According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN), more than $18 million was spent in two Michigan Supreme Court races in 2012. Of this, nearly $14 million was spent on candidate-focused issue advertising, but the sponsors of those ads were not required to disclose their spending or identify their donors. In fact, Michigan led the nation in anonymous spending in the most recent judicial election cycle.
As IAALS Online covered back in September, the State Bar of Michigan petitioned the secretary of state to issue a declaratory ruling requiring disclosure of funders of “issue ads” in state elections. The secretary of state then proposed an administrative rule that would require campaign finance reporting in this context, but the Republican-led senate responded by pushing through the legislature a bill that would codify the current non-disclosure rule for election-related issue ads. The bill would also double existing limits on candidate contributions from individuals and PACs. This legislation is now on the desk of Governor Rick Snyder.
Supporters and opponents of the bill are urging the governor to take their side. According to Rich Robinson of MCFN, signing the bill “would enable dark money to dominate Michigan’s political campaigns for the foreseeable future.” But for Dan Pero of the American Justice Partnership, the “real objective” of many of the bill’s proponents is to “use disclosure to build an ‘enemies list’ of companies that can then be demonized, disparaged, harassed and intimidated into silence.”