Pavlovian Conditioning In Michigan Politics
Michigan’s campaign finance laws were designed to expose quid pro quo donations to legislators and politicians by the individuals and groups having special interests in government actions. A particular goal of campaign finance laws was to prevent politicians from benefiting personally from their votes and actions. In the American Civics version of representative government, politicians are expected to represent their voters exclusively. Selling their votes and actions to the highest bidder creates an unresponsive, alien government in short order. Think Venezuela, Illinois, or Detroit. Where Michigan is now heading.
Political campaigns are expensive today. Consultants and media outlets are the particular beneficiaries of lavish campaign spending and have, in turn, convinced candidates that money is the sine qua non of political success. Today, you are not considered a serious candidate for the lowest rung in the Michigan political firmament – State Representative – unless you have a $ 100,000 campaign war chest.
American politicians and their special interest backers are developing a technique which directs quid pro quo donations right into politicians’ pockets. This technique is fast becoming a staple of Michigan politics and Michigan’s nitwit media have ignored this ingannation of representative government.
Michigan politicians are now morphing into vending machines that cater to the highest bidders in Lansing and Washington. This explains the passage of the PA 192 – 197 Detroit Public Schools bail out over the objections of many outraged Michigan voters.
An aspiring politician with personal wealth, but scant few political backers, decides to mount a successful campaign for office. This aspiring politician has no record of political success, so the usual Michigan political donors provide little or no up front funding to their official campaign finance committee. Nowhere near enough funding to mount the kind of aggressive, successful campaign the aspiring politician wants to run. What is this aspiring politician to do?
The aspiring politician makes personal loans to their own campaign finance committee in whatever amount it takes to get elected. Should the aspiring politician not have the funds immediately available, a bank loan is arranged. Once elected, the now successful politician’s campaign finance committee starts receiving donations from all those PACs and individuals who are interested in guiding the politician’s votes and actions. The politician happily accepts this stream of funds from his new found political friends and then directs his campaign finance committee to repay all those prior personal loans.
This entirely legal political finance chain directs political donations from special interests right into politicians’ personal financial accounts. Michigan politicians can now legally increase their personal wealth as a direct consequence of political contributions to their campaign committees.
These personal loans by politicians to their own campaign finance committees have no value until they are paid back, and their payback only comes from contributions. Without contributions, those loans are a total write off. In economics parlance, a sunk cost is being ‘unsunk’, solely by political contributions. These loans are Pavlovian conditioning of politicians to reject the interests of their constituents for the interests of their special interest donors.
Consider these two examplars in the current Michigan House of Representatives who directly facilitated the passage of the DPS bail out: Mary Whiteford in the 80th District and Larry Inman in the 104th:
Representative Mary Whiteford’s campaign finance committee owed her $ 84,566.67 in the amended post special general election report filed on 07 April 2016. This was the accumulated total of personal loans which Representative Whiteford made during her losing 2014 campaign and her winning 2015 special election campaign, as reported in her committee’s April 7th, 2016 campaign finance report.
The Whiteford committee’s current loan balance is $ 5,236.89 less than that reported on Apri7th. This reduction in indebtedness is less than the $ 6,084.35 her committee paid her during the April 7th to July 22nd reporting period, presumably due to payments of interest. So Ms. Whiteford will actually make money on the loans she made to her campaign committee!
Ms. Whiteford’s committee is completely paying off individual loans, so they no longer appear in her pre primary report ‘Debts & Obligations’ list. You can find the specific loans paid off by comparing the April 7th and July 22nd 2016 reports’ ‘Debts & Obligations’ sections, but it is not really necessary because all her campaign finance committee obligations are owed to Mary Whiteford herself – no one else. Just look at the ‘Summary Page’ statements for the two periods.
Representative Larry Inman’s campaign finance committee owed him $ 100,000.00 in the post general election report filed on December 3rd, 2014. This was the accumulated total of personal loans which Representative Inman made during his winning 2014 campaign. The Inman campaign finance committee’s current loan balance reported on July 21st, 2016 is now $ 88,000.00; $ 12,000.00 less than that reported on December 3rd, 2014. This reduction in indebtedness is due to committee payments totaling the same $ 12,000.00 paid to Representative Inman over the period from March to July 2016. At least Representative Inman is not trying to make money on the loans he made to his campaign finance committee.
Whose donations are being fed into Representative Whiteford’s and Inman’s personal accounts? Whiteford received $ 6,500.00 more or less from DeVos acolytes at the height of the Detroit Public Schools bail out debate; right in line with the $ 6,084.35 her committee paid her. The DeVos family put a lot of effort into electing Ms. Whiteford in 2015 when the DPS bail out was on the political horizon through nine mailings on her behalf paid for by their GLEP political vehicle. They were a central player ramming through the DPS bail out. Quid pro quo?
Inman is also being paid off by the DeVos family and their acolytes, who suddenly started contributing to him at the height of the Detroit Public Schools bail out debate. The DeVos cabal contributed something right in the vicinity of the $ 12,000.00 that Representative Inman repaid himself. They had not contributed anything to Representative Inman before the DPS bail out debate. Quid pro quo?
Both Representatives Whiteford and Inman are now wealthier than they were at the beginning of 2016, solely due to political contributions their campaign finance committees received. Whiteford is $ 6,084.35 wealthier and Inman is $ 12,000.00 wealthier. Without those political contributions, their personal loans would have been unrecoverable and valueless.
This quid pro quo has accelerated lately in Michigan due to the repeal (by PA 269 of 2015, the notorious SB 571) of a long standing Michigan statutory requirement that prior campaign cycle loans could only be paid back with contributions specifically designated for those same prior campaign cycles. Campaign contributions received in one campaign cycle could not be used to pay off prior loans unless they were specifically designated – on the check – for the particular prior campaign cycle. This was as confusing in practice as it is to explain, so it was difficult to pull off in practice. No more.
Look at the first page of the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of SB 571 (which became PA 269). Fifth bullet point. The floodgates of corruption are now open. Candidates loan their campaigns money (no legal limit here), then gradually pay off the loans with contributions from parties with interests in legislation – vote by vote – after they are elected. Quid pro quo.
Representative Whiteford was questioned about her huge campaign finance committee loan balance during the October 23, 2015 WHTC debate during the campaign leading up to her November 2015 special primary (circa minute 27 of Part II). She described them as a “basic accounting principle”, nothing more. She lied.
No one in the media has even bothered to ask Representative Inman about his huge campaign finance committee loan balance. Our nitwit media is either out to lunch, or in on the deal.
Now you know how – and why – the DPS bail out passed. The 55 – 53 passing vote on PA 192 (HB 5384) would have gone the other way, stopping the bail out dead, if only one Representative had voted the other way. At least two West Michigan Representatives sold their own schoolkids down the Detroit River to recover their campaign loans.
Quid pro quo.
I'm not sure that questionable campaign contributions will ever be a deterrent for candidates until the candidates themselves are ever forced in to the same room together with more than a moderator alone asking questions and certainly not the people being served.
Many of these Representatives and Senators aren't being forced to show their faces in public 'singularly' let alone in any measurable manner during their entire terms.
If you don't even know who they show up with 'in public' when they come out in to the light of day every now and then...you sure as blazes aren't going to hurt their chances of being reelected by shouting out who they are being led around by financially without them, their supporters (where internal dissent is not tolerated) or the media within earshot.
...it would be nice to see a poll of who has heard of their legislator being 'anywhere' in real time of late...or if campaign contributions were ever 'allowed' in to the conversation when questions were (heaven forbid) asked off the cuff of them by mere constituents (see Hilary's strategy currently).
My first question to gray-haired Tea Partiers exactly 9 years ago was this:
Why aren't you forcing our own employees (or raising a big sink about it given your 'inside' track with the local Republican parties) to actually 'be' somewhere publicly (NOT invitation only) during the August recess (minimally) every single year?
Either dead silence or "...welllll..our members don't necessarily 'like' him (or her) very much..".
Where are they?
It was exactly 7 years ago when the "Tea Townhalls" emerged (sparingly) when (but a few) candidates made the mistake of overestimating statewide conservative voter's expectation of their attendance at same.
Today...following heartbreaking scandal and their realization that we don't even track legislation in real time or invest absolutely all political capital in transparency at all levels?
They would literally laugh in our faces.
10x25MM thanks again.
Wow, all these years while I've been working, watching legislators hardly working, only now do I realize that my career path has been wrong. Last night I attended a meet the candidate event put on by the local Chamber of Commerce. I observed incumbent candidates never move from the safety of Chamber members--you could tell Chamber members as they were all youngsters, in uniform: khaki pants, collared shirts tucked in with pre-printed name tags on. Those candidates who couldn't make it, sent paid surrogates--with the exception of Gen. Jack Bergman, who sent a trusted campaign volunteer. I know they were paid surrogates because I asked them. One of the paid surrogates tried to justify his worth--it should be noted he was being paid by a campaign whose candidate lived blocks from where this event took place. I took this to mean that not one local wanted to be known as a "friend" of this candidate, not a neighbor, family etc. This spoke volumes to me.
Four days until the primary, August 2, 2016. You have until 4:00 today to file with your township or city clerk an Affidavit of intent to run for precinct delegate. (On election day, write your name in and vote for yourself.) Voting is just part of the process, being a delegate gives you a voice. In these next four days, you can make five phone calls to friends, ask them to make five phone calls, etc. if we are going to move forward in a sane and orderly fashion, we need to get the vote out for our candidates--Congressional down to township trustees. Get moving!
I would put the threshhold for 'serious candidate' at $30,000. See my breakdown of the 2014 primary.
If candidates were forced to appear before the people on a regular basis before the election itself (see simple history or Google 'soapboxes')...there would be no threshold for running a political campaign save the expense of yard-size road signs and throat lozenges.
"...Four days until the primary, August 2, 2016. You have until 4:00 today to file with your township or city clerk an Affidavit of intent to run for precinct delegate. ***(On election day, write your name in and vote for yourself.)***
Just curious...does anyone have a 'line' on their electronic ballot next to the 'blank' open circle (with no name next to it) and do the instructions indicate that alternate candidate names be placed there?
If the latter is true, those instructions seem paramount to any understanding of what a voter is to do in that space.