campaign finance

STEVE CARMODY / MICHIGAN RADIO

Some Michigan lawmakers are trying – once again – to pass legislation that would require elected officials to file financial disclosures. It’s an issue that lawmakers have been trying to get past the finish line for decades. 

Michigan House of Representatives

State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Traverse City) was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of extortion, bribery and lying to the FBI. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge alleges Inman offered to trade one of his votes in the House for campaign money. 

The indictment says Inman texted a lobbyist from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCCM) in June 2018 and offered to vote ‘no’ on a prevailing wage bill if MRCCM and other trade unions would donate more to his campaign. 

Aaron Selbig

Members of Congress usually raise more money than the people running against them. But in northern Michigan, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) was outraised by a Democrat in the final quarter of 2017. 

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

A campaign committee controlled by Republican leaders is facing fines and questions over how it lost track of many thousands of dollars during the last election.

2016 may well go down as the Year of the Lobbyist in Michigan.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) dug into the numbers and discovered spending on lobbying was higher in 2016 than any other year: lobbyists spent $39.99 million last year, which broke 2015's record  of $38.7 million.  

Sam Corden

Political candidates raised millions of dollars - and spent millions of dollars - in Michigan this election season, but they weren’t the only ones. 

There was also plenty of political spending by independent groups. Those are the groups not connected to any candidate, which can accept unlimited amounts of cash from donors. The top 20 groups in Michigan spent $9.9 million between January 2015 and Election Day, according to a report by the watchdog Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

About half of the money raised by those groups came from a dozen sources, the report says.

“Those 12 sources are driving the independent spending in Michigan, and the main force behind it is the DeVos family,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

 


 

Over the last few weeks, Michigan all of a sudden became a battleground state.

Both candidates and their surrogates barnstormed across Michigan to rally supporters and get out the vote.

Candidates often publicize the amount of money they have raised by including it in press releases or newsletters. But with campaign financing often criticized for it's ability to sway candidates based on who is funding them, why would candidates willingly draw attention to how much they have received?

Joe DiSano of DiSano Strategies in Lansing says these numbers are targeted at potential donors and their opponents, not ordinary voters.

Sarah Payette

The Michigan Bureau of Elections says Gov. Rick Snyder did not break campaign finance laws during his State of the State speech last month. Read the opinion here.

The bureau dismissed a complaint accusing the governor of using taxpayer dollars to advocate for a May ballot proposal to raise the sales tax. Snyder told voters to “vote yes” on the question at least six times during the speech.

David Cassleman

Primary elections in northern Michigan were some of the most expensive races in the whole state this summer, according to a report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Traverse City’s outgoing schools chief is offering to personally pay nearly $14,800 to settle a campaign finance violation with the state, stemming from a district campaign mailer from 2012.

“The responsibility for what comes from the district is ultimately mine,” says Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cousins. “I’ve always said I would take responsibility for it. So that’s what I’m doing.”

A campaign-spending watchdog is worried about the potential effect on Michigan’s politics by a U-S Supreme Court new decision. The court partially lifted limits on campaign donations by individual donors.

“A donor could be agnostic as far as party goes,” says Rich Robinson. “But if they can essentially bribe every member of Congress, they’ve got a lot more leverage in getting what they want out of government.” Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.  

Russ Climie / Tiberius Image

  Governor Rick Snyder appears to be leaning toward signing a bill that would increase the amount of money donors could give to political committees. At the same time, it would circumvent efforts to require independent committees to reveal the donors behind so-called “issue ads.”

During his first election campaign, the governor said he favored disclosure laws for issue ads. But he says now it’s more important to name committees that sponsor robo-calls. 

People who pay for so-called “issue ads” would be able to stay anonymous under a bill that has cleared the state Legislature. It would also double the amount of money people can give to campaigns and political action committees (PACs).

The state Senate gave SB661 final legislative approval Thursday.

It would also block Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s proposal that would require issue ads to disclose their donors.

Republicans in Lansing are split over whether people who bankroll so-called “issue ads” should be allowed to remain anonymous. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed a rule to require disclosure just hours before Michigan Senate Republicans voted to block her effort.

There are three races this year for spots on the Michigan Supreme Court. Two incumbents are running, and there’s one open seat.

The Republican and Democratic parties spend millions of dollars to get their candidates elected to the state’s highest court, even though candidates are listed on the non-partisan part of the ballot.