Doug DeVos is chairman of a nonprofit that worked to defeat the collective bargaining proposal. (Cory Morse / AP)
Dow Chemical Co. was a major financial backer of the campaign that successfully defeated a 2012 ballot measure that would have enshrined collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution, according to a report released Thursday.
The Midland-based company donated $2 million to the Michigan Alliance for Business Growth, a nonprofit group in Grand Rapids that funneled millions of dollars into the effort to thwart the union-backed Proposition 2, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative group in Washington.
The Michigan Alliance for Business Growth is a 501(c)4 organization whose chairman is Doug DeVos, according to tax filings. Under the law, such nonprofits are not required to report the names of its contributors, which has drawn the ire of government watchdogs who want greater transparency of the money influencing elections.
Dow’s $2 million donation could have remained private if the chemical maker had not mentioned it on a company statement about its civic and trade association involvement. The company was the largest contributor to the Michigan Alliance.
“Dow Chemical Company participates with numerous trade and civic organizations, and as a part of our overall commitment to transparency and the highest standard of ethical conduct, we publish a yearly list of the advocacy amount for these organizations on our website,” spokeswoman Sara Steele said. “We don’t comment on individual donations.”
Proposition 2 pitted labor unions against business interests in a heated campaign. After voters rejected the proposal, union critics lobbied for controversial right-to-work legislation that the Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Snyder signed during a lame-duck December 2012 session.
The Michigan Alliance is an arm of the the West Michigan Policy Forum, which backed making Michigan a right-to-work state in which union membership would be optional.
Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, the public campaign committee to defeat Proposition 2, raised about $23 million overall. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce was the largest contributor at $9.2 million followed by the Michigan Alliance for Business Growth at $5.5 million, according to state campaign records reviewed by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Dow also contributed $611,700 to the Michigan Chamber, according to its company disclosure statement.
The pro-Proposition 2 effort, called Protecting Working Families, raised $23.7 million. Unions, led by the United Auto Workers and Michigan Education Association, were the largest donors, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.