Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Schor House Floor Speech: Opposing Bill to Put More Money in Campaigns and Prohibit Disclosure

Schor Floor Speech
SB 661

I oppose this bill because it puts more money in politics and prevents disclosure of donors for attack ads during election time.

It is unfortunate that the Republican majority chose to defeat my amendment requiring disclosure of those who pay for attack ads that run within 60 days of an election that advocate against candidates on the ballot but don't mention voting for or against that candidate.

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that this type of action is constitutional and that disclosure does not impede free speech. In the 1970'stThe U.S. Supreme Court said that issue ads are protected as first amendment free speech as long as someone isn't asked to vote for or against a candidate. This has been overturned in more recent decisions, though, including in the Citizens United case where the Court said requiring disclosure of issue ads that are electioneering is constitutional. My amendment followed the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that requiring disclosure for these electioneering issue ads does not impede free speech.

In fact, Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson proposed a rule to do what my amendment did. Discussing that rule, Elections Director Chris Thomas said, "This rule in no way bans any speech. A rule that would have been done back in 2004 would have banned speech. The U.S. Supreme Court said in 2010 that you can't have any law that bans independent expenditures by corporations or unions. So really, what we have now is disclosure."

Republican Governor Rick Snyder, when he was candidate Rick Snyder, said in a white paper, "Michigan law does not require disclosure of political advertising unless the ad specifically calls for a vote for or against the candidate. This allows unregulated third party contributions to finance robo-calls and masquerade them as issue advertising without revealing the funding source; leaving the door open for well-financed interest groups to influence the outcome of the election by providing voters with false and out-of context accusations without fear of reprisal. Michigan's Campaign Finance Network reports that since 2000, there has been $45 million in unaccountable spending for issue advertising in Michigan's most competitive state campaigns."

Then-candidate Snyder then said, "All electioneering communications - broadcast, printed, and telephonic - that feature the name or image of a candidate for public office or ballot initiative should be considered expenditures subject to appropriate disclosure requirements."

Here are some examples of campaign committees that have no disclosure: Americans for Tax Reform, Crossroads GPS, and Patriot Majority. These are three campaign committees that can run ads against anyone running for office and not disclose who is funding those ads. Two of them are conservative-leaning and one is liberal leaning. Any idea which is which? If we don't know, the public surely doesn't know!

We need to agree with the Republican Secretary of State and do what the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed us to do - require transparency and have these groups disclose who is paying for electioneering ads.

I also proposed an amendment to keep the spending caps at the current level instead of doubling them, as this bill does. I knocked over 10,000 doors during my campaign for State House, and not one person asked for more money in politics. This bill puts more money in politics and will result in more negative attack ads on TV, on our phones, and many more brochures in our mailboxes at election time. Do we really not have enough of those as it is?

Governor Snyder, again when he was candidate Snyder, said, "Campaign and lobbying expenditures have steadily risen over the last decade while Michigan's economy and quality of life have declined."

I call on Governor Snyder to not flip flop now that he is in office. In his policy paper called ‘Create a Culture of Ethics in Michigan's Government’, candidate Rick Snyder said, "Rick Snyder is the only person who can create a new culture of ethical behavior and transparency in Michigan government." I call on the governor to prove it and veto this bill.

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