WSW: The Ties Between State Lawmakers, Non-Profit Groups And Donors

Jul 26, 2019

Credit WMUK

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network looked into the connections between state lawmakers and non-profit groups that can accept unlimited donations from secret donors. The watchdog group’s director Craig Mauger says they found that a majority of lawmakers have ties to one of those groups. 

Mauger says the non-profit organizations don’t have to disclose their donors, so it creates secrecy around the relationship between lawmakers and people trying to influence them. While the non-profit groups are not supposed to participate in political activity, they do give lawmakers a chance to promote themselves to potential voters. Mauger says many times groups with business before a lawmaker donate money to a non-profit organization with ties to that state representative or senator.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network put together its report based on voluntary disclosures by corporations, state business filings and tax documents. Mauger says there is about a year delay in records for these accounts, and he says it’s likely that there are more groups out there. Mauger says “it’s very possible and very likely that they can fly under the radar completely, and there probably are some doing that.”

While Mauger says he’s established connections between 75 of Michigan’s 148 lawmakers and one of these non-profit groups, he says it’s possible there are more. Mauger says in some cases there was strong evidence of a connection, but not enough for him to say definitively say the lawmaker had ties to the organization.