Corporatism, GOPocrisy, Michigan Republicans — January 5, 2016 at 9:49 am

Even Michigan Republicans feel duped by their leadership about campaign finance bill SB 571


Last month, I wrote about Senate Bill 571, a Republican campaign finance bill that will do a number of truly anti-democratic things.

Here’s a recap from that post:

[The] faux sincere desire for voters to be more informed was proven to be the lie that it is when [Republicans] passed Senate Bill 571. This bill bans using public dollars or resources to educate the public about ballot proposals in the 60 days before an election. The bill has drawn outrage and scorn from all directions. The Michigan League of Women Voters calls it a bill that “includes provisions that block access to unbiased, objective communication on ballot proposals to local residents”, saying that they are “very concerned about the limits that will be imposed on our mission to educate the public if this bill” becomes law.

This bill, too, was a result of some epically shitty Republican machinations. More from Brian Dickerson at the Detroit Free Press:

When Lyons’ committee voted unanimously to recommend its passage a week ago, SB 571 was a 12-page bill that reduced paperwork, but not disclosure requirements, for political action committees across the state. It had breezed through the state Senate with nary an objection from lawmakers of either party.

But when it emerged from a Republican caucus room Wednesday evening, SB 571 had metastasized into a 53-page behemoth that included GOP-friendly amendments to 10 different sections of Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act. It was adopted by both houses late Wednesday night without a single Democratic vote or amendment, and after the Republican majority voted to clear the Senate chamber of Democratic staffers and lock the senators themselves inside.

After hearing from State Representative Gretchen Driskell, the Saline City Council sent at letter to Gov. Snyder urging him to veto the bill:

Driskell said that SB 571 was a 12-page bill that grew into a 53-page bill in 10 minutes.

“We (Democratic legislators) had to pull our names off the bill because we didn’t know what was in it,” Driskell said.

She said legislators learned the proposal will prevent local governments, school boards and library boards from providing information about bond and millage proposals.

“It’s a huge problem when you’re working on a local project. Citizens need to know what’s going on,” Driskell said. “We tried to the block the bill but the rules were suspended and we weren’t able.”

Even librarians (LIBRARIANS!) are up in arms and it takes a LOT to get librarians to speak out on political issues. They have started a petition asking Gov. Snyder to veto the legislation:

The Michigan House and Senate pulled a fast one last week and Governor Snyder needs to do the right thing for libraries, schools, and parks by Vetoing SB 571. If SB 571 becomes law, librarians would be sent to jail for sharing factual information about elections with their communities. Library boards would be fined thousands of dollars of sending out a newsletter if it shares information about what is on your local ballot. We need honest and transparent elections. SB 571 is ridiculous. It is both anti- free speech and anti- good government. Don’t let the politicians in Lansing force librarians to hide information about what is on your ballot! Join thousands of citizens from around Michigan and tell Governor Snyder to Veto SB 571 because information needs to be free by signing the petition today.

But that’s not all SB 571 does. It also eliminates the February campaign finance reporting requirement and allows independent expenditures to remain secret until AFTER the election. Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network spells it out:

In the case of regularly scheduled elections, independent expenditures that occur subsequent to the last scheduled pre-election report do not have to be disclosed until the first regularly scheduled post-election report.

In the case of Michigan’s 2014 November elections, millions of dollars-worth of independent expenditures were first disclosed months after Election Day.

It turns out that Democrats weren’t the only ones with the wool pulled over their eyes about this truly bad piece of legislation. Republicans, too, were duped. Here’s Republican Dave Pagel in a letter to a school superintendent in Berrien County (emphasis mine):

I apologize for being unable to attend the meeting on Jan. 11, but I am glad to send this written communication that can be shared with whoever might be concerned.

Often times the House sends a bill over to the Senate and then receives it back with some minor language changes or technical corrections. SB 571 came back to the House and we were asked by our leadership to quickly accept the changes which, we were assured, were only minor. One of the House Democratic members raised concerns that there were around 40 pages added to this bill and no one had time to read them. As it turns out, his concerns were merited.

I am embarrassed to say that I, along with my Republican colleagues, voted “yes” on SB571 without knowing about the significant changes that were made to it. I trusted the House leaders because this came up late in the evening after many hours of session. This is the first time anything like this has happened during my tenure. I am demanding an explanation – which has yet to come – about why this happened and who was responsible. I have written the Governor, asking him to veto this bill so that we can take this language out. I have contacted several other Representatives who feel the same way I do.

As a long time school board member who proposed a couple of millages over the years to improve our buildings, I know the importance of clear and complete informational communication to voters. Voters deserve to know exactly what is being proposed, how the money will be spent, and what it will cost the taxpayers. I knew very well the law against using public dollars to advocate for the passage of a ballot proposal. The language in SB571 will be a detriment to both the voters and to those entities making ballot proposals. I will do whatever I can to stop SB571 as it stands. Even if it is signed by Governor Snyder, I will work to get this changed by further legislation.

State Representative Dave Pagel

Must be really tough being a Republican in Michigan these days. If you have any credibility and a love of democracy, that is.