What a mistrial in Flint water crisis bellwether trial means going forward

Billionaire Steyer targets $3.5M at Michigan

The Detroit News

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer plans to spend at least $3.5 million in Michigan to engage and register young voters ahead of the 2018 election as part of a larger $30 million campaign to flip statewide and congressional seats for Democrats in 10 states.

Steyer’s NextGen America said this week it will target a minimum of 700,000 young Michigan voters through mail and digital outreach. It is hoping to influence congressional contests and the contest to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Young people are mobilizing across Michigan to create progressive change and demand action on issues like clean water, access to health care and gun violence,” Steyer said in a statement, suggesting Republicans have failed to act on those fronts. “This November, we will show them that ignoring the demands of young people comes with a cost.”

The NextGen political action committee claims it has had organizers in Michigan since October, with 53 on the ground now and plans for at least 80 by Election Day. NextGen America says it is on 11 college campuses in the state and aims eventually to be on 30, including community colleges.

Other initial targets in the November election include the 11th Congressional District race to replace retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham. The group also intends to help defend Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s seat and fight against incumbent Republican Reps. Tim Walberg of Tipton and Mike Bishop of Rochester.

Republican campaign consultant Stu Sandler of Grand River Strategies, who has worked with both Bishop and Trott, criticized Steyer’s plans.

“It’s not surprising that a partisan Democrat who spends money to pad his own special interest is looking for other ways to do that,” Sandler said.

Steyer, a former hedge fund manager who lives in California, is also helping bankroll a new Michigan petition drive for a ballot proposal to increase the state’s renewable energy mandate for electric providers, similar to a failed effort he backed in 2012.

He made headlines last year by launching a digital petition drive calling for the impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.

Dingell picks UM to win

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell is leading the VIP standings in Politico Playbook’s College Basketball Bracket Challenge, as March Madness heads into games to determine the Elite Eight.

Dingell, whose district includes Ann Arbor, has the University of Michigan winning it all.

Close behind Dingell are Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza and Charmaine Yoest, who is associate director of external affairs at the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Levin second-oldest in House

Longtime Rep. Sander Levin, 86, is now the second-oldest member of the U.S. House, following last week’s death of 88-year-old New York Rep. Louise Slaughter.

Rep. John Conyers Jr., 88, of Detroit had been the eldest member and dean of the chamber until his resignation in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat, is retiring at the end of his 18th term and plans to join the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, where he expects to do some writing and teaching, he has said.

The oldest member of the House is now Texas Rep. Sam Johnson, a Republican who is age 87.

Push against asset forfeiture

A coalition of conservative groups and free-market think tanks this week urged Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature to continue reforming the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, arguing that allowing police to seize property from an individual before they are convicted “would seem to put the proverbial cart before the horse.”

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy joined national groups like Right on Crime, the R Street Institute, FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council in a letter urging lawmakers to crack down on “troublesome” use of asset forfeiture.

“Enacting a reform measure that addresses our concerns would be meaningful.” they wrote. “It would protect your constituents from well-meaning but overzealous prosecutors and law enforcement agents. And it would send an important signal to the nation that the Great Lakes State respects property rights AND balances its public safety needs.”

The push comes as the Michigan House Judiciary considers several civil asset forfeiture reform bills, including a heavily debated proposal that would require conviction prior to police forfeiture. That measure could still be folded into a separate three-bill package that increase oversight and officer training on lawful property seizure.

“We recognize that most members of Michigan’s law enforcement community are brave, dedicated, and hard-working professionals who want to do nothing more than protect their neighborhoods and communities,” said the letter. “Unfortunately, Michigan’s current civil forfeiture law at times has given rise to troubling behavior, and as a result, undermines the community’s faith in those sworn to protect and to serve.”

Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting