JAS Partner Seeks Full Campaign Disclosure in MI

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a watchdog group, is urging Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to help bring “real transparency and accountability to state election campaigns” through a declaration of rigorous financial-disclosure rules following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

MCFN is a partner group of the Justice at Stake Campaign. In a filing with Michigan’s Department of State, MCFN blasted “Michigan’s weak campaign finance regulations [that] have allowed more than $45 million worth of television campaign advertisements to go unreported” since 2000.

That staggering sum includes $14.3 million in independent expenditures during state Supreme Court campaigns from 2000 to 2008, according to MCFN. The group said extensive political expenditures for “issue” advertisements were allowed to go unreported because the ads stopped short of explicitly advocating a candidate’s election or defeat. MCFN warned that during the decade, voters were left in the dark:

“The voters of Michigan were deprived on any knowledge of who paid for some of the most widely noted state campaign advertisements of the decade.”

Citizens United lifted restrictions on corporate political spending for independent advertising to support or oppose candidates in elections, and in response, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has asked Land for a declaratory ruling clarifying state law.

By an 8-1 vote in Citizens United, the court also ruled that all groups that spend to influence elections can be forced to disclose their financial sources.  MCFN highlighted that and other features of Citizens United in contending that Land must issue a declaratory ruling broad enough “to require reporting of all candidate-focused electioneering communications, and disclosure of the ultimate sources of financing for those communications.”

Without robust disclosure rules, the group cautioned, corporate supporters of candidates will be able to set up a “system of Russian dolls–shells within shells–to avoid disclosure of their activity.”

To learn more about the Michigan Chamber’s request for a declaratory ruling, click on Gavel Grab. You can learn more about Citizens United from Gavel Grab or Justice at Stake’s press release about the decision, or from the JAS amicus brief.

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