Emergency Manager Law — July 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s fake grassroots groups and Big Business team up to defeat ballot proposals


A tangled web of Big Business interests wants to disenfranchise YOU!

When most of us think of the Chamber of Commerce, it’s likely that what comes to mind is your local Chamber working to promote local businesses in your community. But when it comes to state and federal level Chambers, however, the truth is that they have a dedicated agenda to protect Big Business from regulations, taxes, and any sort of litigation that would hold them responsible for negligence that harms our country’s citizens. Their sole goal is increasing business profits, even if it’s at the expense of the environment, the right to vote, or the health and safety of Americans.

Nowhere is that more evident than here in Michigan where the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has formed fake grassroots groups and teamed up with Big Business lobby groups to defeat ballot initiatives, candidates, and even to keep you from being able to vote on ballot initiatives at all — an unadulterated move to disenfranchise Michiganders. Make no mistake, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce is not out to protect YOUR rights as a citizen; it exists solely to make sure corporate profits remain as high as possible:

Reforms championed by the Michigan Chamber in the 2011-2012 legislative session are saving job providers an estimated $3,984 per employee each year, spurring new jobs and investment in our future.

Those kinds of results are why our experienced team is consistently ranked as the most effective advocacy organization at the Capitol. We’re on the job every day, getting the job done to help Michigan businesses grow.

The Chamber does not simply offer solutions and fade away; rather, we actively and aggressively engage with policymakers – elected and appointed – to develop public policy to move Michigan forward.

The Michigan Chamber also operates one of the most effective political action programs in the nation. Ranked 17th among Michigan’s top 150 political action committees (PACs), the Michigan Chamber PAC is a leader and the voice of business, unafraid to take on the powerful Michigan Education Association (MEA), United Auto Workers (UAW), the AFL-CIO and personal injury lawyers. It is also one of the largest state chamber PACs in the country.

This year, there are two ballot proposals that are being fought tooth and nail by the Chamber and their Big Business cronies. The first is the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs proposal that will require 25% of our state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The initiative is being fought tooth and nail by the Orwellian-named “Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for MI” or CARE. Supported by the Chamber, the fake grassroots group is actually a front group for DTE Energy and other Big Energy groups in the state.

Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for MI (CARE) is rolling out its opposition to the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs ballot proposal this week. CARE’s supporters include DTE Energy and Consumers Energy. Incredibly, the address of CARE’s treasurer is listed on campaign finance reports as being One Energy Plaza in Detroit — the same address as DTE Energy. {…}

“George Orwell himself couldn’t have come up with a better name for this front group led by big utility companies,” [Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs spokesperson Mark] Fisk said. “The only thing the utility CEOs behind CARE really care about is protecting their own profits, pollution and pay.”

CARE’s name and their website would lead the casual observer to believe they are a pro-environmental group. This is not the case. Otherwise, why would the fight an initiative that is creating jobs in our state?

In February, Michigan’s Public Service Commission issued a report [pdf] showing that the state’s current renewable electricity standard requiring 10% penetration by 2015 had spurred already $100 million in economic activity. The report also showed a remarkable trend seen throughout the rest of the country: the cost of wind, solar, and hydro “is cheaper than a new coal-fired generation” in the state. {…}

CARE’s campaign is publicly backed by the Michigan Jobs and Energy Coalition, which includes DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, and the Detroit Regional Chamber

The second ballot proposal is the Protect Our Jobs ballot proposal that would enshrine collective bargaining rights for Michigan workers in the state Constitution. Predictably, Big Business interests are vigorously fighting this one, as well. A fake grassroots group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC) asked Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to disqualify the ballot proposal to prevent it from making it to the November ballot. Yesterday, the elections director said the Secretary of State is not legally able to do that:

The business-backed group Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution asked the Secretary of State to rule a question not eligible to appear on the ballot – even though the union-backed petition drive collected 650,000 names. That’s double the number needed. But the business group says the question itself is broad and sweeping when it should be narrow in scope.

The ballot question would amend the state constitution to guarantee collective bargaining rights and preempt a right-to-work law in Michigan. It would also roll back Republican-sponsored efforts to limit union fundraising and organizing.

The state’s election director says in a letter that the law does not give the Secretary of State the authority to unilaterally declare a question invalid. Attorneys say they may seek a court order to keep the question off the ballot.

Like Citizen’s For Fiscal Responsibility, the opponents to the repeal of Public Act 4 — Michigan’s anti-democratic Emergency Manager Law — CPMC is willing to waste taxpayers’ money and go to any length to prevent Michigan voters from being able to have their say on this issue.

So who is Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution? Well, take a look at their address. Here’s a screenshot from their Facebook page:

600 S. Walnut Street, Lansing, Michigan

Funny thing, that’s the same address as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

You know who else uses that address? The pro-Big Business lobby group American Justice Partnership, the group headed by Dan Pero, husband of Colleen Pero who was recently appointed to the Board of State Canvassers, the group that decides what ballot proposals and candidates make it onto the ballot.

As I revealed in my exclusive investigative piece yesterday, the group has close ties the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation and myriad other pro-Big Business lobby groups. Colleen Pero is a key part of AJP’s efforts.

Earlier, I mentioned the group trying to keep the repeal of PA4 off the ballot, Citizen’s For Fiscal Responsibility. They are the client of the Sterling Corporation. This is the group that Colleen Pero’s predecessor, Jeff Timmer, worked for. As it turns out, the crew running the show at Sterling Corp. was heavily supportive of Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution’s effort in 2010 to ensure that Michigan did not hold a constitutional convention by defeating Proposal 1. Their anti-Proposal 1 website shows a list of supporters and some of the very first names on the scrolling list are affiliated with the Sterling Corporation: Jeff Timmer (partner at the Sterling Corp.), Rob Macomber (former strategic consulting partner of the Sterling Corp.), Steve Linder (partner at the Sterling Corp.), and Bob LaBrant (Senior Counsel at the Sterling Corp.)

It’s a tightly woven and highly interlinked network of pro-Big Business groups, most of which circle back to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in some way or another.

The deck is stacked against Michigan workers in this state and it’s stacked against any group trying to promote environmental protections, growth of the green energy sector or consumer protections from negligence by corporations. Anything that impacts the bottom lines of Big Business in the state is a target for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, their web of fake grassroots groups and their coalitions of business lobby groups.

It’s for this reason and many others that I’m more and more convinced that the effort by Move to Amend to change our U.S. Constitution to deny corporate personhood, ensure that money is not treated as speech and to reverse the Citizens United ruling that allows unlimited and often untraceable money in our elections.

It may be our only hope against this web of anti-democratic, pro-Big Business groups.

More on the impact of Citizens United and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s corruption of Michigan’s elections at Progress Michigan’s post “Happy Birthday Citizens United.