You Are Going to Know A Whole Lot Less The Next Time You Vote
The Michigan House and Senate sent a much revised and dramatically expanded Senate Bill 571 H-3 to Governor Snyder last Wednesday. Introduced by Senator Kowall as a 12 page bill establishing some esoteric campaign finance rules for various types of PACs in Michigan, this bill morphed into a 53 page political grab bag incorporating SB 638 S-2 at the very last minute. It creates a whole new way to conceal political expenditures from public scrutiny until long after an election is over. Think of it as the mafia’s code of omertà applied to Michigan campaign finance.
Michigan’s nitwit news media are decrying the limits placed upon a ‘public body’ in Section 57(3), which prevents them from using public funds to propagandize voters on local ballot questions. This limitation doesn’t go far enough. Remember how the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Association of Counties, and the county road commissions pulled out all the stops for Proposal 2015-01? No prohibition against this in SB 571 H-3, but there should be. Citizens should not have to fight their tax dollars in the political arena. Section 57(3) would be a real benefit to Michigan politics if it had been extended to state ballot questions, but it wasn’t.
Now to the really devious aspect of SB 571 H-3, which our nitwit media missed. MCL 169.233(3)(a) currently requires ‘independent committees’ to report their financial expenditures on behalf of candidates and ballot questions four times a year. ‘Independent committees’ currently have to file reports on their campaign finance activities during February, April, July, and October. This is not quite a quarterly basis, but it is fairly well spaced out through the year. MCL 169.233(1) already exempts ‘independent committees’ from the regular election campaign statement reporting schedule – immediately before and after elections – required of most other committees. MCL 169.233(5) requires ‘independent committees’ to file reports of expenditures made within 45 days before a special election, but it is easy to use prepayments and accounts payable to avoid this window during most special elections. And this 45 day reporting window does not exist for regular elections. So you are only going to get quarterly reports from ‘independent committees, except in rare circumstances.
Section 33(3) of SB 571 H-3 completely eliminates the February campaign finance report for all types of committees, including independents. This creates a bastard reporting schedule consisting of two quarterly reports and one semiannual report five months after November elections.. Most political committees have to file pre and post election statements, so their campaign expenditures and sources of funds will continue to be known on a timely basis, regardless of this change. But independent committees are not required to file pre and post campaign reports for regular elections, so they will now have a six month interval after their October reports before they have to report their finances – on April 25th of the following year.