Friday, February 04, 2011

"Not a positive development for democracy in Michigan"

The understatement of the year comes from Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, who has tallied up the figures and found that we have a new state record for a PAC. Three guesses as to who it was, and the first two don't count.

The top fundraising PAC of the cycle was the RGA Michigan PAC, one of numerous state PACs created by the Republican Governors Association across the country in the 2010 cycle. The RGA Michigan PAC reported $8,429,328 in contributions, a record for a Michigan state PAC. The RGA Michigan PAC gave $5,295,000 to the Michigan Republican Party, $3,000,000 to the campaign committee of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, $130,000 to the Republican Governors Association and it has filed for dissolution.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce was the top contributor in 2010 to the top PAC’s parent organization, the Republican Governors Association. The Michigan Chamber’s corporate contributions to the RGA totaled $5,372,500. Net of the $3,000,000 contribution to the Texas governor’s campaign, the contributions ascribed to individual donors to RGA Michigan PAC were a near perfect replacement for the Michigan Chamber’s contribution to the RGA. Of the $8.4 million in individual contributions recorded by RGA Michigan PAC, 98 percent came from persons who do not reside in Michigan. The individual contributions that came to the RGA Michigan PAC first passed through the parent organization.

The top 150 PACs raised $48,353,506 in the 2010 election cycle, and that's actually down 6.8% compared to 2006, the last time we elected a governor, senators, etc. and so on. Blame it on DeVos. Another note on that front was the disappearance of Jon Stryker's Coalition for Progress, who practically sat out this time around. That PAC, a major player in helping to regain the House for Democrats in '06, dropped 73% for 2010. Will be interesting to see if he comes back in 2012.

Welcome to the world created by Citizens United.

Corporate PACs made their Michigan debut in 2010, exploiting the opening created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Michigan, corporate funds can be used only for independent expenditures, not contributions to candidates, so organizations that are using corporate funds, so far, are segregating their corporate money in new PACs. The most notable corporate PACs were those of the Michigan Association of Realtors, $450,100, and Business Leaders for Michigan II, at $135,500.


“Formerly, we could say there was accountability for who was giving what to whom in the world of state political action committees,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “The Byzantine transfers into and out of the Republican Governors Association, and the ‘Russian doll’ financing structure in the Realtors’ corporate PAC are clear notice that state PACs have new formulations to defeat transparency. That is not a positive development for democracy in Michigan.”

Or anywhere else for that matter.

Check the list of the Top 150 Michigan PACs here.