Michigan continues its dark money streak

By Rich Robinson Well, Michigan, we did it again. A new report from the Brennan Center, Justice at Stake and the National Institute for Money in State Politics reveals that the 2014 Michigan Supreme Court election campaign was the most expensive and least transparent in the nation. This is the th...

Group: IRS should probe pro-Schuette spending

By Todd Spangler Washington group says Schuette-supporting Michigan Advocacy Trust skirted law, files complaint with IRS WASHINGTON -- A national watchdog group is calling for an investigation into a tax-exempt Michigan political organization, saying it has spent millions on TV ads featuring M...

How Michigan's political machine works

By Detroit Free Press Editorial Board Who sets Lansing's agenda? Gov. Rick Snyder is term-limited, and that means power is shifting to the Michigan Legislature, where the GOP holds a solid majority in both chambers -- and thus to House Speaker Kevin Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekho...

Meet Michigan's shadowy sugar daddy

By Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press columnist The founder of 5-Hour Energy must be the most generous recluse in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder, whose re-election effort got a $10-million boost from a national group to which Manoj Bhargava's companies gave $2.5 million last year, says he met the...

Better AG disclosure is better for us all

By Frank J. Kelley and Mark Totten, Detroit Free Press guest writers To a degree never seen before, lobbyists have gained a foothold among some of the nation's state attorneys general, who are supposed to serve as the "people's lawyer." Armed with campaign contributions, access to lavish dinne...

Editorial: Improve Michigan's lobbying disclosure laws

Michigan has much room to improve transparency in how lobbyists interact with lawmakers. As LSJ's Justin Hinkley noted in a report on lobbying in Michigan, lobbyists documented more than $35 million in spending in 2013 and may be on pace to spend slightly more this year. Yet, while the largest...

Dark money a part of Rick Snyder's legacy as governor

This opinion essay first appeared in the Detroit Free Press By Rich Robinson It was a refreshing moment of candor when Gov. Rick Snyder recently told a Grand Rapids audience that his NERD Fund (New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify) was "a mistake we made early on." The governor said that he ha...

Court deal may take heat out of election

By Nolan Finley For the first time in 16 years, the state Supreme Court races on Michigan's fall ballot may be lightly battled, low-key affairs. After a string of bitterly contested and hugely expensive court campaigns, Republicans and Democrats are calling a truce this go-round. The two pa...

Special interests gain influence (dead link?)

By Jocelyn Benson Right now, less than half of our eligible citizens vote regularly and corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections. It's hard to imagine how a new law that allows wealthy individuals to give more money to politicians and protects anonymously funde...

Snyder's broken promises don't give us a reason to trust him (dead link?)

By Stephen Henderson Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor It's the rare politician who says what he means and does what he says. So only the uninitiated are shocked when a public official takes naturally to equivocation or tortured semantic gymnastics to go back on promises made. Still, G...

Gov. Snyder's support of dark money taints his legacy (dead link?)

By Rich Robinson The news release last week announcing that Governor Snyder had signed Senate Bill 661 - the bill to "modernize" campaign finances - trumpeted the claim that the new amendment to the Michigan Campaign Finance Act would yield "unprecedented transparency." That is a fiction worthy o...

Editorial: Snyder has the opportunity to act for transparency (dead link?)

Every once in a great while, someone in the political class has an idea that makes so much sense you know it is doomed. Such was the case with a recent suggestion by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who proposed requiring public disclosure of most third-party campaign spending. While that sounds ...

Campaign finance bill a defining moment for Gov. Snyder (dead link?)

By Rich Robinson This week brings a defining moment for the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder. We'll see whether he will govern in accordance with the platform of ethics in government on which he ran as a candidate. The question comes in the form of Senate Bill 661, which was passed by the Le...

Editorial: Bold self interest risky to legislators (dead link?)

The Michigan Legislature has embarked on a perilous course: Lawmakers are in pursuit of liberalized campaign finance laws that would double contribution limits and would protect anonymous donors to so-called "issue" campaigns. That latter ought to particularly enrage Michiganders. These issue cam...

Editorial: State Senate casts a vote for secrecy (dead link?)

By the Holland Sentinel Editorial Board Even as we sat in our office last Thursday writing a piece complimenting Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on her decision to implement rules requiring the people who fund so-called "issue ads" to identify themselves, politicians in Lansing were alre...

Editorial: Dark money pushed by dark angels (dead link?)

By the Port Huron Times Herald Editorial Board So imagine it's a week before an election, and this ad runs on the radio: "Randy Richardville wants to raise your taxes, cut your Social Security and euthanize your pets. It's time to tell Sen. Richardville to keep his claws off of our dogs and cats....

Michigan leader in dark money politics (dead link?)

Bt George Weeks, syndicated columnist Last week, President Barack Obama fessed up that he "fumbled the rollout" of ObamaCare. Michigan's government lacks such candor about failure to roll out transparency on campaign finance. In a phone chat last week with chief watchdog of the nonpartisan Mic...

Elections require transparency in ads (dead link?)

By Ruth Johnson, Michigan Secretary of State We have all seen them - political ads that capture our attention and try to persuade us about the worthiness or unworthiness of a candidate or proposal without actually using the words "vote for" or "elect" or "say no to." Sometimes they urge us to ...

Editorial: Dark money invades Detroit politics (dead link?)

It sure flunks the smell test -- but it's probably not illegal. Increasingly, that's the abysmally low standard applied to political fund-raising in Michigan. The latest example? Detroit Forward, a super PAC supporting Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon, received a substantial donation f...

Hijacking the judicial process in broad daylight (dead link?)

You've been sued -- and it's looking like the judge randomly assigned to your case might be convinced the aggrieved plaintiff has a legitimate beef. Wouldn't it be nice if you could move the problematic lawsuit to a friendlier courtroom -- one where a judge, handpicked by some of your best friend...

Editorial: Good riddance, NERD Fund (dead link?)

The good news is that Gov. Rick Snyder has finally agreed to stop tapping anonymous donors to pay for government personnel and initiatives he was unable or unwilling to fund with taxpayer dollars. The New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund, which collected more than $1.6 million on Snyder's be...

Michigan Bar seeks to drag dark money out of the shadows (dead link?)

By Brian Dickerson Assistant Editorial Page Editor Alarmed at the millions of dollars that anonymous donors have spent to sway judicial elections across the state, the Michigan Bar asked Secretary of State Ruth Johnson on Wednesday to reverse a 2004 decision that exempts most judicial campaign s...

Debunking the myth of the nonpartisan judge (dead link?)

By Brian Dickerson This much is clear: If Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad had publicly endorsed Mitt Romney or Pete Hoekstra in 2012, he'd be in deep doo-doo with the state's Judicial Tenure Commission. The Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct -- a list of ethical dos and don'ts that g...

Dark money fuels Michigan political campaigns (dead link?)

By George Weeks "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." --The Wizard of Oz As activities escalate toward Michigan's 2014 elections, there's a timely lesson to be learned from a watchdog's startling report on record spending and the continuing trend of diminishing accountability in 2...

Has campaign money killed political accountability? (dead link?)

By Rich Robinson Michigan had the most expensive state Supreme Court election campaign in the nation in 2012: $18.6 million. The spending was a record in a Michigan Supreme Court election, and a record for lack of accountability. Just $4.7 million, barely 25 percent, was reported to the state ...

A supreme opportunity to improve high court's image (dead link?)

By Brian Dickerson, Free Press Deputy Editorial Page Editor Justice Diane Hathaway hasn't reached the halfway mark in her first term on the state's highest court, but it's unlikely she'll be there much longer. Until this year, Hathaway was known chiefly for knocking off incumbent Chief Justice...

Who paid for those Michigan Supreme Court ads? (dead link?)

Michigan earned national election notoriety in 2012. Our Supreme Court campaign appears to have been the most expensive, least accountable judicial election campaign in America. The candidates' campaign committees raised $3.2 million that was reported to the Michigan Bureau of Elections. The poli...

Editorial: Whose money will win the Michigan Supreme Court? (dead link?)

However close the final tally, Michiganders are likely to know within hours after the polls close who won the presidency. But they may never find out who won the contest for control of the Michigan Supreme Court. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which monitors political spending in our stat...

Editorial: Ads in judicial elections are a problem - again (dead link?)

Once again, Michigan's lax campaign finance disclosure laws are allowing someone or some group to mount attack ads against judges without having to identify themselves. And in a separate issue, state Democrats are floating untrue attack ads against conservative incumbents seeking re-election to the ...

Editorial: Michigan's elections system needs reform (dead link?)

As one of the busiest campaign seasons in memory enters its last three weeks, the major flaws in Michigan's political framework are becoming more obvious and of greater and greater concern. Just ask East Bay Township resident Raoul "Buck" Montgomery. He said he found it "humorous" when political ...

Citizenship question ordered off voter form (dead link?)

By Chad Livengood, Detroit News Lansing Bureau Detroit -- A federal judge late Friday ordered Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to remove a U.S. citizenship question from ballot applications for the Nov. 6 election, citing inconsistent enforcement and potential "confusion" at the polls. "It real...

Editorial: One defiance deserves another (dead link?)

Michigan legislators could have forced all state ballots to ask whether voters were, in fact, citizens, if they overrode Gov. Rick Snyder's veto this summer. They did not. Even so, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has taken it upon herself to go beyond the apparent will of the governor and l...

Editorial: Drop the citizenship question (dead link?)

By The Detroit News, Rather than cause additional befuddlement in a heavily attended presidential election, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson should drop her citizenship question from the forms voters are handed when they go to the polls Nov. 6. It's small but superfluous red tape that, misapplied,...

Editorial: Election snafu is disturbing (dead link?)

A Port Huron Times Herald editorial It might have meant more had Michigan's Aug. 7 primary election defied tradition and actually drawn a large voter turnout. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's meddling in the electoral process still was a minor disaster. Despite good reasons for not doing it, ...

Commentary: Voter question overstepped law (dead link?)

By Rich Robinson Detroit Free Press guest writer A funny thing happened to me when I went to vote in our Aug. 7 primary election. The ballot application form I was given included a question asking whether or not I was a citizen of the United States. I'm guessing that almost anyone who rea...

Editorial: Citizenship query unwise (dead link?)

An unnecessary amount of confusion was caused in this week's primary election because Secretary of State Ruth Johnson opted to add a question about citizenship to the ballot application voters fill out at the polls. Legislation making this question a requirement was vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder last m...

Citizenship inquiry stirs up confusion at the polls (dead link?)

By Kathleen Gray Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a bill last month that would require voters to declare their U.S. citizenship in writing before being allowed to vote. But the question remained on ballot applications across the state Tuesday, and some voters weren't allowed to vote when they refused t...

Editorial: Campaign finance limits easily skirted (dead link?)

The U.S. Court of Appeals has sustained Michigan's limits on contributions to state legislative candidates' campaign committees. The move upholds the state's right to set its own campaign rules, but the limits are very low and rather pointless -- they can be circumvented. The ruling stems from a ...

Four ways to improve Michigan Supreme Court elections (dead link?)

By Marilyn Kelly and James L. Ryan Since the turn of the century, Michigan has gained a reputation for Supreme Court election campaigns that are among the most expensive, least transparent and most partisan in the country. Our campaign ads have been among the most offensive. That is why we conven...

Light lacking in supreme court races (dead link?)

By George Weeks Michigan has no greater current blot on state government than anonymous campaign contributions that give big money interests too much influence with too little transparency in all three branches, especially of late on the Supreme Court. It's not a problem unique to the states. ...

Michigan has a chance to reform political campaigns (dead link?)

After years of essentially ignoring the corrosive influence of secret money on political campaigns, there are suddenly two legitimate efforts to pull back the campaign finance curtain. Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is working hard to sell her Secure and Fair Elections initiative, whi...

The case of money v. justice in Supreme Court (dead link?)

By Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press State Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge James Ryan are two of the most experienced jurists in Michigan. They tend to diverge on political matters -- she's a liberal Democrat, he's a conservative Republican -- but between the...

Michigan must move on judicial reform (dead link?)

A bipartisan task force has made sweeping recommendations to reform Michigan’s judicial selection process, changes that should restore public confidence in the impartiality of the state’s top jurists. The governor, the secretary of state and legislative leaders should take these recommendatio...

Michigan accountability gets 'F' (dead link?)

Government watchdogs rate state poorly for lack of transparency, ethics enforcement By Chad Livengood, Detroit News Lansing Bureau Lansing — Michigan has some of the least transparent campaign, lobbying, ethics and government accountability laws in the country, according to a new study to be...

A too-good place to stash donor cash (dead link?)

By Jennifer Dixon It's known as Schedule B -- the secret list of donors who give $5,000 or more to tax-exempt charitable and civic organizations. Only the IRS knows who's on it. Critics say it is the black hole of politics -- a way for politicians or their supporters to set up nonprofits that ...

Editorial Quick Hits: Full disclosure, please (dead link?)

Spending on Michigan's presidential primary again illustrates state and national campaign disclosure loopholes that allow special interests and super-wealthy donors with personal agendas to anonymously spend lavishly to influence voters. Super PACs and nonprofit "issue" advertisers outspent campaign...

Campaign finances targeted (dead link?)

By Christopher Behnan State Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Genoa Township, said he would support more frequent campaign-finance reporting if all political candidates and organizations played by the same rules and didn't circumvent the process. Gov. Rick Snyder listed greater government accountability, in...

Editorial: Michigan's black eye on campaign finance (dead link?)

National report notes Michigan's weak disclosure rules on judicial campaign ads The Detroit News A new study by a set of national public interest groups notes that in the 2010 election cycle, Michigan had the nation's most expensive state Supreme Court race. And thanks to the state's weak disc...

Moroun’s money writes sad tale for state

Phil Power/Bridge Magazine You might not think finger-pointing could make a sound of its own, but it does. High, thin and very penetrating. And it could be heard all over Lansing after last week’s vote in the Senate Economic Development Committee sunk — at least temporarily — the much-de...

Editorial: Dollars and politics: Senate bridge vote raises concerns

How much political power should one person and his company be allowed to purchase? And why didn't West Michigan's senator fight against it? Those are the questions West Michigan residents should be asking about the international trade crossing debate — except there will be no more debate abo...

Senate bridge vote -- Matty Moneybags 1, Gov. Sunnysides 0 (dead link?)

BY BRIAN DICKERSON DETROIT FREE PRESS COLUMNIST Poor Rick Snyder! Nearly a year after emerging from corporate obscurity to claim a resounding electoral victory last November, Michigan's earnest new governor is learning the hard way what the elegantly appointed bordello known as the Michigan L...

Improve campaign finance law (dead link?)

Quarterly reporting must be a requirement By Mickey Hirten Lansing State Journal Executive Editor Anyone who has ever used the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor knows it's an inadequate international crossing. The delays are maddening; the Canadian routing is awful. Yet actions ...

PAC includes donors with county deals

Is it quid pro quo? County exec says no By Nancy Kaffer In 2010, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano had the largest leadership political action committee in the state. With $432,945 in donations during the election cycle, Ficano PAC contributed money to candidates in most key Wayne County...

Editorial: More campaign spending reporting needed (dead link?)

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is proposing no-reason absentee voting for Michigan and a toughening of the disclosure rules for committees that finance ballot questions, both of which are overdue. Unfortunately, her list of reforms don't address other weaknesses in state election laws, especially t...

Accountability sorely lacking in 2010 races

The title is benign but the contents of the just-published 95-page “Citizens Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance 2010” abound with citations “absolutely poisonous for democracy.” After decades of covering Michigan politics, and some time as a functionary within the political system, I was ...

Watchdog: Snyder funds 'disturbing' (dead link?)

Paul Egan/ Detroit News Lansing Bureau Lansing— Gov. Rick Snyder, who refuses to accept PAC money as a way of showing he is not beholden to special interests, has set up three new funds that can accept unlimited corporate donations. The funds are in addition to the political action committee...

Are our justices bought and paid for?

By Bert Brandenburg These days, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is looking a lot like Congress: fractious, dysfunctional and awash in special-interest cash. The Wisconsin story has important implications for courts in the Midwest and around the country. In June, as Wisconsin's high court consi...

Editorial: Disclose more political spending (dead link?)

The Detroit News A national industry organization called the Specialty Wine Retailers Association put out a study this month stating that America's alcoholic beverage wholesalers spent at least $82 million on campaign contributions and lobbying to influence legislation between 2006 and 2010. The ...

Editorial: Michigan's scandal

What if the remnants of the American Communist Party got a million dollars somehow, formed a phony committee called "People for Good Government," and spent that money on TV commercials that attacked the ethics of judges up for election? If they did that in Michigan, it would be perfectly legal. V...

Disclosure system ‘highly dysfunctional’ (dead link?)

By GEORGE WEEKS, Syndicated Columnist In reporting last week that 2010 campaign finance transparency hit new lows, Michigan’s top watchdog on the issue said lax enforcement brought “extreme delight of the interest groups and individuals who want to buy election outcomes without leaving finger...

In the dark on campaign finance (dead link?)

We can accept the idea that limits on political spending amount to restrictions on free speech, as the Supreme court has ruled, as long as we know where the money is coming from. Alas, that’s not the case in Michigan. A report this week from the Michigan Campaign Fiancee Network found that $23 mil...

Editorial: Campaign finance needs transparency (dead link?)

Michigan's weak campaign disclosure laws hid more than $23 million in election spending in 2010 and the problem of unreported television ad spending is growing. As outlined in a disturbing report by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), Democrats and Republicans, along with th...

Michigan slow to enforce campaign-finance rules

If you need proof that Michigan needs both campaign-finance reform and officials who are willing to enforce the law, consider this: For two years, retired Wayne State University law professor Maurice Kelman waged a lonely battle to get the state to enforce one of its few campaign finance laws. He...

Michigan Congress newcomers raise cash differently (dead link?)

DETROIT (AP) — Dan Benishek, a general surgeon and self-proclaimed "citizen candidate," often said during last year's campaign that he was spurred to make a first run for federal office by out-of-control spending in Washington. Criticism of "career politicians" became a fixture in the Crystal F...

Powerful Moroun family pours $1.5 million into political races (dead link?)

LANSING -- As the push comes for the Legislature to decide whether to agree to build a public bridge across the Detroit River, 15 senators and 30 representatives have something in common on the issue. All got money during their campaign last year from the Moroun family, owners of the Detroit Inte...

Meijer case highlights need for campaign law reforms (dead link?)

BY BRIAN DICKERSON DETROIT FREE PRESS COLUMNIST Here's a little tip for avoiding a ticket the next time you're pulled over for speeding: When told you were clocked doing 70 in a 50 m.p.h. zone, smile contritely and explain that you had no idea the speed limit was set so low, and were thus u...

Editorial: Too many voters lost between the lines (dead link?)

"Disenfranchised" is a word ordinarily used to describe the citizens of countries like Egypt, where large numbers of people are denied any meaningful role in choosing their representatives. But a detailed study released Thursday by the nonpartisan Center for Michigan suggests that many Michigan v...

Judge selection process flawed (dead link?)

The League of Women Voters of Michigan welcomes the creation of the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force and applauds Justice Marilyn Kelly and Judge James Ryan for their leadership ("Judicial reform panel bad for Michigan," Jan. 6). Some would like us to believe that nothing is wrong with the ...

Editorial: Will new high court bring new reversals? (dead link?)

Michigan needs reform to take partisanship off the bench As the Michigan Supreme Court begins its new term under a new chief justice and with a newly appointed justice, some reflection is in order. The past decade has seen an embarrassment of acrimony on the court. Some of the key players in t...

Editorial: Task force good first step to court reform (dead link?)

The news that two of the state's most respected judges are convening a task force to study Michigan's judicial selection process is a modest but indispensible first step toward reform of a broken status quo that is undermining public confidence in the courts. Elections for the state Supreme Court...

Outside groups outspend candidates (dead link?)

By Todd Spangler You might think the $5 million spent by the main candidates in this year's race for south-central Michigan's 7th Congressional District is enough to decide who should take a two-year seat on Capitol Hill. It pales in comparison to the $9 million spent by outside groups. In fac...

Editorial: Reject anonymous campaigning (dead link?)

We have seen the future, and it's ugly — an unending stream of robo calls, television attack ads with no pretense of accuracy, demonization of candidates on an unprecedented scale and slime by the barrel — and without any idea of who is paying for it all. Voters in Michigan and across the nat...

Column: Don't let the bullies win; demand transparency and honesty

By Joyce Pines Kalamazoo Gazette As a member of the Kalamazoo Gazette Editorial Board, I was most struck this election season by the similarity of message delivered in person by the candidates we interviewed, regardless of party affiliation. Outside of the candidates in the race for attorney ...

Editorial: The money game and politics (dead link?)

State, federal laws needed to require disclosure of financing for political campaigns and attack ads One of the biggest stories in Tuesday's midterm election is the millions of dollars being anonymously poured into all those venomous political ads now clogging the airwaves. In the election post m...

Editorial: Take partisan politics out of judicial elections (dead link?)

Everywhere you go in Michigan, you hear the clamor for change. We need a fresh start, a structural realignment, a fundamental shift in the way things are done. It’s true in business and culture. But it’s also true in state government, which has become so broken that nothing short of a majo...

High court is soaked in partisanship (dead link?)

Michigan Supreme Court is anything but 'nonpartisan' By Mickey Hirten On the ballot, elections to Michigan's Supreme Court are "nonpartisan." Of course, they aren't. They may be, in fact, the most political races in the state. The money from the Democratic and Republican parties, PACs an...

Who is financing political campaigns? With current rules, it's hard to tell

By Rick Haglund Millions of dollars are being spent to elect the next governor of Michigan, much of it from anonymous donors who contribute to shadowy organizations backing the candidates. It’s all legal, the result of porous state and federal campaign finance laws allowing individuals and b...

Looking the other way as surrogates traffic in slander (dead link?)

By Brian Dickerson You're 8 years old, making your political debut as a candidate for student assembly, representing Mrs. McCarthy's third-grade class. Your opponent is Stanley, a classmate you've never liked much. All you really know about Stanley is that he wears cool sneakers and hands in his ...

High court race showing signs of being costly, nasty (dead link?)

By LEONARD N. FLEMING Detroit -- The race for two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court is shaping up to be a nasty, high-spending affair with battles waged over majority control, judicial records and the ideological soul of the court. The political bomb drops have begun: Radio ads excoriating n...

Editorial: Fair Courts at Risk

The nature of state judicial elections has changed dramatically in recent years, and not for the better. Expanding their influence-peddling efforts beyond executive offices, like president and governor, and legislative offices, like Congress and state legislatures, well-heeled special interests h...

Column: Chamber pours cash into election (dead link?)

$2.5 million 'secret' donation is cause for some discussion By Michael Hirten LSJ Executive Editor It's no surprise that News Corp. - which owns Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and other media properties - in June gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. ...

Editorial: Public has right to know who is funding campaign ads

The outcome of the fall election is impossible to predict. But here’s a near certainty: A lot of money will be spent, and we will never have a full accounting of the sources of that abundant campaign cash. The possibility for anonymous players of all political stripes to influence elections is ...

Editorial: Appoint, not elect, Michigan judges (dead link?)

Justice is for sale in Michigan. That's the most logical conclusion to draw from a report that ranks Michigan third among states in cash spent on TV ads from 2000-09. The total was $11 million, making judicial attack ads one of the few growth areas in the Michigan economy during that time. If ...

Secret money flows through election loophole (dead link?)

By Jennifer Dixon and M.L. Elrick Free Press Staff Writers Michigan's campaign finance laws are designed to let voters know whose money is trying to influence them. Yet it's virtually impossible to tell where more than $4 million -- nearly 40% -- of the money spent on TV ads during the gubern...

Sorting out who produced campaign ads (dead link?)

By Jennifer Dixon Free Press Staff Writer Several groups whose funding isn't regulated by the state were involved in attacking or supporting candidates during the gubernatorial primary. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network tracked TV spending by seven groups. The Free Press used public records ...

Tax-exempt groups could be abusing status, expert says (dead link?)

By Jennifer Dixon Free Press Staff Writer The groups behind some attack ads during Michigan's primary election for governor are exploiting a loophole in state law that allows them to keep their funding secret. But they could be in violation of federal tax laws, one expert said. Traditional po...

Opinion: Justice's blind; electing justices screwy (dead link?)

By Ron Dzwonkowski Free Press Columnist I doubt one in a hundred among the throngs who lined Woodward for this weekend's Dream Cruise could name a single justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. That's no reflection on the crowd. Apart from a flocking of lawyers and/or politicians, the same wou...

Opinion: Voters deserve to know who is paying for political attack ads

By Jeff Cranson Children are taught that if they cannot say anything nice about someone, they should say nothing at all. That would be an impossible standard in politics. But it seems fair to at least ask the people saying the bad things to stand in the public square so we know who they are. ...

Column: Stealth Campaigns

By Jack Lessenberry Virtually every politician running for office likes to claim he/she is unbossed and unbought. “Aren’t you tired of special interests and lobbyists telling you how to vote? Politicians who won’t tell you the truth?” says U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra in a new TV ad. He is ...

Editorial: Political candidates should make finances public (dead link?)

Voters should have more information about the personal finances of political candidates The Aug. 3 primary election will be yet another in which Michigan voters have too little information about candidates whose names will appear on ballots throughout the state. We remain one of just three states...

Editorial: Court race is anything but 'nonpartisan' (dead link?)

If Michigan voters opt this fall to call the state's first constitutional convention in nearly 50 years, a top task for delegates should be to junk the way the 1963 State Constitution selects Supreme Court justices. As the 2010 campaign shows well, there is nothing "nonpartisan" about the selecti...

Fun with funds - How pols get unlimited contributions via 527s

On his official Michigan House webpage, George Cushingberry's event two weeks ago was a celebration of the blues put on by the local elected official eager to host a party. "I am pleased to sponsor this annual event and I'm asking residents and blues enthusiasts from all over to join me at our hi...

Prosecutor faces big guns in Meijer case (dead link?)

BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com TRAVERSE CITY — If it's true a little guy still can make a difference, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider has a chance to be a real difference-maker. Schneider finds himself firmly cast in the little guy's role in a case pendin...

Court nominations get second look (dead link?)

Op-Ed: Court nominations get second look By GEORGE WEEKS Syndicated Columnist There is no darker cloud over Michigan politics than the stealth funding of the crazy-quilt process for electing justices to the Supreme Court. Crazy because partisan conventions put candidates on a "non-partisan...

Court finally takes up conflicts of interest

Court finally takes up conflicts of interest Staff Diane Hathaway's victory over Chief Justice Cliff Taylor last November already is paying dividends in a more transparent Michigan Supreme Court. The state's highest judicial panel, under Taylor and his court allies, had resisted efforts to rewo...

Knock down more barriers to information (dead link?)

Knock down more barriers to information The Michigan Freedom of Information Act, now 32 years old, needs enough tweaking to justify a close look at revisions by the Michigan Legislature. It's always risky to let lawmakers have at something that's basically working, but the law needs fewer exce...

Can justice, cash coexist? (dead link?)

March 15, 2009 Rich Robinson: Can justice, cash coexist? Lansing symposium looks at effects of campaign cash Can two sides in a lawsuit receive equal justice - when one side has spent $3 million to elect the judge who is deciding the case? That is the question at the heart of Caperton v....

State high court needs conflict of interest rules (dead link?)

Editorial: State high court needs conflict of interest rules Causes for stepping aside should be clearly defined The Detroit News The Michigan Supreme Court Thursday began the process of creating formal rules for when justices should step aside from hearing cases. The court needs to clearly def...

Justice for sale (dead link?)

Justice for sale The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to tell state and local judges whether they're required to disqualify themselves from hearing cases in which big campaign donors have a rooting interest. In a case heard Tuesday, lawyers argued that a West Virginia Supreme Court justice who cas...

Hold elected officials to higher standard (dead link?)

Hold elected officials to higher standards Michigan should approve laws that toughen accountability Michigan's Legislature should approve a series of bills that raise the expectations for conduct of elected officials. The measures are reasonable and reflect the public's growing expectation ...

Justice Not for Sale

Editorial Justice Not for Sale The Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that goes to the heart of the nation’s justice system and the rule of law: the right to a fair hearing before an impartial judge, untainted by money or special interests. The case involves a brazen — and so...

Mining case shows sooty side of big-money judicial elections

Mining case shows sooty side of big-money judicial elections Our view: Public confidence suffers when special interests finance court races. You've got to give mining executive Don Blankenship credit for this much: By spending $3 million on venomous ads to unseat a West Virginia Supreme Court ju...

State ethics bills deserve strong support (dead link?)

State ethics bills deserve broad support Proposals would strengthen trust in political institutions The Detroit News Democratic state lawmakers are off to a good start this year in attempting to improve their ethics rules. Some parts of a package of recently introduced bills by the legislators ...

Case May Define When a Judge Must Recuse Self

Case May Define When a Judge Must Recuse Self W.Va. Justice Ruled for a Man Who Spent Millions to Elect Him By Robert Barnes Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, March 2, 2009; A01 BECKLEY, W.Va. -- Hugh Caperton was born into the coal business, but for more than a decade he has spent more ...

State can tell more on where dollars go (dead link?)

State can tell more on where dollars go A Lansing State Journal editorial Michigan long has had laws protecting the people's right to know how government spends tax dollars. The Freedom of Information Act is more than 30 years old, and the 1963 Michigan Constitution says "All financial records...

When cash, courts and politics mix (dead link?)

When cash, courts and politics mix Supreme Court should order stricter rules on when judges should step out of cases BY RON DZWONKOWSKI FREE PRESS COLUMNIST In "The Appeal," one of last year's top-selling novels, lawyer-author John Grisham weaves the tale of a rich businessman who bankroll...

Michigan parties weigh in on Caperton v. Massey (dead link?)

Michigan parties weigh in on Caperton v. Massey The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court will be paying particular attention to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Caperton v. Massey as they study whether to revamp the rules in this state for judges to disqualify themselves from cases. In Michig...

Billionaire top political giver (dead link?)

LANSING -- Kalamazoo billionaire Jon Stryker bankrolled the state's biggest political action committee for the second consecutive election cycle, a watchdog group reported Wednesday. The Coalition for Progress raised more than $4.2 million during the 2007-08 election cycle, and $3.83 million of i...

Balance on the court

FOR the last few years, Michigan's Supreme Court has been perhaps the most disgracefully partisan in the nation. Hard-line ideological Republicans held four of the seven seats, and voted in lockstep. There were two liberal Democrats who voted against them. Only one justice, Republican Elizabeth Weav...

Try again for court reform

In taking over leadership of the Michigan Supreme Court, newly-elected Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly also inherits a duty to try to usher in a more collegial tone on the judicial body. The past several years have been marked by public and private spats among justices polarized by personal animus and p...

Campaign Finance

Campaign Finance A victim of President-elect Obama's success Monday, December 15, 2008; A20 WITH THE power of the fundraising tsunami that swept President-elect Barack Obama into the White House becoming ever clearer, it's time to confront a possible myth and the new reality surrounding his s...

Expand voting opportunities in Michigan (dead link?)

Editorial: Expand voting opportunities in Michigan December 15, 2008 09:00AM WHY IT MATTERS Voters should be given broader opportunities to exercise their right to cast their ballots. Michigan lawmakers have long debated expanding opportunities to vote. In fact they've debated, and debated a...

End stealth ads for state judicial elections (dead link?)

Friday, November 28, 2008 Editorial End stealth ads for state judicial elections Disclose all contributors to 'issue ads' naming candidates The Detroit News Once again, because of this state's faulty political finance disclosure laws, we don't know who exactly was behind a barrage of campaign...

The $200 Campaign Finance Fix

The $200 Campaign Finance Fix By Fred Wertheimer Thursday, November 13, 2008; A23 The presidential public financing system, created in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, has served the country well for most of its existence. The system became outdated and outmoded, however, as Congres...

Tainted Justice

November 13, 2008 Editorial Tainted Justice One lesson of the 2008 election season is the escalating threat to the integrity and independence of the justice system from big-money state judicial campaigns. In all, 26 State Supreme Court seats in 15 states were contested. Campaign filings prio...

State House campaigns topped $15M (dead link?)

State House campaigns topped $15M In last week's election, 105 of the 110 seats went to the candidates with more money than their rivals. Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau LANSING -- The Michigan Campaign Finance Network says spending in the 110 state House races decided last week top...

Place some limits on spending spree (dead link?)

The following is a Jackson Citizen Patriot editorial for November 4: It might be safe to turn on your TV or open your mail again. The campaigns are over, and so is the political advertising. If you had enough of this year's pre-election spending blitz, do not blame just the candidates. Spendin...

Supreme Court: Clash of ideologies (dead link?)

Supreme Court: Clash of ideologies Doug Guthrie / The Detroit News The costly contest between incumbent Cliff Taylor and challenger Diane Hathaway for Michigan Supreme Court is a clash of ideologies: conservative versus liberal, business and religious interests versus labor and lawyers. But i...

Panel argues that money, interest groups undermine judiciary (dead link?)

Panel argues that money, interest groups undermine judiciary By Hugh Gallagher Staff Writer When Edward Thomas ran for the Michigan Supreme Court in 2000, he estimates that almost $20 million dollars was spent in a campaign for three court seats. “Why would anyone spend that much money f...

Groups outspend Mich. high court candidates on ads

Groups outspend Mich. high court candidates on ads 10/27/2008, 1:59 p.m. ET By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN The Associated Press LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Outside groups have spent more than the two candidates in the hard-fought Michigan Supreme Court race, but it's not known who's putting up the mone...

Quicker data needed on campaign donors

Candidates with the most money may win the most elections. That's all the more reason the public has a right to learn who is dropping those greenbacks. This much is no secret: The nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network has reported that a state House candidate with a campaign money edge wo...

Reduce record spending on influence (dead link?)

Lobbyists need limits The Michigan Campaign Finance Network this week shared the unhappy news that record amounts of money are being spent lobbying state government officials. This is more proof that Michigan needs to reform its regulations for lobbying, in addition to its rules for legislativ...

Court rejects Meijer appeal (dead link?)

TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc. will turn to the Michigan Supreme Court in an effort to fend off lawsuits from five Acme Township officials after a state appeals court rejected a similar request from the Grand Rapids-based retailer. A three-judge panel in Grand Rapids recently declined to overturn G...

Too Generous

Editorial Too Generous Conflict-of-interest disputes often turn on arcane points of law, but that is hardly the case with the controversy over the West Virginia Supreme Court and Massey Energy. Massey’s chief executive spent an extraordinary $3 million to help elect a state justice who then...

Candidates spend big on ads in Michigan (dead link?)

If television seemed thicker than usual with presidential campaign ads this summer, that's because it was. Advertisement More than $13 million was spent on Michigan TV ads from Memorial Day to Labor Day by candidates John McCain and Barack Obama and their supporters -- a 40% increase over 2004. ...

Reform absentee voting, robo-calls (dead link?)

Editorial: Reform absentee voting, robo-calls by The Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board Labor Day will mark the unofficial beginning of the campaign season, launching a more earnest scrutiny of candidates for offices from president to drain commissioner. Michigan voters should have every opportu...

Ever-more-expensive court races heading higher (dead link?)

By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN AP Political Writer 12:01 AM CDT, August 25, 2008 LANSING, Mich. Click Here! State courts across the country are caught in a high-stakes, high-priced fight between groups trying to get a handle on large damage awards and others who are concerned consumers and wron...

Experts cite importance of money in political contests (dead link?)

Money has always been a significant player in political contests, but recently, according to area experts on the issue, the importance of large campaign war chests has been magnified. "Typically, over this decade, money wins 95 percent of the time," said Rich Robinson, executive director of the M...

Get real (time) on campaign spending (dead link?)

The Reform Michigan Government Now ballot proposal doesn't seek to revamp Michigan campaign finance law. That's about the only part of Michigan politics the controversial measure wouldn't transform. Advertisement Still, the very operation of RMGN highlights an obvious reform - a change lawmakers...

Meijer files emergency appeal in home court (dead link?)

By BRIAN McGILLIVARY bmcgillivary@record-eagle.com TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc. wants Grand Rapids-based appellate judges to quash an Acme Township official's lawsuit and protect the retailer's top officials from having to testify in the case. Meijer filed an emergency appeal that asks the st...

Lawmakers on notice with ballot plan (dead link?)

RMGN proposal plays off anger at state government The Reform Michigan Government Now ballot proposal to heavily revamp state government is nowhere near the November ballot yet. A final decision on whether it's worthwhile can't come until it does pass legal muster and voters see the exact ballot l...

Top pols rake in cash, though PACs get less (dead link?)

Top pols rake in cash, though PACs get less Mark Hornbeck / Detroit News Lansing Bureau LANSING -- Contributions continue to flow into pots controlled by Michigan's top politicians, even as overall political-action committee money-raising is down from two years ago, according to state campaign...

House candidates raise $8.4M (dead link?)

House candidates raise $8.4M Some contribute tens of thousands from their own pockets in hopes of winning seats. Mark Hornbeck and Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau Jean Dahm, who fell short in her bid for the state House two years ago, has committed $216,000 of her own money this t...

Special-interest lobbies pour cash into judicial races

Special-interest lobbies pour cash into judicial races By Tim Jones Chicago Tribune correspondent July 28, 2008 Sixty-six percent of Americans can name at least one judge on the popular TV show "American Idol," while only 15 percent can identify John Roberts as chief justice of the Supre...

Kilpatrick's legal defense fund nearly out of reserves (dead link?)

Kilpatrick's legal defense fund nearly out of reserves $185,600 was raised, but some challenge IRS report BY M.L. ELRICK, KATHLEEN GRAY, JOE SWICKARD and JIM SCHAEFER • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS A legal defense fund set up for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has gone through nearly all the m...

New round of lawsuits could crack Meijer's facade (dead link?)

A ruling that allows more Acme Township officials to sue Meijer Inc. for alleged harassment and intimidation may help finally reveal just how high in the Meijer organization the decision to make war on Acme really went. So far, thanks mostly to Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land's intervention, t...

Results of new poll surprising (dead link?)

By Phil Power The Midwest Democracy Institute has taken a new poll of 400 Michiganders, and it predictably strikes a dismal note — but one that contains some surprising grounds for optimism. Advertisement http://www.footballfanatics.com/?partner_id=3632&team=102 First, the grim news: # ...

Voters asked to downsize Lansing (dead link?)

Voters asked to downsize Lansing GOP says Dems gain in petition to cut leadership BY DAWSON BELL • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • June 25, 2008 LANSING -- A sweeping revision of the Michigan Constitution that would cut state politicians' pay and benefits where it doesn't eliminate their jobs a...

Public funding on the ropes

The excitement underpinning Senator Barack Obama’s campaign rests considerably on his evocative vows to depart from self-interested politics. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has come up short of that standard with his decision to reject public spending limitations and opt instead for unlimited private fi...

Don't delay new limits on legal defense funds (dead link?)

A public official who needs a legal defense fund is generally in trouble, and it usually involves money. Any mayors come to mind? Given those circumstances, such funds ought to be subject to the same kind of disclosure requirements and use restrictions as campaign accounts. The public has a right...

Citizens take lead to protect courts (dead link?)

By ANNE MAGOUN Mon, Jun 16 2008 — Michigan citizens rely on fair and impartial courts to make the ideal of "equal justice for all" a reality. Michigan citizens also see a threat to judicial impartiality posed by the influence of special interests. The Michigan Independent Supreme Court...

Meijer gets judge to hide papers (dead link?)

TRAVERSE CITY -- Meijer Inc. convinced a state appellate judge to hide from public view documents related to Grand Traverse County's efforts to investigate the retailer's campaign finance violations. Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Alan Schneider is challenging a May 29 order signed by state Cou...

Let the attack ads roll! (dead link?)

Let the Attack Ads Roll! by Cara Parks Your guide to the shady 527s who will be playing a major role in this year's presidential campaign. Remember the swift boat commercials against John Kerry? Or the anti-Obama "Willie Horton" ad that ran in North Carolina during April? They were all been fun...

Don't bet on Fieger fallout (dead link?)

Geoffrey Fieger's acquittal in federal court last week -- cleared of campaign finance crimes after admitting to reimbursing friends and employees for their campaign donations --might make some people believe such practices are kosher. Advertisement But don't count on it. Campaign finance expe...

Fieger wins, and campaign cash still rules (dead link?)

Campaign finance laws exist for two reasons: one, to ensure disclosure of the influence of money on the political process; and two, to soften the effects of that influence by enacting limits on contributions and other restraints. Advertisement There is no doubt that Southfield attorney Geoffrey ...

Interest groups battle to influence justices (dead link?)

A recent study of judicial elections in Great Lakes states dispels any doubt that a "For Sale" sign figuratively -- if not literally -- should be nailed to the Michigan Supreme Court chamber. A report issued jointly by the nonpartisan Justice at Stake Campaign and the Midwest Democracy Network co...

Keep better track of money's influence (dead link?)

Awash in money. That's something Michigan could use right now, but not necessarily in the case it applies to -- which is lobbying to influence lawmakers and the public on major legislation under consideration in Lansing. Michiganders are witnessing what may be a new level of spending, as the majo...

Meijer not burdened by concerns over ethics (dead link?)

In Lansing it's peanuts. Business as usual. In the real world it reeks -- of arrogance, contempt for constituents and the process, you name it. In March, just when it looked as though Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox was going to be called on to conduct a criminal investigation of Meijer, In...

The Meijer mistake

IMAGINE a giant retail chain getting angry because the people in one small township in northern Michigan have the nerve to vote against having one of their huge "superstores" in their neighborhood. So the company sets out to sabotage democracy by paying money under the table and trying to illegally ...

What if Fieger gave to the GOP? (dead link?)

What if Fieger gave to the GOP? BY BRIAN DICKERSON FREE PRESS COLUMNIST It's hard to imagine that Terri Lynn Land is rooting for Geoffrey Fieger in his legal showdown with the U.S. Department of Justice. But Michigan's Republican secretary of state is persuasively buttressing Fieger's argu...

Hold Michigan politicians accountable

State elected officials who have racked up hefty legal bills need a way to pay them. That's perfectly understandable. What's not is why politicians are not required to disclose who's funding their legal defense funds. The Senate should support House legislation requiring that information be reported...

Justice for Sale

Justice for Sale By JAMES SAMPLE March 22, 2008; Page A24 Certain American values transcend partisan divisions. One is that money should not influence the courts. But with record sums pouring into judicial elections, the ideal of due process is giving way to a perception of pay-to-play justic...

Senate, McManus can't let a chance for reform go by (dead link?)

If there was ever a time for ethics and campaign finance reform at every level of politics, this is it. And state Sen. Michelle McManus is getting a chance to set the agenda. Over most of the past decade lobbyists and their big-time financial backers have had their run of government. Through ...
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