WSW: Watchdog Calls New Campaign Finance Laws "Terrible Public Policy"

Jan 21, 2016

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Michigan Campaign Finance Network Director Rich Robinson calls legislation just before the end last year’s session “classic terrible legislating.”


Governor Rick Snyder signed bills into law earlier this month that limit what local officials can say before voters cast their ballots on tax questions. Robinson says that should be fixed, but he says other provisions of the bill are also troubling.

The new law also allows candidates to seek additional contributions from Political Action Committees to pay off campaign debts. Robinson calls that “the Andy Dillon provision” because the former Democratic candidate for governor tried to collect additional contributions to pay off loans to his campaign. State elections officials ruled against that move.

Robinson says the change will encourage fraudulent book keeping. He says it won’t be hard for candidates to put a debt on the books that allows them to ask for an additional campaign donation from a source that otherwise has given the maximum amount allowed in any election cycle. Robinson says part of the problem is that campaign finance records are very secretive in Michigan.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has announced the appointment of a new director. Craig Mauger will now lead the campaign finance watchdog group. Robinson will remain on the network’s board. He was asked what changes he would like to see in Michigan’s campaign finance laws:

“All communications immediately preceding an election that are fundamentally about the qualifications of candidates for office ought to be treated as campaign expenditures and disclosed as such.”

And

“The other major shortcoming we have is the absence of contribution limits to political action committees and to the political party committees, which allow a small number of very deep pockets to dominate the political scene in Michigan.”