is down a district after losing population in the census. And Republicans redrew the district to protect incumbents. That means most races aren't all that competitive," Kate Wells reports.

Politics & Government
4:44 pm
Fri November 2, 2012

State House Speaker Jase Bolger campaigns with Governor, brushes aside campaign finance complaints

State House Speaker Jase Bolger reaches out to shake the hand of a kitchen worker at Schuler's in Marshall
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

State House Speaker Jase Bolger spent today campaigning with Governor Rick Snyder.

Bolger is facing a potentially close vote next Tuesday in his southern Michigan state House district.

Jase Bolger has been dogged by allegations his office violated state campaign finance laws, when he helped facilitate a last minute party switch by a west Michigan state lawmaker earlier this year.

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Politics & Government
8:55 am
Thu November 1, 2012

Commentary: Money, and more money

A week from now, the election will be over, we’ll have more or less digested what happened, and go back to contemplating the other daily dilemmas of life in our state.

There’s the issue of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which wants to move from being a tightly regulated charity to being a normal non-profit, with much more freedom to do what it wants, and less responsibility to provide coverage for the uninsured.

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Politics & Government
9:00 am
Sat October 13, 2012

The week in review

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Every Saturday Michigan Radio's Rina Miller talks with political analyst Jack Lessenberry about the week's top regional news stories. This week they talk about Proposal 5 which would require a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature in order to raise taxes and the cost of campaigning in the state.

morning news roundup
7:00 am
Mon July 30, 2012

In this morning's state news headlines. . .

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Bolger and Schmidt answer to complaints about breaking campaign finance laws

State House Speaker Jase Bolger and state Representative Roy Schmidt have a little less than three weeks to answer complaints they broke campaign finance laws. A complaint by the Kent County prosecutor filed with the Secretary of State names just Schmidt. One filed by Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer names both of them. The two plotted to keep a serious Democratic challenger off the ballot after Schmidt jumped from the Democrats to the Republicans. House Republican spokesman Ari Adler says no laws were broken, but the speaker will back legislation to stop what they tried to do from happening in the future.  The Secretary of State sent letters last week to Bolger and Schmidt informing them there is an official inquiry underway.

Biden in Detroit

Vice President Joe Biden has been out on the campaign trail. He rallied teachers in Detroit Sunday. That’s where the American Federation of Teachers is holding its annual convention. "Biden went after Mitt Romney and Republicans in Congress for budget plans that would slash federal education spending. He said Republicans have consistently opposed proposals to keep teachers and other public employees on the job through the economic downturn," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Detroit Institute of Arts vote

Voters in three counties will soon decide the fate of a tax millage for the Detroit Institute of Arts. Museum officials say the DIA could shut down if a 10 year property tax doesn't pass. Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties will decide August 7th. The museum no longer receives state funding. But Critics say the DIA's campaign exaggerates the museum's financial struggles. The property tax would bring in roughly 230 million dollars over 10 years. Residents in counties that approve it will get free admission to the museum.

Commentary
11:12 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Commentary: Hijacking our constitution

If what I am about to tell you doesn’t make you angry and indignant, then you must be  completely cynical.

Huge corporations and other special interests have already spent $20 million on ballot drives designed to bend the  Michigan Constitution to suit their selfish needs.

They have spent $20 million; they’ve raised almost $30 million, and every sign indicates they’re just getting started.

These numbers, by the way, come from the  non-profit, non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

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3:37 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

In Michigan, a one-man follow-the-money machine

Lead in text: 
Rich Robinson is Michigan's campaign finance guru. He unravels the complex web of politics and money, and explains to reporters who's spending what in Michigan, and why. Read this profile of him here, which includes an interview with Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.
  • Source: Cjr
  • | Via: Lester Graham
MICHIGAN - Call him the perfect source. Whether they work in newspapers, radio, or online news, Michigan political journalists rely on a single indefatigable man to sort out the increasingly byzantine relationship between money and politics. Rich Robinson is the one-man operation behind the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Investigative
7:30 am
Mon May 28, 2012

Money Talks: Political spending hiding in the file cabinet

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Broadcasters are fighting a new rule to disclose more about who’s buying political ads. The Federal Communications Commission wants TV stations to post information about the political ads they air on a government website.

That will make it a lot easier to find out what groups are spending money to influence voters.

Recently, I met Rich Robinson in the parking lot of his office in Lansing. He was taking me on a little trip.

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Investigative
4:28 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Money Talks: Even when the donors are secret

It appears a superPAC and other political groups are coordinating their purchases of TV ads running in Michigan.  This means a more efficient use of secret money to influence voters.

Michigan TV stations across the state are running a series of ads critical of President Obama and his administration.

Here's an example of one of the ads.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Money Talks: But sometimes it hides

Lobbyists can pick up the tab for legislators. Some legislators welcome the favor, others decline.
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Elected state officials in Michigan can be more secretive about money than federal officials. At the state level, the disclosure laws on money and politics make it easier to hide conflicts of interest and influence on politicians.

When Governor Rick Snyder delivered his State of the State address last January, he tucked into it a quick mention about making state government more open.

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