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Published: Monday, 3/19/2012

Corporate-disclosure ballot issue delayed in Michigan


LANSING — A Michigan group has decided to postpone its efforts to get a measure on the November ballot that would require far more disclosure of corporate donations to special interest groups, organizers said Sunday.

The Corporate Accountability Amendment would force groups that receive corporate donations to reveal donors’ names when the money is spent on political activity, said Jocelyn Benson, campaign co-chairman. To help build more support, the group has decided to push for the constitutional amendment in 2014 instead of this year.

She said the group plans town hall meetings around the state to inform voters of what the proposed amendment would do.

“It’s critical that we build our coalition, broaden our coalition, get more voices involved,” Ms. Benson said. “We want to make sure this is the best possible amendment we could have … it was really important to me not to rush the process to get this on the ballot this fall.”

The ballot question would have asked voters to approve changing the Michigan Constitution to require political groups that receive donations from corporations to reveal donors’ names when the money is spent on lobbying, issue ads, and most political ads, said Ms. Benson, a Democrat who ran for secretary of state in 2010. She now heads the Michigan Center for Election Law at Wayne State University.

Ms. Benson said the measure would apply to unions that gave money to special interest groups, but Michigan Republican Party spokesman Matt Frendewey said the measure clearly exempted unions from facing the same disclosure standards as corporations.

“People saw through this as a mechanism to protect unions,” which often donate to Democratic candidates and causes, he said. “This is purely political maneuvering on the part of Democrats. ... Their motives weren’t best for the citizens of Michigan.”

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling enabled corporations and other well-financed donors to give unlimited money to political committees that don’t directly work with campaigns. The decision has resulted in political action committees known as super PACs pouring millions of dollars into the 2012 presidential race.

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