Letters: Other views on campaign money, immigration,

The Detroit News

Kid Rock complaint was valid

When a reality TV personality occupies the White House it is foolish to dismiss a celebrity that says they are going to run for office. Stephen Klein’s piece (“Know players in campaign finance reform,” Nov. 28) criticizing my organization, Common Cause, for the campaign finance complaint we filed against Kid Rock misses the mark.

With a huge American flag as a backdrop, Kid Rock and his band perform at the Liberty Plaza in Tampa, Fla. on August 29, 2012. The concert had more than 50 sponsors.

Early in 2017, a member of the Michigan Republican Party central committee identified Kid Rock as a potential 2018 challenger to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. Then in July 2017, Kid Rock launched kidrockforsenate.com, began selling “Kid Rock for US Senate” merchandise—shirts, hats, yard signs, etc.—and began Tweeting “Kid Rock for Senate” images and links to his merchandise sales website. In late July, he issued a statement referring to his “very possible campaign” and explaining that he had “decided to take a hard look to see if there was real support for me as a candidate and my message[.]”

None of these activities were surprising or novel. People do these things all the time when contemplating or launching campaigns. Dozens of prominent Democrats are engaged in such activities right now as they weigh presidential runs. And many of them are likely breaking federal law, just as Kid Rock did last year.

Federal campaign contribution limits kick in as soon as someone begins raising or spending money to “test the waters” of possible candidacy. And as soon as someone makes statements that refer to themselves as candidates, and raises or spends more than $5,000, they are a “candidate” under federal law and must register as such with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The example of such a statement given in the FEC’s campaign guide is “Smith for Senate.”

Kid Rock was engaged in textbook campaigning, but he appeared to be ignoring campaign finance laws. So Common Cause filed complaints urging an investigation. The FEC’s career staff lawyers, along with one Commissioner, agreed investigation was warranted. Three Commissioners, however, blocked investigation on the ground that it wasn’t a good use of agency resources. Notably, these Commissioners did not conclude that Kid Rock didn’t break the law. They just decided not to enforce the law.

One of the excuses given by Republican Commissioners who blocked enforcement was that Kid Rock was engaged in “celebrity parody” and Klein echoed this point. The same might have been said about Donald Trump in the early stages of his campaign!

Another excuse given by the Commissioners who blocked enforcement was that Kid Rock abandoned his candidacy and that “complaints against individuals who actually run for office” are better vehicles for the FEC to enforce these laws. Yet the complaint I filed in 2015 against Jeb Bush—who illegally raised more than $100 million into a Super PAC before admitting he was a candidate—still sits at the FEC unresolved.

Now the 2020 presidential election cycle is upon us and Common Cause is gearing up (2020candidatewatch.org) to watchdog the dozens of Democrats who will likely break federal laws in the early stages of their campaigns. If and when they do, we’ll be filing complaints. Because for Common Cause, it’s not partisan and it’s not personal. It’s just good democratic process!

Paul Seamus Ryan 

Vice President of Policy & Litigation

Common Cause

Help those who've helped our troops 

Now that we are entering 2018’s holiday season, America can benefit on a united spirit and thank those who have fought side by side with our troops in a way that only America can. 

Over 70,000 Iraqi and Afghan citizens helped the U.S. military during the course of the Iraq War and Afghanistan War as interpreters and translators. They and their families have been targeted for reprisals since our drawdown and pullout from these countries. Religious revenge, ISIS or Taliban attacks, have left those who fought and bled with America’s sons and daughters hiding for their lives.

The United States has the Special Immigrant and Visa program which allows those who have helped us in battle seek refuge and migrate to the US. The problem is the numbers approved to enter our country are pathetically small. Only 4,000 have been admitted into this country over the past two years while the current waiting list has over 10,000 on it. 

Like most of the dysfunction with our immigration policy, Congress can fix this. In January, the 116th Congress can expand the numbers per year who can enter the US under this program as well as expedite their cases to reduce their time in harm’s way.

American ideals compel us to take care of not only our veterans, but those foreign nationals who put their lives and futures on the line to help America implement our military goals. They have proven themselves to this country. They will make good residents, and someday, citizens.

For more information please see Vets for American Ideals and No One Left Behind.

W.H. Brousseau IV, Flint

former Marine and retired Army Infantry officer