Senate bill would allow political candidates to solicit big money

By KATHLEEN GRAY
Detroit Free Press (TNS)

LANSING — Candidates in Michigan would be able to skirt campaign finance limits under a bill approved Thursday by the Senate Elections committee.

Under the bill, candidates could solicit unlimited contributions to independent expenditure committees or super PACs, which could then use the money to support the aspirations of the candidate.

Supporters of the bill claim the measure simply codifies the federal Citizens’ United decision into state law. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on unlimited contributions by corporations and unions into political campaigns, saying it was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech. As a result, super PACs fueled with millions in donations have blossomed across the country to try and influence elections.

“Michigan has a long history of codifying court rulings to keep our campaign finance law current,” said Bob LaBrant, general counsel for the Sterling Corporation and a former executive with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

But Craig Mauger, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the bill allows candidates to skirt campaign finance contribution limits that cap individual donations to a candidate at $6,800. He also said a federal ruling after Citizens United was decided said the solicitation by candidates to super PACs should be limited to $5,000.

“We have campaign contribution limits for a reason” — to lessen the influence of money in the electoral system, Mauger said. “And this bill is a way for a candidate to easily circumvent that.”

Although consultants, attorneys and vendors of super PACs are not supposed to coordinate with candidates, the bill also allows candidates and super PACs to share the same attorneys, vendors and campaign consultants.

Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, sponsored a similar bill in 2015 that passed the Senate on a mostly party line vote with Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposed, but it never got a hearing in the House of Representatives.

“I believe we’re being consistent with the Citizens United decision and with federal law and I’m comfortable with that,” he said.

The bill — SB 335 — now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

avatar

Posted by Tribune News Services

Leave a Reply