Ballot committees rake in cash in latest reports

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News
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Lansing — Committees vying to land policy questions on the 2018 ballot and let voters decide whether they become law are continuing to rake in loads of cash, according to the latest financial disclosure records submitted to the Secretary of State’s office.

A committee for Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s part-time Legislature drive, a ballot committee dedicated to raising the minimum wage and another that would require Michigan businesses to offer paid sick leave to all employees were the top three fundraisers in the latest October financial reports due Wednesday.

Calley’s ballot drive gathered more than $369,000 in the last fundraising quarter, according to the latest campaign finance report filed with the Secretary of State on Wednesday. The group has $154,000 left and has so far spent money to pay signature gatherers to hit the streets in hopes that they’ll gather enough to make the 2018 statewide ballot, where voters would decide on the matter.

Calley is expected to run for governor but has not announced his candidacy. He has said moving to a part-time Legislature would diminish the impact of Lansing-based lobbyists on state politicians. Critics have argued that it would not and would substantially alter the state’s constitution.

Calley’s Clean MI Committee has now raised a total of $887,174 for the ballot drive, according to its campaign finance report. The top three contributions came from a group called Fund for Michigan Jobs, the Capital Sales Company and William Parfet, the CEO of MPI Research, which does research for the medical and pharmaceutical industries. All three donated $100,000 or more.

Fund for Michigan Jobs is a dark money group that formed in 2008 that had Calley’s brother, Steven Calley, as its first vice president, although Brian Calley says his brother is no longer involved. The group is a tax-exempt nonprofit that can accept unlimited anonymous contributions and then donate them elsewhere.

The 501(c)(4) nonprofit is headed by Larry Meyer, former chairman and CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, who said Calley has pitched several funding requests to the independent board over the years.

The biggest fundraiser this quarter in terms of ballot questions is a group trying to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022.

One Fair Wage raised $509,500 this quarter, also the total amount it has raised this year. Its largest donations came from a fund called Raise MI and the Restaurant Opportunities Center, a group whose stated mission is to “improve wages and working conditions for the 14 million people who work in America’s restaurant industry.”

Supporters of another ballot initiative, to require paid sick leave for employees, raised $300,000 in the last quarter and $465,000 this year overall. The group, MI Time to Care, still has $240,378 left in its campaign war chest to help paid signature gatherers.

The group tried to get the issue on the ballot last year but didn’t gather enough signatures.

A grassroots group called Voters Not Politicians that aims to “end rigged districts” has raised $70,800 this period and more than $278,000 this year, according to campaign finance records. The group has $154,532.61 on hand.

Another ballot committee trying to legalize marijuana for recreational use raised $157,521 this quarter and more than $357,000 this year. It’s more than $14,000 in debt.

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