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DeVos Family political money bought legislation in 2015 that allows them to spend even more money to influence Michigan politics

January 11, 2016

Remember in 2012, when the Michigan Legislature and Governor Snyder decided to ignore what voters had to say about the Emergency Manager ballot issue and pushed through legislation at the last minute? Well, the Michigan Legislature did it

Just hours before the last Michigan political session of 2015, Republicans revised a bill that will allow even more money to be pumped into the political process. Senate Bill 571 was then signed into law by Governor Snyder on December 31st and is now known as Public Act 269. 

This new law will allow Political Action Committees and the super rich even greater opportunity to buy politicians and future legislation. Here are a few of the outcomes of Public Act 269:

  • Prohibits public bodies like government agencies from distributing information about ballot proposals 60 days before the election.
  • Elimination of a February filing deadline for independent and political committees and reestablishment of the requirement to file an annual report covering the period from October 21st through December 31st.
  • Effective doubling of the amount of money PACs can donate to candidates for the second time in two years, effective quadrupling the limit since 2013.
  • Prohibits corporations from collecting contributions from its employees to a union’s PAC.

Point three is particularly worth noting as it means that the amount of money that can be spent in politics will increase……again. Until 2013, individual donors could contribute only $3,400 per cycle, with PACs permitted to give up to $34,000. The amount changed two years ago when the legislature raised those ceilings to $6,800 for individuals and $68,000 for PACs. With Public Act 269, the amount that individuals can contribute is up to $13,600 and $136,000 for Political Action Committees.

This means that the DeVos Family and their disgustingly wealthy friends can contribute more directly to candidates and to PACs. The Michigan legislators who pushed through the revised version of SB 571 were Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R) and Rep. Kevin Cotter (R). Both of the state politicians had received $9,000 in the last election cycle from the DeVos Family, according to a report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 12.57.16 AM

This is at least the third time this year that DeVos Family money has bought legislation in Michigan. We know that earlier in 2015, DeVos Family money paid for HB 4052, which takes away even more autonomy from local governments, particularly around issues such a living wage, wage theft and anti-discrimination ordinances. In addition, DeVos Family money helped pass HB 4188, legislation that allows adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT families. We wrote about how DeVos money influenced the adoption of these state laws last fall. 

DeVos Family political operative Greg McNeilly, Chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund, was gloating over the passing of SB 571, especially since one of the provisions took some power away from unions. McNeilly had this to say:

“It’s one of those reforms that I think is positive for the state and allows employers to stay focused on their core business.”


What is to be done about the DeVos Family Political Influence?

There is already partisan rumblings from the Democratic Party suggesting that the way to stop these last minute legislative changes is to win the 2016 elections.

However, it seems that whether it is Public Act 269 or Citizens United, there is no real interest from the Democratic Party to take money out of politics. So what is to be done about the political influence of families like DeVos?

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 2.21.30 AM

There are some tactics, which would be best discussed offline, but one strategy that might actually hurt the DeVos Family would be a boycott strategy. What if there was an organized campaign to boycott the following:

  • Boycott all Amway Products
  • Boycott ArtPrize
  • A Boycott by Non-Profits to accept any DeVos Family Foundation money – you can find this information by going to GuideStar and looking at the 990s of all the DeVos Family Foundations.
  • Boycott DeVos owned Hotels in Grand Rapids
  • Boycott DeVos owned Restaurants in Grand Rapids
  • Boycott art and cultural organizations that the DeVos Family has funded – Grand Rapids Art Museum, UICA
  • Boycott organizations where a DeVos or DeVos employee (Awmay, RDV Corp, Windquest, etc) is on the board of directors – Right Place Inc., GVSU Foundation, Grand Action, West Michigan Policy Forum, Alliance for Livability, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, etc.

In addition, maybe some creative forms of direct action that would disrupt or shut down any of the entities targeted for boycott might also have a significant impact.

The point being, that we can not expect the influence and power of the DeVos Family to simply go away or be lessened simply by operating within the limits of the current political process.

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