As Republicans in the U.S. Senate are considering their last ditch, hail Mary attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, there’s one aspect of it that should be truly concerning to everyone and that’s the concept of giving healthcare dollars to the states in the form of block grants to spend largely as they wish. Here in Michigan, our Republican-controlled state legislature proves time and again that they aren’t thoughtful or mature or compassionate or ethical enough to be given that sort of power of people’s lives. And make no mistake: people’s lives ARE at stake when it comes to Trumpcare.
However, yesterday Michigan Republicans outdid themselves in proving they are so beholden to their corporate benefactors that they can’t be trusted to protect Michiganders. They passed a two-bill package – Senate bills 335 and 336, generally referred to as “Citizens United on Steroids” – that will allow for unlimited donations to political Super PACs, allows donors to keep the donations secret, and lets candidate committees and their super PACs to use the same vendors:
The Legislature gave final approval Tuesday to a plan that would allow political candidates to raise unlimited amounts of money through super political action committees. […]
[O]pponents in Michigan call it “Citizens United on steroids.” The plan would create “independent expenditure committees” under state law that would have no limits on the amounts of money they raise or spend for political campaigns. […]
The state limit for an individual contribution to a candidate’s campaign is currently $1,000. But candidates would be able to raise unlimited contributions for super PACs, going beyond even Federal Election Commission limits that allow federal candidates to raise up to $5,000 for a super PAC.
Democrats tried in vain to offer amendments that were all shot down by Republicans eager to please their wealthy donors:
- Jon Hoadley introduced an amendment to prohibit a person who receives money from the Good Jobs for Michigan fund from giving to a candidate for 20 years. This fund allows the state to cut deals with up to 15 deals a year to send tax dollars to corporations who create jobs in our state.
- Vanessa Guerra introduced an amendment to require investigations by the Secretary of State when candidates and Independent Expenditure Committees share vendors and/or attorneys.
- Jeremy Moss offered an amendment to tie-bar the bills to legislation that would expand our state’s FOIA laws to cover the state legislature and make other changes to increase government transparency.
- Adam Zemke offered an amendment to tie-bar the bills to financial disclosure legislation.
- Yousef Rabhi’s amendment would have tie-barred the bills to legislation requiring disclosure of presidential candidate tax returns.
- Darrin Camilleri introduced a substitute bill that would have gutted all existing bills and reduce campaign contribution limits to pre-2013 levels (which Republicans have raised twice since then.)
- Adam Zemke offered a substitute bill that would have gutted the existing bills and replaced them with a bill that would reduce all state campaign contributions to $1.
Anyone who thinks Democrats are standing idly by why Republicans run them over are clearly not paying attention.
Republicans, of course, are engaging in “Grass is Blue, Sky is Green” political propaganda to defend their indefensible position on this issue saying that the bills “codify Citizens United” in Michigan, something that is not only unnecessary but also completely false. Michigan Campaign Finance Network Craig Mauger points out that “What this bill would allow in Michigan isn’t even allowed at the federal level.” Democratic state Rep. Adam Zemke says the bills are “a really good way for washing money” for political candidates and elected officials.
One Republican, Aaron Miller of Sturgis, had the audacity to say (with a straight face), “This bill is quite the opposite of a dark money concept. This bill is a light money concept.”
The shamelessness of Republicans on injecting even MORE money into our political system – which largely benefits them compared with Democrats – is only possible because they control every aspect of of our legislative branch. This is a fixable problem, but only if we get our acts together, fight hard to retake control of the State House, and elect a Democratic governor in 2018. If we can’t pull this off – and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to, heavy gerrymandering notwithstanding – things will only get worse and the transition of Michigan from a democracy to a corporatocracy will be complete.
These two bills now go to Gov. Snyder for his signature so there’s one more chance for citizen activists to be heard. Call his office at 517-335-7858 and ask him to do the right thing and veto this horrible legislation.
UPDATE: In an unshocking turn of events, our corporatist governor Rick Snyder signed the bills into law this afternoon.
[CC image credit: DonkeyHotey | Flickr]