'Out-of-state' attack draws warning from Truth Squad

MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS: "Out-of-state special interests"

Who: Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution

What: Radio ad

Truth Squad call: Warnings

Questionable statement: "We’d like to continue the private auction of the Michigan Constitution. Next up for bid is writing state energy policy into the constitution. I open the bidding at $2 million."

This statement refers to the nearly $2 million that a ballot committee -- Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs -- has raised this year, through July 20. The group seeks to put into the constitution a provision that would require Michigan’s utilities to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2025. The state’s current renewable standard is 10 percent by 2015.

Five out-of-state environmental organizations have contributed $1,949,500 of the $2,247,277.80 Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs had raised through July. They are:

Green Tech Action Fund, San Francisco, $1,342,000; NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Fund, New York, $450,000; The Regeneration Project, San Francisco, $100,000; American Wind Energy Association, Washington, D.C., $50,000; and the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, Washington, D.C., $7,500.

The largest in-state contributor to the ballot committee is the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, an Ann Arbor-based group that has given $275,000.

Contrary to the ad’s claim that these donations constitute a "private auction," the various groups supporting the ballot issue and the amount of money they contributed are revealed in state campaign finance records.

But Green Tech Action Fund is organized as a nonprofit organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and does not disclose its donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

On its website, Green Tech says it is affiliated with the Energy Foundation, a nonprofit group that gives grants to increase the use of renewable energy in the United States and China.

The Energy Foundation issued $76 million in grants last year, according to the annual report on its website.

Questionable statement: "It should disgust every Michigan citizen. Out-of-state special interest groups are spending millions to buy pieces of Michigan’s constitution. Think about it. They’re not just trying to pass laws. They’re amending the constitution permanently on energy policy, labor issues and home health care."

Why should Michigan citizens be disgusted? State law allows people and organizations to put questions on the ballot, including constitutional amendments, if they obtain enough signatures from Michigan voters and if the Board of State Canvassers certifies those questions. (In some cases, the courts are called upon to rule on the petitions and ballot language.) Groups seeking to put such questions on the ballot are allowed to raise money from outside the state for a campaign. Those campaign contributions must be disclosed to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Constitutional amendments that are passed by voters in ballot issues can be overturned, in future elections, so they are not necessarily "permanent," as the ad claims.

Questionable statement: "They’re not grass-roots groups. They’re high-powered lobbyists with enough money to buy the signatures they need."

One person’s grass-roots organization is another person’s high-powered lobbyist. Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs would no doubt argue that it’s a grass-roots group because it is made up of a number of interests, including environmentalists, businesses, labor unions, nonprofits and elected officials. But the coalition is receiving major financial support from wealthy, out-of-state environmental advocacy groups that are pushing states to use more renewable energy sources in generating electricity.

Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution -- the group behind this ad -- was formed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Lansing.

It has raised $340,150 this year through July 20. The group’s largest contributor was the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which donated $100,571.95. Other major contributors included the Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Small Business Association, Business Leaders for Michigan and Associated Builders & Contractors. Each donated $30,000.

Questionable statement: "Don’t let them cash in on your constitution. Tell the out-of-state special interests to keep their millions in their pocket and keep their hands off our constitution."

Again, some might not like it, but there is no legal prohibition from out-of-state people or organizations contributing to groups supporting or opposing ballot issues, or to candidates.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has played this game, spending millions of dollars in other states’ election campaigns. In 2010, it gave $5.4 million to the Republican Governors Association, bankrolling the RGA’s effort to get Republican governors elected in a number of states.

Overall impression: This is another effort produced by Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, which is seeking to defeat a number of proposed constitutional amendments likely to appear on the November ballot. (Previous CPMC ad.)

There are no factual errors in the ad. It suggests there’s something abhorrent about taking donations from out-of-state donors to finance a ballot issue. But that’s a legal part of our electoral process. And the Michigan Chamber, which, so far, is the biggest contributor to Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, also has made campaign contributions in other states.

And while the ad portrays Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs and its contributors as "high-powered lobbying groups," it fails to point out that the Michigan Chamber is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Lansing.

Foul or no foul: Warning, for suggesting that there is something wrong with ballot committees taking campaign donations from out-of-state contributors. And another warning for lack of transparency about the financial backers of Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Big D
Thu, 08/23/2012 - 12:47pm
Another example of failing to address the real issue. Both sides are (not) doing it. I suspect that opponents of 25by25 are avoiding the issue out of concern that they may end up counterproductive in an atmosphere where Global Warming and extreme environmentalism are PC and other views are NOT PC. Regardless of what is or isn't "PC", 25 by 25 is a dumb idea, piling on the current RPS which is a dumb idea. Motivation? Make environuts feel good while energy interests profit hugely from subsidies, tax credits and the excuse to raise energy rates. Meanwhile, our true environmental energy opportunity--advanced nuclear--is thwarted by these same zealots. ...whether the extreme hyperbole "buying our constitution" is or isn't accurate is inconsequential.
Thu, 08/23/2012 - 6:46pm
It is almost unimaginable that the public would vote to strengthen environmental regulations at the expense of jobs durring this economy. If we don't do everything we can to get our economy growing again, we will return to the good old days when you grew your own food, had a horse for work & transportation, pumped your own water by hand and made trips to the outhouse. That will make the environmentalists happy but they will not live here. Renewable energy is a technical joke being played on America. It will never be viable untill we run out of petroleum & natural gas and by then, we can have nuclear energy generation to a state of development that it will be safe & acceptable anywhere. The advancement of mankind requires risk and if we choose to avoid all risk, America will wither & die.
Sun, 08/26/2012 - 8:05am
"Constitutional amendments that are passed by voters in ballot issues can be overturned, in future elections, so they are not necessarily “permanent,” as the ad claims."So, is TCFM is ready to provide the examples of Constitutional Amendments that were overturned by later votes? When you have groups with names like the "Green Tech Action Fund" and the "American Wind Energy Association", it doesn't take very much work to find out where their objectives lie. "Solyndra" anyone? These people also like to play fast and loose with their figures."Clean energy is a growing market that will create good jobs now and in the future, spur new businesses growth, and stimulate $10 billion in economic development right here in Michigan. We estimate that an initiative like this will create more than 56,000 new Michigan jobs that can't be outsourced."http://mienergymijobs.com/GettheFacts/FAQs.aspxSo, the $10-billion that would have otherwise gone to stimulate others area of Michigan's economy by purchasing other things that we may need or want here locally, could now going into the pockets of people making us buy their products because of their lobbying to include that in our Constitution. Good plan. And their 56,000 jobs figure is also dubious. According to the American Wind Energy Association's own numbers, there are currently only 85,000 employed in this field nationwide.http://www.bls.gov/green/wind_energy/I'm not sure what else you can build here in Michigan? Solar? Solar power isn't very effective when there is no sun, as we'll be reminded about in a few months. Hydropower? Michigan is relatively flat. Yes, we're surrounded by water, but you will need a large enough change in height of those bodies of water to make this economically feasible. Geothermal? Michigan isn't that geologically active. Biomass? Really. Ethanol? After this summer's drought, just how long do you think we'll be burning our own food supply? Not a bad start, but TCFM should really dig more deeper into their arguments.
Sun, 08/26/2012 - 9:11am
I am not so sure that the "Truth Squad" is as precise as or at least as open as it wants those it judges. "donations constitute a “private auction,” ...revealed in state campaign finance records" It would help if we understood the Truth Squad defines private donations. At least a few of us would say that the source of the moneys is what is describe here, 'public' meaning government and 'private meaning non-public. If that is a possible definition is the Truth Squad accurate or simply spinning it so they have something to point fingers at? "to buy pieces of Michigan’s constitution." is this a comment on the Consittutional process or is it simply what we hear from the media when they are describing the amounts of money being spend on campaign advertizing when they say the 'Super PACs' are buying this coming election? Is this the Truth Squad holding others to a different standard in retorict then they hold themselves? Not that there could be any hidden agenda, but I wonder does the Truth Squad have some outside reviewers (non-members of the Truth Squad) to test the accuracy of the Truth Squad's work. Let me be open and up front, I am skeptic. I have learned this from contact with some 'zealots' for the truth. Without knowing anyone associated with thr Truth Squad or the process they use I am simply reacting through the eyes of someone who has watch the spin on many issues and from amny campaigns where the people become so involved in the initial impact of their efforts that when they feel they have started to lose that impact they fall into the trap of others and use 'spin' to help them carry the day. And more disconcerting is that they begin to believe the 'spin' is mor eimportant than what they have to say.