ABOUT

Michigan has some of the weakest lobbying and ethics laws in the country, with no disclosure requirements for the tens of millions of corporate dollars spent to influence our elections and elected officials.

The Corporate Accountability Amendment has two main goals:

  1. Disclosure: Ensuring citizens know when CEOs and lobbyist are influencing elections and public policy by requiring instant disclosure of Corporate Funded Political Communications and Lobbying in Michigan.
  2. Disclaimer: Ensuring large corporations and CEOs "Stand By Their Ad" by requiring them to identify who funded the political and lobbying communications on the ads themselves, just like candidates for office and unions have to do right now.

Pay-to-play politics is out of control when wealthy corporate interests can elect their preferred candidates and get special favors and tax breaks. This grassroots initiative takes the first step for us as citizens to address the lack of disclosure for corporate political activity.

The full Amendment text can be read below, and you can learn more about it in our FAQs.

INITIATIVE PETITION AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION
A Proposal to Amend the Constitution of the State of Michigan
By Adding a New Section 11 to Article II to Read as Follows

Section 11. Accountability and Disclosure of Corporate Political and Lobbying Activity

The people of the State of Michigan declare that they have a right to know when corporations spend money to influence elections or lobby government officials so they can make informed decisions and hold their leaders accountable. This section shall be liberally construed to further this purpose.

(1) Corporations making a political expenditure using corporate funds shall electronically file with the Secretary of State a report that includes: the corporation’s name, address, telephone number and principal place of business; the date, amount and medium of the expenditure; the officeholder, candidate or ballot question referred to; the name and address of any person preparing or executing the expenditure; a certification by the president of the corporation that this subsection has been complied with; and the name, address and telephone number of the person filing the report.

Any person making a political expenditure using corporate funds provided in whole or in part by another person shall electronically file with the Secretary of State a report that includes: all of the information a corporation must disclose as set forth above; the name, address and principal place of business of all of the original sources of the corporate funds used to make the expenditure, as well as the amount each original source provided; and the name and address of all persons who were conduits or intermediaries for any of the corporate funds prior to their expenditure.

These reports shall be electronically filed with the Secretary of State no later than 24 hours after the expenditure is made. For purposes of this subsection, a political expenditure is made when the communication first appears in public.

The Secretary of State shall make all reports filed under this subsection immediately available to the public on the State of Michigan website.

(2) Corporations making a lobbying expenditure using corporate funds shall electronically file with the Secretary of State a report as follows:

(a) Lobbying expenditures as defined in subsection (6)(f)(i) shall be reported on January 31, April 25, July 25, and October 25 for the three-month quarter ending on the last day of the prior month. These reports shall include the corporation’s name, address, telephone number and principal place of business; the name, address and principal place of business of the person to whom such payments were made; the amount paid to each such person; a certification by the president of the corporation that this subsection has been complied with; and the name, address and telephone number of the person filing the report.

(b) Lobbying expenditures as defined in subsection (6)(f)(ii) shall be reported on January 31, April 25, July 25 and October 25 for the three-month quarter ending on the last day of the prior month. These reports shall include the corporation’s name, address, telephone number and principal place of business; the name, title, amount provided to and issue or issues discussed with each official or employee described in subsection (6)(f)(ii); a certification by the president of the corporation that this subsection has been complied with; and the name, address and telephone number of the person filing the report.

(c) Lobbying expenditures as defined in subsection (6)(f)(iii) shall be reported no later than 24 hours after the communication is made. For purposes of this subsection, a communication is made when the communication first appears in public. These reports shall include the corporation’s name, address, telephone number and principal place of business; the date, amount and medium of the communication; the official or employee described in subsection (6)(f)(iii) sought to be influenced by the communication; the name and address of any person preparing or executing the communication; a certification by the president of the corporation that this subsection has been complied with; and the name, address and telephone number of the person filing the report.

The Secretary of State shall make all reports filed under this subsection immediately available to the public on the State of Michigan website.

This subsection does not require persons described in subsection (6)(f)(i) that are corporations to file reports if they duplicate the reports the person’s corporate client files pursuant to this subsection. Persons described in subsection (6)(f)(i) may file the reports required by this subsection on behalf of their corporate clients.

(3) Any corporation or person making a political expenditure using corporate funds, and any corporation making a lobbying expenditure as defined in subsection (6)(f)(iii) using corporate funds, shall identify a communication as follows:

(a) with an identifier stating “Paid for with corporate funds by [name and address of corporation]”;

(b) on all communications with a visible component, the identifier must include the corporate logo, if any, and the name and photograph of the corporation’s president and must be clearly visible and readable for at least four seconds;

(c) if the communication has a visible component, where applicable the identifier shall also include the name, address and logo, if any, of the corporations that were the three largest original sources of the corporate funds used to make the communication, labeled as “Top 3 Contributors”;

(d) on all communications which are solely audio, the identifier must be clearly read by the president of the largest original source, who shall identify himself or herself as such.

(4) A person who reports or is about to report any violation or suspected violation of this section or who participates in any investigation, hearing, inquiry, lawsuit or prosecution relating to a violation or suspected violation of this section shall not be retaliated or discriminated against in any way by any person. Any person who alleges a violation of this paragraph may bring a civil action for injunctive relief, reinstatement, damages, costs and attorney’s fees in the Ingham County Circuit Court, or the Circuit Court of the county of the plaintiff’s residence.

Any citizen or group of citizens of the state shall have standing to bring a civil action to enforce this section in the Ingham County Circuit Court, or the Circuit Court of the county of the plaintiff’s residence. If the citizen or group of citizens prevails in whole or in part, the court shall award damages, costs and attorney’s fees. Damages for a violation of this section shall include triple the amount of the expenditure involved, and shall be payable to the State of Michigan.

Any person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a felony punishable, if the person is an individual, by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 3 years, or both, or if the person is not an individual by a fine of not more than the value of the expenditure involved.

Any person, including any corporate officer, director, manager, employee or agent, having knowledge of the actual commission of a violation of this section, who conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the violation to some judge or other person in civil authority under the State of Michigan, is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 3 years, or both.

(5) This section shall be self-executing. If any provision of this section or the application of the section to any circumstance is held invalid or preempted, that invalidity or preemption shall not affect other provisions or applications of the section, and to this end, the provisions of this section are declared to be severable. This section shall be interpreted consistent with Article 3, Section 2 of the Michigan Constitution.

(6) For purposes of this section, these terms are defined as follows:

(a) “Corporation” means a for-profit or non-profit corporation, limited liability corporation or partnership, joint venture, joint stock company, company, firm, syndicate, business or business trust incorporated under the laws of Michigan, another state or territory, the United States or a foreign country. “Corporation” includes the parent corporation of a subsidiary corporation and all of the subsidiary corporations of a parent corporation. For purposes of this section, “corporation” does not include a labor organization, regardless of whether it is incorporated.

(b) “Person” means a business, individual, proprietorship, firm, partnership, joint venture, syndicate, business trust, labor organization, company, corporation, association, committee, or any other organization or group of persons acting jointly, including a state agency or a political subdivision of the state.

(c) “Corporate funds” means money or anything of ascertainable monetary value owned or controlled by a corporation.

(d)       “Original source” means the corporation whose corporate funds provided the original funds for the expenditure, and did not serve as an intermediary, straw donor, shell organization, or other similar conduit for said corporate funds.

(e) “Election” means a regularly scheduled, special, or recall election for state or local office held in this state or a convention, caucus or meeting of a political party held in this state to nominate a candidate for state or local office or a ballot question election.

(f) “Lobbying expenditure” means:

(i) a payment of anything of ascertainable monetary value to any person made for the purpose of influencing the performance of official duties by any elected official in the executive or legislative branches of state government, by any appointed official in the executive or legislative branches of state government, or by any public employee in the executive or legislative branches of state government whose duties include the ability to influence administrative or legislative action;

(ii) the cost of providing food, drink, housing, entertainment, education, travel, gifts or anything of ascertainable monetary value to or for any elected official in the executive, legislative or judicial branches of state government, to or for any appointed official in the executive, legislative or judicial branches of state government, or to or for any public employee in the executive, legislative or judicial branches of state government whose duties include the ability to influence administrative, legislative or judicial action; or

(iii) the cost exceeding $50 of any paid communication to the public by any means made for the purpose of influencing the performance of official duties by any elected official in the executive or legislative branches of state government, by any appointed official in the executive or legislative branches of state government, or by any public employee in the executive or legislative branches of state government whose duties include the ability to influence administrative or legislative action.

Lobbying expenditure does not include the providing of technical information or legal advice by a person when appearing before an officially convened legislative committee or executive department hearing panel. As used in this section, “technical information” means empirically verifiable data provided by a person recognized as an expert in the subject area to which the information provided is related.

(g) “Political expenditure” means any paid communication to the public costing more than $50, by any means, that includes the name, nickname or image of a state or local elective officeholder, or of a candidate for elective state or local office; or refers to a state or local elective officeholder through a reference such as “the Governor,” “your representative” or “the incumbent,” or refers to a candidate for elective state or local office through a reference such as “the Democratic nominee” or “the Republican candidate”; or refers to a state or local ballot question, made within 90 days before an election at which the officeholder, candidate, or ballot question appears on the ballot. “Political expenditure” does not include: a bona fide news story or editorial distributed by a corporation not owned or controlled by an officeholder or candidate; a public candidate debate or forum or the promoting of that public debate or forum which is made by or on behalf of the person sponsoring the public debate or forum; or a communication made solely for the purpose of attracting public attention to a product or service offered for sale by an officeholder or candidate or by a business owned or operated by an officeholder or candidate which does not mention an election, the office held by the officeholder or sought by the candidate or his or her status as an officeholder or a candidate.

Paid for with regulated funds by Right to Know Michigan Committee, P.O. Box 3085, Kalamazoo, MI  49003