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Top 150 PACs raised $48 million in 2010 Election cycle in Michigan

February 7, 2011

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network MCFN) released its findings of the top 150 PACs (political action committees) for the 2010 Election cycle. Their findings demonstrate that money overwhelmingly influences electoral politics in this state.

According to a Media Release from MCFN, “The top fundraising PAC of the cycle was the RGA Michigan PAC, one of numerous state PACs created by the Republican Governors Association across the country in the 2010 cycle. The RGA Michigan PAC reported $8,429,328 in contributions, a record for a Michigan state PAC. The RGA Michigan PAC gave $5,295,000 to the Michigan Republican Party, $3,000,000 to the campaign committee of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, $130,000 to the Republican Governors Association and it has filed for dissolution.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce was the top contributor in 2010 to the top PAC’s parent organization, the Republican Governors Association. The Michigan Chamber’s corporate contributions to the RGA totaled $5,372,500. Net of the $3,000,000 contribution to the Texas governor’s campaign, the contributions ascribed to individual donors to RGA Michigan PAC were a near perfect replacement for the Michigan Chamber’s contribution to the RGA. Of the $8.4 million in individual contributions recorded by RGA Michigan PAC, 98 percent came from persons who do not reside in Michigan. The individual contributions that came to the RGA Michigan PAC first passed through the parent organization.

This kind of financial shell game is just the beginning of how money will influence politics since the 2010 Supreme Court decision that change how campaign donations could be made during electoral campaigns.

The MCFN confirms this influence in their look at 2010 PAC spending in Michigan by corporations. “Corporate PACs made their Michigan debut in 2010, exploiting the opening created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Michigan, corporate funds can be used only for independent expenditures, not contributions to candidates, so organizations that are using corporate funds, so far, are segregating their corporate money in new PACs. The most notable corporate PACs were those of the Michigan Association of Realtors, $450,100, and Business Leaders for Michigan II, at $135,500.

MCFN executive director Rich Robinson said of the new funding schemes, “The Byzantine transfers into and out of the Republican Governors Association, and the ‘Russian doll’ financing structure in the Realtors’ corporate PAC are clear notice that state PACs have new formulations to defeat transparency. That is not a positive development for democracy in Michigan.”

The list of the top 150 PACs is worth looking at, with several entities on the list from West Michigan, such as Meijer, Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan, Warner, Norcross & Judd and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

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