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These Republican insiders split $1 million to design and defend Michigan 2011 maps

Update: Expert testifies gerrymandering in Michigan is worse than almost anywhere
Feb. 4, 2019: New emails show Michigan GOP used maps to consolidate Republican power
Jan. 17, 2019: Michigan secretary of state wants to settle gerrymandering lawsuit
Nov. 8 update: Gerrymandered districts help Republicans keep control of Legislature
Nov. 7 update: One woman’s Facebook post leads to Michigan vote against gerrymandering
Update: Emails: Michigan Republicans brag that redistricting ‘protects incumbents’

Led by Michigan Chamber of Commerce executives, the nonprofit Michigan Redistricting Resource Institute paid out roughly $1 million for more than 2,500 hours of legal, mapmaking and other consulting work for Michigan’s “House and Senate Republican caucuses” in the 2011 redistricting process. That’s according to the Institute’s own statements and invoices filed in an ongoing federal lawsuit challenging the 2011 maps.

The group’s incorporation papers list it as a 501(c4) nonprofit that is not required to list its donors. 

It’s invoices, disclosed in the federal lawsuit, show the Institute paid consultants with deep Republican connections:

$734,000 to the Dickinson Wright law firm. Attorneys on the project included Peter Ellsworth and Jeffrey Stuckey. Both have counseled the Michigan Republican Party on redistricting issues for decades and served as legal counsel for Republican gubernatorial campaigns. Before the Michigan House and Senate caucuses pushed through the new redistricting maps in 2011, Dickinson Wright held a series of meetings each with between 15-20 people, according to the firm’s invoices to the Institute, for 2011 redistricting.

$170,000 to Lansing-based Sterling Corporation, a Republican political consulting firm, for mapmaking by veteran GOP strategist Jeff Timmer and other redistricting consulting and fundraising. Timmer is a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party and began working on redistricting maps for House Republicans in the early 1990s. An earlier bio on the Sterling website of Managing Partner Mark Pischea stated he “helped lead the firm’s efforts to expand Senate Republicans’ majority to the largest in state history.”

A bid proposal from Sterling to the MRRI uncovered in an ongoing federal lawsuit over the 2011 redistricting indicates some of the money to the firm went for fundraising for the process.

"The MRRI fundraising was hindered by legislative term limits and the fact that until now there has not been leadership in either the House or Senate which would be impacted by or play a role in redistricting," Timmer wrote on Feb. 9, 2010, to then MRRI executive Robert LaBrant. "We have now engaged the principal players and will be moving forward with the chief legislative players to fulfill a goal for each caucus of $700,000."

$61,000 to the Foster Swift law firm. The billing attorney was Eric Doster, whose bio states we was “the longest serving general counsel in the history of the Michigan Republican Party” from 1992-2017. Doster also was on the legal team opposing the Voters Not Politicians redistricting reform ballot proposal before the Michigan Supreme Court in July.

$38,000 to the Washington, D.C. firm Jones Day, mostly for the work of conservative attorney Michael Carvin, who’s now defending Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson in a federal gerrymandering suit.

$9,700 to the Dykema law firm for preparation of state legislative testimony and other work by attorney Gary Gordon, a former Michigan chief deputy attorney general. Gordon represented the Donald Trump campaign in Michigan’s 2016 presidential vote recount. The Michigan House and Senate redistricting committees called on Gordon in 2011 to testify and outline the complex legal requirements and court precedents impacting the Michigan redistricting process.

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