Unlimited political donations pass another hurdle

 

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.

The two-bill package passed the House in a 62-45 vote, with Democrats and some Republicans opposing the legislation. The Senate later gave it a final perfunctory approval, so it heads to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

Supporters say the plan updates state law to account for the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC in which business groups and unions were allowed to raise unlimited amounts of cash because both entities are considered people and should be able to exercise their free speech rights through campaign contributions.

“This bill is quite the opposite of a dark money concept,” said Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, who backed plan. “This bill is a light money concept. This bill has plenty of reporting.”

But opponents 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.

Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, said the bills “utterly destroy campaign contribution limits” because candidates could help raise money for supposedly independent super PACs, which could then pour unlimited amounts of money back into a committee that the candidate sets up.

“I’ve never encountered a constituent who said there should be more money in politics,” Moss said.

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.

“This is appalling. This is not what we were sent to Lansing to do,” said Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn.

The legislation last week passed the Senate in a 23-12 vote. Republican Sens. Margaret O’Brien of Portage and Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights joined all 10 Democrats in voting against the measure.

Snyder has to sign the bills before they could become state law.

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