Q: Won't this create unnecessary burdens and/or restrictions on small business?
A: Small business owners are standing with us in this effort because the current system is not working for them. Right now, big money is buying big influence, leaving small business out of the process and citizens without a mechanism to hold politicians and large corporations accountable. Moreover, many businesses are getting their arms twisted today by politicians who want them to "pay to play" and would welcome a law that creates transparency and let's them focus on their real business: building the economy, providing jobs, and making a profit.
Q: But, won't this just create more bureaucracy for businesses when we should be focusing on job creation?
A: What's not working for job creation is the current system that encourages pay-to-play politics. Large corporations have spent millions in undisclosed funds to influence our elections and legislative process. For this, this year alone, they received a $2 billion tax cut while politicians slashed education and increased taxes on middle class families. The big banks and Wall Street have benefited by recent Supreme Court rulings that gave the green light for computers to foreclose on people's homes and the reversal of last year's court decisions to enable citizens to hold corporations accountable.
We would hope many businesses large or small would rather focus on their roles of providing quality products/services and engage in job creation and stimulating our economy than being forced to engage in partisan bickering. The current system is not working;
Q: Isn't this unfair because it would lead to two different types of disclosure – Instant disclosure for corporations while unions, billionaires, and everyone else disclose months after the communication.
A: First, it is hard to deny that the most unfair aspect of our campaign finance law is allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of funds, undisclosed, to lobby our elected officials and pay for political ads. Every other entity - from individuals to unions to PACs to political parties - must disclose the money they spend in some way; they also must 'stand by their ad' anytime they communicate outside their membership.
It is also difficult for anyone to deny that large corporations enjoy an undue level of influence over both political parties, in part because of Citizens United and the lack of any public disclosure requirements.
All we as citizens want is the ability to know who is spending the money and what they're spending it on. We already have access to that information for unions, individuals, PACs, and political parties (which, incidentally, are all actual collections of individuals with shared power, which corporations are not).
Q: I am a nonprofit 501(c) [or (4)] organization. How will this affect my organization?
A: If you choose to spend money on political ads or lobbying activity in Michigan, this initiative will require you to (1) disclose to the state how much money you are spending on these communications and (2) disclose any corporate money you receive to spend on these communications.
Q: Will this require nonprofits to disclose all of their donors?
A: No. Nonprofits will only need to disclose corporate money they receive AND spend on political and lobbying communication. For example, if a corporation gave a nonprofit money that was used to pay for rent and the nonprofit raised money from individuals to pay for a political communication, then the corporate donation would not be referenced in the disclosure documents. The nonprofit, however, would still have to disclose the amount they spent on the paid political communication.
Q: Will this lead to a "chilling effect" on speech of nonprofits that are already hesitant to lobby?
A: While this may add a layer of public transparency, non-profits are already required to report direct lobbying expenditures. The need to simply disclose money spent on lobbying communication is a minimal obligation for groups to meet if they wish to influence the vote or official actions of elected officials.
Q: Are unions covered under this?
A: Any entity that spends corporate funds on political ads or lobbying is covered under this amendment.
In addition, unions are already subject to disclosure requirements. In fact most entities – candidates, individuals, unions, PACs and other organizations - must already disclose money they spend on lobbying and political ads. Our effort is focused on creating disclosure requirements for what is now undisclosed - the paid campaign and lobbying expenditures by wealthy special interests.
It's hard to deny the most unfair aspect of our political process is that multinational corporations, CEOs, and lobbyist can spend unlimited, undisclosed dollars to influence campaigns and public policy to protect their own interests. Meanwhile, middle class families are being smashed. Regular Michiganers are working harder for less, while Wall Street and wealthy special interests are doing better than ever and big corporations get tax breaks and move Michigan jobs overseas. That isn't right.
Q: How is this proposal constitutional post-Citizens United?
A: We, along with some of the leading constitutional scholars in the country, believe this amendment is wholly constitutional. And in Part IV of the Citizens United opinion, a majority of justices vigorously endorsed disclosure and disclaimer requirements. They agreed that "The Government may regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements, but it may not suppress that speech altogether" because of their view that "the public has an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate shortly before an election."