Snyder approves unlimited super PAC cash

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed legislation letting political candidates raise unlimited money for super political action committees just a day after the Legislature approved the controversial plan.

With Snyder’s blessing, political candidates can now raise unlimited money for super PACs that could then pour unlimited amounts of money back into committees that a candidate creates or that support the candidate.

Snyder, a Republican, and other GOP supporters say the new law squares Michigan with a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.

“The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on this issue more than seven years ago, and still there has been confusion about how this decision affects Michigan law,” Snyder said in a statement. “Under the bills signed into law today, the Department of State finally has clear statutory authority to regulate independent expenditure committees, to mandate registration and reporting of contributions and expenditures, and to investigate and punish entities violating those regulations.”

But critics have slammed the measure as “Citizen’s United on Steroids” in reference to the Citizens United v. FEC ruling that let corporations and unions raise unlimited amounts of cash as an exercise of free speech.

The state rule goes beyond the Federal Election Commission cap that limits federal candidates to raising $5,000 for a super PAC, critics say.

Snyder’s office said the new law provides clarity on filing and regulating campaign contributions and includes violations for late filings. His office said it also increases transparency by requiring “accurate and appropriate reporting of both contributions and expenditures.”

Opponents said it would severely reduce people’s ability to track from where political spending ultimately comes if super PACs spend more money on indirect issue advocacy, for which strict disclosure requirements do not apply.

With Snyder’s signature, new “independent expenditure committees” will be created under state law that would have no limits on what they raise or spend in elections. The super PACs could not coordinate directly with campaigns but they could share attorneys, consultants and vendors with candidates they support.

The two-bill package passed the House on Tuesday 62-45, with all Democrats and one Republican voting against the plan. Rep. Martin Howrylak of Troy was the sole GOP no vote.

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