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Public sector

Counting dollars in Campaign 2012

A variety of special interests, including business and environmental groups, organized labor and — who can forget him — billionaire Manuel “Matty” Moroun have raised and spent more than $100 million in their attempts to either pass or defeat six proposals on Michigan’s November ballot.

Campaign finance records through Oct. 26 show that ballot committees have raised $134.9 million and spent $124.9 million on the proposals, the largest amounts gathered and spent on ballot issues in Michigan’s history.

“I think all restraint has been lost in political campaigns,” said Rich Robinson, whose Michigan Campaign Finance Network tracks campaign finance. “I think we have decided democracy can be monetized.”

Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, was the single-largest contributor to any of the six ballot proposals.

His Detroit International Bridge Co. contributed the entire $31.6 million raised by The People Should Decide, the committee supporting Proposal 6. The proposal would require a public vote in order to construct an international bridge.

The People Should Decide has spent $20.4 million so far in its attempt to pass Proposal 6, which Moroun hopes will kill a proposed new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

Several other high rollers also wagered their cash in what some have dubbed “ballotpalooza.”

Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each gave $1 million to Protecting Michigan’s Taxpayers, a business-funded group opposed to Proposal 2, which would lock collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

Retired Amway founder Rich DeVos and his wife Helen also have donated a combined $1 million to Protecting Michigan’s Taxpayers.

Billionaire hedge fund manager Julian Robertson dropped $1 million into the coffers of Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs, which supports Proposal 3. That proposal would require Michigan utilities to produce 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

“We’re in an era where there are people who have more money than they know what to do with and they have decided to spend it on politics,” Robinson said.

Pollster Steve Mitchell said the ballot proposals are attracting so much money because their passage or defeat could have a major impact on Michigan’s economic and political future.

“The economic consequences of most of these ballot proposals are tremendous,” he said. “Significant changes could occur in the state if they pass.”

Most of the money raised has been by groups either supporting or opposing Proposals 2, 3 and 6. Those ballot committees have collected $118.1 million of the $131 million raised by groups for all six proposals, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Here is a list of the ballot proposals, the major groups that are for and against them, and the amount of money raised and spent as of Oct. 26:

Proposal 1

For: Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility

Raised: $125,000

Spent: $24,481.75

Major contributors*: Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn, $100,000. The Detroit law firm was the only contributor during the latest reporting period. (EDITOR’S NOTE: A representative of Honigman Miller advised Bridge on Nov. 6 that the law firm did not contribute to the CFR group, though it has done work for it. The figure listed comes from the Department of State’s online campaign records. As of Tuesday afternoon, Bridge had not yet reached a Department of State official for comment.)

Against: Stand Up for Democracy

Raised: $1,920,985.92 (plus $150.00 in-kind)

Spent: $542,233.68

Major contributors*: Michigan AFSCME Council 25 — $1,826,000.00; Oregon AFSCME Council 75 — $50,000.

Against: Michigan League of Responsible Voters

Raised: $845,744

Spent: $150,038

Major contributors*: National Education Association — $585,000; United Auto Workers — $100,744.04; Service Employees International Union — $100,00; Michigan Education Association, $60,000. Thanks to a late contribution on Oct. 26, the NEA, the national teachers union, has given more than half a million dollars to defeat the 2011 emergency manager law.

Proposal 2

For: Protect Working Families

Raised: $21,443,396.02 (plus $258,927.77 in-kind)

Spent: $17,404,477.90

Major contributors*: UAW Community Action Program — $2,000,000; United Auto Workers — $1,342,763; Michigan Education Association — $1,000,000; National Education Association — $1,000,000; USO Crisis Fund (a nonprofit labor organization) — $1,000,000

Against: Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution


Raised: $7,581,250 (plus $68,139.69 in-kind)

Spent: $5,714,505.83

Major contributors*: Michigan Republican Party — $1,500,000; Michigan Chamber of Commerce — $1,754,787.81; Protecting Michigan’s Taxpayers — $941,000; Michigan Health & Hospital Association — $750,000; Students First, Sacramento, Calif., — $500,000.

Against: Protecting Michigan’s Taxpayers

Raised: $19,427,289.65 (plus $140,000 in-kind)

Spent: $13,026,605.43

Major contributors*: Michigan Chamber of Commerce — $5,400,000; Michigan Alliance for Business Growth — $3,500,000; Michigan Chamber PAC II — $2,713,324.98; Sheldon and Miriam Adelson — $2,000,000; Richard and Helen DeVos — $1,000,000.

Proposal 3

For: Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs

Raised: $12,839,367.05 (plus $122,610.07 in-kind)

Spent: $10,418,969.38

Major contributors*: Michigan League of Conservation Voters – $3,100,900; League of Conservation Voters — $1,590,900; Blue Green Alliance — $1,421,172.24; Julian Robertson, Tiger Management — $1,000,000.

For: Michigan League of Responsible Voters

See above

Against: Clean Affordable Renewable Energy for Michigan

Raised: $22,821,821 (plus $1,217,883.55 in-kind)

Spent: $21,120,821.89

Major contributors*: Consumers Energy — $11,463,695.50; DTE Energy — $11,085,400.78.

Against: Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution

See above

Proposal 4

For: Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care

Raised: $9,003,203.20 (plus $286.50 in-kind)

Spent: $7,959,160.39

Major contributors*: Home Care First Inc. Its $7,998,000.00 in the latest period, running from July 25 to Oct. 26 was the only contribution listed. Home Care First, which is backed by disability rights and labor groups, added a late contribution of $957,000.

For: Michigan League of Responsible Voters

See above

Against: Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution

See above

Proposal 5

For: Michigan Alliance for Prosperity

Raised: $3,101,177 (plus $403,921.00 in-kind)

Spent: $3,007,409.33

Major contributors: Liberty Bell Agency — $3,488,921 (connected to the Moroun family).

For: AFP-Michigan Ballot Committee

Raised: $518,911.44 (plus $966,8966.26 in-kind)

Spent: $248,959.40

Major contributors*: Gridiron Communications of Granger, Ind. — $268,911.49; AFP of Arlington, Va. — $250,000.

Against: Defend Michigan Democracy

Raised: $1,184,998 (plus $21,889.17 in-kind)

Spent: $618,312.40

Major contributors*: Michigan Municipal League — $269,000; American Federation of Teachers — $250,000; Michigan Health & Hospital Association — $160,000.

Against: Michigan League of Responsible Voters

See above

Proposal 6

For: The People Should Decide

Raised $31,337,500 (plus $7,889,560 in-kind) (Editor’s note: Summary total and cumulative contributions of DIBC Holdings do not match in state reports.)

Spent: $20,403,981.85

Major contributors*: DIBC Holdings Inc. — $31,589,560.

Against: Taxpayers Against Monopolies

Raised: $919,350

Spent: $86,586.84

Major contributors*: General Motors — $500,000; Chrysler — $100,000; Meijer Inc. — $100,000; Fund for Michigan Jobs — $75,000.

* Does not include in-kind contributions.

Rick Haglund has had a distinguished career covering Michigan business, economics and government at newspapers throughout the state. Most recently, at Booth Newspapers he wrote a statewide business column and was one of only three such columnists in Michigan. He also covered the auto industry and Michigan’s economy extensively.

Previous coverage

Special interest money floods ballot measure efforts

1 comment from a Bridge reader.Add mine!

  1. mdh

    According to the polls the uneducated, those without a high school diploma are voting yes 55% yes to 45% no. Anyone with a high school diploma is voting no on proposal 6, 62% no to 38%yes. College educated 75% no to 25% yes. Is there enough stupid people in this state to pass proposal 6.

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