Ballot committees have spent $20M

Some donors' identities hidden by corporate shells

LANSING -- Just twelve committees have raised $29.3 million - and already spent $20 million - in initial financial activity surrounding seven ballot questions that may be decided by the Michigan electorate in November.

Records were compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network from reports filed this week with the Michigan Departmrnt of State.

The referendum to repeal Michigan's Emergency Manager Act could be derailed by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is weighing a technical challenge to the petitions circulated by the committee Stand Up for Democracy. If the Court determines a deviation in the font size of a headline on the petitions is sufficient grounds to disallow the petitions, voters will not have a vote on that question.

The petitions for the other six questions are under review and have not yet been approved by the Board of Canvassers.

In the July report Stand Up for Democracy reported receipts of $183,861 and expenditures of $182,965. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contributed $167,280 to the committee. AFSCME also was the top vendor to the committee, receiving $76,308, mainly for outreach.

The committee Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility is an announced opponent to the referendum. So far it has raised $29,000 and spent $24,482.

The proposed constitutional amendment to expand casino gaming is backed by the committee Citizens for More Michigan Jobs. It reported receipts of $2,772,000 through July 20th and expenditures of $2,727,623. Jobs First, LLC has donated $2,520,000 to the committee and the balance of its contributions came from three of the local proponent partnerships. There are no identifiable human donors to the committee. Its main expense so far has been $1,920,459 paid to National Petition Management.

Protect MI Vote is opposing the proposed casino expansion. So far it has raised $420,264 and spent $212,580. Greektown Casino is the top contributor, so far, at $100,380, followed by MGM Grand at $89,123 and Detroit Entertainment, LLC at $73,198. The established gaming industry spent $19.7 million to box out a proposal for racinos in 2004.

Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs is backing the proposal for a 25 percent renewable energy portfolio by 2025. The committee reported receipts of $2,263,107 and expenditures of $1,812,562. The committee's top donors through July 20th are: San Francisco-based Green Tech Action Fund: $1,342,000; Natural Resource Defense Council Action Fund: $450,000; Michigan League of Conservation Voters: $275,000;and the Regeneration Project: $100,000. Its major expense so far has been $1,587,101 paid to PCI Consulting for petition circulation.

Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition is opposing the renewable portfolio proposal. It has raised $6,204,307 and spent $5,688,237. Its top donors are DTE Energy (and DTE's ballot committee): $3,124,579 and CMS Energy: $2,856,063. It has paid $5.2 million for advertising to be produced and placed by Joe Slade White Communications.

The People Should Decide is a vehicle of the Detroit International Bride Company that is pushing a proposal to require approval in a plebiscite for any government involvement in the development of any future international bridge - an attempt to block the proposed new bridge between Detroit and Windsor negotiated by Gov. Rick Snyder. The committee has raised $4,757,500 and spent $4,588,553. The DIBC contributed $4,657,500. Central Transport, another holding of the DIBC's owner, Manuel Moroun, has donated $100,000 in-kind. The committee spent $2,342,828 for petition circulation and $1,143,500 for television advertising.

Michigan Alliance for Prosperity is the proponent of a constitutional amendment to require a legislative supermajority to approve any state tax increase. It has raised $2,289,921, all from Liberty Bell Agency, Inc., a shell corporation that shares its address with Central Transport. The committee has spent $1,852,962. The committee's greatest expense has been $1,632,421 for petition circulation. It used the same petition circulator as The People Should Decide: Silver Bullet, LLC of Las Vegas.

Protect Our Jobs is the committee backing a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to collective bargaining. It has raised $8,143,307 from a long list of Michigan unions. Its major donors include National Unity (UAW): $1,250,000; UAW Solidarity House: $1,028,480; the Michigan Education Association: $585,681; AFSCME: $500,000; American Federation of Teachers- Michigan: $460,000; International Brotherhood of Teamsters: $333,334; MEA Professional Staff Association: $300,000; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: $252,574; Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters: $250,000; and the Michigan Democratic Party: $250,000. The committee has spent $1,153,619 so far, mainly for personnel.

Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care is the committee behind a proposal for unionized home health care. It has raised $1,840,000, all from Home Care First, Inc. It has spent $1,754,333 in total, $1,538,967 for petition circulation.

Two notable committees, Michigan Chamber PAC II and Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, appear to be poised to oppose all the ballot questions. Chamber PAC II has raised $284,470. Of that total, $269,000 is from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution has raised $340,150. Its top donor is the Michigan Chamber at $100,000. Business Leaders for Michigan, the Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Associated Builders and Contractors and the West Michigan Policy Forum each contributed $30,000.

"It's notable that three of these ballot committees are running all their contributions through shell corporations to conceal the identities of their donors," said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

"That is a serious problem. The voters have a right to know the real identity of the people and interest groups who are speaking through these committees. That is a crucial part of evaluating their messages.

Press Release 2012 News