michigan campaign finance network

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Democrats and Republicans are spending heavily on TV ad buys to sway voters in a handful of state house elections.

Democrats need to win 9 seats currently held by Republicans next month to take control of the state house.    

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s sagging poll numbers in Michigan may be behind a surprising rise in TV ad buys in one state congressional race.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette


It's time for another political roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas​.

Attorney General Bill Schuette joined a lawsuit this week to try to block an overtime pay rule that came out of Washington.

It would require businesses to pay overtime to salary workers who earn less than $47,500 a year. That’s up from about $24,000.

According to Sikkema, “Any of these federal regulations that deal with pay, whether it’s minimum wage or whether it’s overtime pay, are going to be looked at skeptically by Republicans. [Schuette] is not the only one.”

Inside the capitol in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spending by lobbyists at the state capitol is on pace to break last year’s record.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports lobbyists reported spending $21.7 million during the first seven months of 2016. During the same period last year, lobbyists spent $21 million.   

In all of 2015, lobbyists reported spending a record $38.7 million wooing Michigan lawmakers. 

According to Craig Mauger, Meijer was one of several entities that donated to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee on the day a senate panel began considering whether to block local plastic bag regulation.
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The first line of a release from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reads:

"The same day a Senate panel began considering whether to block local efforts to curb the use of plastic bags, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee reported receiving a $20,000 contribution from the political action committee of one of Michigan's largest retailers."

According to MCFN executive director Craig Mauger, that retailer is Meijer. 

Courtesy of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network

It looks like dark money groups were hard at work trying to influence your vote during last week’s primary – particularly targeting Republicans running for the State House.

Craig Mauger heads up the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

“This was an effort, a well-orchestrated effort, to keep extremely conservative candidates out of the House GOP caucus,” Mauger told us.

He sat down with us today to talk about what role these secret donors play, and why they’re so hard to identify.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools needs a financial lifeline from Lansing to keep going beyond this school year.

But efforts to get that done in the state Legislature have largely been hijacked by big donors with different views on a separate but related issue: oversight of the city’s charter schools.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.


New numbers show Democrats outspending Republicans on TV ads in Michigan leading up to the March 8 presidential primary.

Next Tuesday’s primary could play a major role in deciding who stays in the race and whose time is up. 

Craig Mauger is with the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.  

He says before Super Tuesday, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had spent more than $2 million on TV ads in Michigan. The Republicans spent less than $200,000 dollars.

But that’s changing.  

The Mulholland brothers ran an $18 million Ponzi scheme, the AG says
Flickr user Pictures of Money / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A non-profit watchdog group says the person who signed a new law doubling campaign contributions was the one who ended up benefiting the most.

In December, 2013, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that doubles the amount an individual can donate to a statewide election from $3,400 to $6,800.  The law also doubles the amount a political action committee can donate from $34,000 to $68,000.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports companies spent $21 million in the first seven months of the year.  That’s about 1.3% more than during the same period in 2014.

Multi-client lobbying firms dominated the filings, which presents a problem.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. - A new report says lobbyists spent a near record total of about $37 million in 2014 trying to influence legislation in Michigan.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network said Tuesday that lobbyists' spending in 2014 totaled $37,038,329. That's just short of the record spending reported for 2012, a total of $37,152,883.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a lot of money being spent to elect Michigan’s Supreme Court justices.

The eight candidates running for three open slots on the Michigan Supreme Court have spent nearly $700,000 on TV ad buys as of this week.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report shows outside money is flowing into Michigan’s U.S. Senate and governor’s races.

As of Sept. 1, nearly $30 million has been spent on TV ads on Michigan’s race for governor and U.S. Senate.

Rich Robinson, with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, poured through TV station public files to get the numbers.

He says about three quarters of the money has come from outside groups.     

A lot of that outside money has been ending up in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New data show Michigan congressional candidates are digging deep into their own pockets to pay for their campaigns.

A trio of businessmen running for Republican congressional nominations have dug the deepest, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission this week.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A campaign spending watchdog is worried about the potential effect on Michigan’s politics by a U.S. Supreme Court decision today. 

The Supreme Court has struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

2014 will be a big election year in Michigan and spending by Political Action Committees is expected to be just as big.

Rich Robinson is the director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Michigan Secretary of State, Ruth Johnson.

Republicans in Lansing are split over whether people who bankroll so-called “issue ads” should be allowed to remain anonymous.

Issue ads attack or support politicians or causes without using what are called “magic words" like “vote for” or "oppose." Unlike campaign ads, the money behind issue ads can be anonymous.

But, late last week, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed new rules that would require disclosure of issue-ad donations.

Johnson said, too often, issue ads are just thinly disguised political ads, and people should know who is paying for them.

But, many Republicans disagree. In fact, within hours of Johnson's proposal, the GOP-led Senate acted quickly to amend a campaign finance bill that would make Johnson's new rules illegal.

Rich Robinson, Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, and  Jonathan Oosting, Capitol reporter for MLive.com, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

In a few weeks, a U.S. District judge will hold a hearing on a Michigan case that challenges the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. On today's show: we explored the implications the case could have in Michigan and across the nation.

Also on today's show, Michigan wines are really making a name for themselves outside of the state. We talked to a connoisseur who isn't the least bit surprised by that news. And, according to a new report, lobbyist spending on free lunches for legislators has gone up. We spoke to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network to see what else they are spending on. Also, The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference was this past weekend. It's Just Politics co-hosts Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark joined us to talk about what happened there.


There’s a new report on lobbyists’ spending in Lansing. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has looked at the numbers, and the big change: free lunches for legislators are up 48% from 2012.

Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network joined us today to talk about what he’s found.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

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.

Stateside: Dark money in campaign funding

Jan 10, 2013
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.

A new TV ad for Senator Debbie Stabenow.
screen grab

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow are both far outspending their opponents on TV ads in Michigan.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The report says groups supporting Romney have spent about $13 million for ads in Michigan since the February primary.

The Obama campaign and supporters haven’t spent as much in Michigan, but Obama still has a lead among likely voters, according to most polls.

Rich Robinson is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

First, the bad news: A State Integrity Commission yesterday released a new study of ethics and integrity in state governments across the United States. To quote the New York Times, it found:

“Most states shy away from public scrutiny, fail to enact or enforce ethics laws, and allow corporations and the wealthy a dominant voice in elections and policy decisions.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new study finds 3 Michigan congressional campaigns were swamped with outside money during the recent election.  And most of that money paid for negative ads.

National political parties, unions and special interest groups spent $19 million on issue ads leading up to the November election.   The money was focused on the 1st, 7th and 9th congressional districts, where Democrats were trying to fend off strong Republican challenges.