Money behind the policy push

Blues, utilities pursue similar tactics to policy goals

Two of the major policy initiatives in Lansing this legislative session have been driven by seven-figure advertising campaigns, more than $700,000 in political contributions to legislators so far this election cycle and hefty lobbying campaigns, the extent of which will never be known with any real accuracy.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan ran a $1.4 million statewide television ad blitz from mid-January through mid-February touting its proposal to remake the individual health insurance market in Michigan. It has backed that effort with $352,000 in contributions to legislators and their political action committees (PACs) so far this election cycle.

Blue Cross reported $412,000 in lobbying expenditures in 2007, 10th on the MCFN list of Michigan’s top 200 lobbyists for 2007. Blue Cross is not required to report any lobbying expenditures for 2008 until the end of August, when reports are due for the first seven months of the year.

Any lobbying done on behalf of the Blues by multi-client firms will be indiscernible. Multi-client firms are required to report their gross spending and the identity of their clients, but they are not required to report how much was spent on behalf of whom, or which bills they were advocating.

The Michigan Jobs and Energy Coalition has a $1.9 million statewide television ad campaign in progress at this time. The ads, which began in early April and will continue through the end of May, promote the coalition’s agenda for “comprehensive” energy policy. DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the two most prominent members of the Jobs and Energy Coalition, have combined to give legislators and their PACs $366,000 so far this election cycle.

Consumers and DTE were 13th and 19th, respectively, on MCFN’s list of the top 200 Michigan lobbyists for 2007. Consumers reported spending $301,000 in 2007, up by 51 percent compared to 2006, and DTE reported spending $224,000. Consumers and DTE are not required to disclose 2008 lobbying expenditures until August, and their expenditures through multi-client firms will be indiscernible, in the same way as those of Blue Cross.

“Clearly these are very high stakes efforts to drive public policy,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “The health of Michigan’s citizens, environment and economy will be affected for years, if not decades to come.”

“Michigan’s weak lobbying disclosure requirements should be reformed so reporting is more timely, and so we can easily identify all lobbying efforts behind any package of bills,” said Robinson. “That’s how it is for federal lobbying and that’s how it should be in Michigan.”

The interest groups’ contributions to legislators followed parallel patterns. The Blues gave $213,150 to House members and their PACs and $138,950 to senators and their PACs.

Consumers and DTE combined to give $222,455 to representatives and their PACs and $144,115 to senators and their PACs.

The Blues and utilities each directed more money to the majority caucuses in the Legislature. The Blues steered 70 percent of their House contributions to Democrats and 58 percent of their Senate contributions to Republicans.

Consumers and DTE gave 61 percent of their combined House contributions to Democrats and 66 percent of their Senate contributions to Republicans.

Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop were the top individual recipients of the interest groups' campaign largesse. Dillon’s leadership PAC and campaign committee took in $20,000 from the Blues and his leadership PAC alone took in $16,000 from the two utilities.

Bishop’s leadership PAC received $9,300 from the Blues and $11,200 from DTE and Consumers.

Most other top individual recipients of the Blues' money were members of the respective Health Policy Committees. Ninety-nine of the 110 representatives received money from the Blues, and 37 of 38 senators.

Other top individual recipients of the utilities’ contributions were mainly members of the respective Energy and Technology Committees. Ninety-two of 110 House members received money from Consumers and/or DTE, and 37 of 38 senators.

Lists of individual recipients are attached to this news release.

Data on the respective television marketing efforts were collected by MCFN from the public files of the state's commercial broadcasters and cable systems.

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Press Release 2008 News