'Dark money' group behind Tlaib attack ads
A group running attack ads against Democratic congressional hopeful Rashida Tlaib has taken some of her comments and legislative votes out of context, the Detroit Democrat says.
Tlaib is among six Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to succeed resigned U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Detroit in the Aug. 7 primary.
She alleges that the group, United for Progress, is funded by “dark money” and hasn’t filed any paperwork with the federal government.
“Obviously, whoever’s behind this has to hide where the money is coming from,” Tlaib said.
United for Progress, which is paying to run the ads on social media sites including Facebook, lists a Post Office box in Lansing as its address, but little else is known about the group.
United for Progress is not associated with any 13th District campaign, spokeswoman Susan Demas said.
“We are not affiliated with any other organizations or committees,” Demas said by email.
"We're proud to have the support of people across Metro Detroit who want to responsibly solve problems to improve our communities. We will file all required reports as required by federal disclosure laws. We do not discuss our current or future plans or strategy otherwise."
Demas said United for Progress is a nonprofit organization organized under Section 501(c)4 of the tax code. That means it’s a “social welfare” group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
But a 501(c)(4) group that spends money to explicitly advocate for or against a candidate must eventually report the spending to the Federal Election Commission.
The FEC's website did not have any disclosures filed by United for Progress as of Friday afternoon, and the Internal Revenue Service also has not posted any filings by the group.
Demas declined to answer other questions and would only respond to a reporter by email.
Demas is married to Democratic strategist Joe DiSano, who has been criticizing Tlaib's record on social media and sharing the ads by United for Progress on social media. DiSano said he is not working for any candidate.
The P.O. Box listed for United for Progress has also been used by other groups that are represented by the Dykema law firm, according to previous federal disclosures.
The group incorporated in Michigan on June 6 and began running political ads on social media in early July.
Tlaib spokesman TJ Bucholz said the group is required to file federal paperwork that declares them as a 501(c)4 nonprofit but, "to our knowledge, there is no paperwork filed."
"Rashida has been transparent as any candidate in this race and is fully aware that people are trying to pull her down because she’s trying to take a progressive vision to Washington to end this corporate climate we have there," Bucholz said.
"I think there are people in the district who want business as usual, and that’s not how Rashida operates."
The campaign "fully expects" United for Progress to file its paperwork and disclose its donors, Bucholz said.
"Until they do that, I’m not going to believe one word out of anyone associated with this group and assume they’re working for a candidate in this race," Bucholz said. "These cute parlor tricks are only designed to play games."
The digital ads paid for by United for Progress claim Tlaib failed to propose a $15 minimum wage while serving in the state House, that she supported the state’s “takeover” of Belle Isle, and that she voted against a bill introduced by one of her opponents, then-state Rep. Coleman Young of Detroit, that would have protected pregnant women from discrimination in the workplace.
Tlaib, who served in the state House from 2009 to 2014, did not introduce a proposal to increase the minimum wage to $15, but she did sponsor a bill in 2013 that would have raised it to $10.
She voted against Young’s pregnancy-discrimination bill in 2009, along with 10 other Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
At the time, then-state Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican, said the legislation was “wholly redundant and unnecessary” because the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act already prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy and childbirth.
Tlaib said she supported the state’s $6 million investment in Belle Isle through a 30-year lease signed in 2013 but, she said she has since pushed back when issues of accessibility or policing have arisen.
“The DNR is doing an incredible job redeveloping and reinvesting in Belle Isle right now,” Tlaib said.
Others running in the 13th District race include Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, state Sen. Ian Conyers, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and former state Rep. Shanelle Jackson.