The era of corporate PACs in Michigan begins

LANSING – A new era has begun for Michigan political action committees. Reports filed Monday with the Michigan Department of State show that the first state PACs funded by corporate contributions have been established.

The Michigan Association of Realtors has established an eponymously named second political action committee with a $200,000 contribution from the National Association of Realtors and $250,000 from its own issue fund. The new corporate PAC made $450,000 worth of independent expenditures for media buys supporting Republican Supreme Court nominees Robert Young and Mary Beth Kelly.

Corporate PACs are limited to making independent expenditures. They are not allowed to contribute directly to candidates.

The second new corporate PAC is Business Leaders for Michigan PAC II. The new corporate PAC received $20,000 from Meijer, Inc. and $5,000 each from an assortment of Michigan-based businesses. Its independent expenditures so far supported the senate campaigns of David Hildenbrand ($62,569) and Tonya Schuitmake ($23,741).

The biggest PAC in Michigan this election cycle is RGA Michigan PAC. RGA MI PAC is a creation of the Republican Governors Association and a piece of a national effort by the RGA. It was established this year.

Michigan connections to the RGA include the following:

• The Michigan Chamber of Commerce gave $5.4 million from its corporate treasury to RGA this year.

• Various individuals from around the country have given RGA MI PAC $8.4 million. Only $175,000 came from persons with Michigan addresses.

• RGA MI PAC sent $3 million to the campaign committee of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

• Of the remaining $5.4 million, RGA MI PAC gave more than $4 million to the Michigan Republican Party. It appears to have retained $1.3 million.

• Despite the fact that the RGA has paid for more than $3 million worth of television advertisements characterizing Virg Bernero as an unsuitable gubernatorial candidate, RGA MI PAC reports no expenditures for television advertising.

Beyond the development of the new corporate PACs, much looks familiar in the world of Michigan PACs. The legislative majority caucuses, House Democrats and Senate Republicans, follow RGA MI PAC at the top of the list, and established interest groups maintain their leading positions.

Leadership PACs reflect the changing of the guard in Lansing. The top leadership PAC is that of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, followed by Mitt Romney’s Free & Strong America PAC. The top leadership PACs under the control of officeholders who are presumed to be returning to Lansing in elective office in January are those of Sen. Mark Jansen and Rep. Richard Hammel.

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