Black money, donors like Steven Spielberg fuel Michigan’s suffrage fight
The Sixteen Thirty Fund, a liberal black money powerhouse that has donated $2.5 million to a group fighting the GOP initiative and another $700,000 to a new Promote the Vote committee seeking to expand human rights vote in the Michigan Constitution, help the other side.
The Washington DC-based Sixteen Thirty Fund is among more than 300 out-of-state donors helping to support Promote the Vote’s new petition campaign, including California director Steven Spielberg, who sent the committee 125 $000, according to the group’s first campaign funding. report.
Black money and outside donors are increasingly influencing Michigan politics, especially on issues like suffrage, which are part of a larger national debate, said Michigan executive director Simon Schuster. Campaign Finance Network.
“We view the ballot initiative and citizen referendums as a kind of tool for direct democracy, rather than a kind of Republican form of government,” Schuster said in Bridge Michigan. “And if the forces behind these initiatives are completely hiding their sources of monetary support, I think voters should ask themselves if that dilutes the spirit.”
Asked about its black money and out-of-state funding, Promote the Vote responded with a general statement touting small donors. The vast majority of voting committee contributions came from people who gave $500 or less, executive director Micheal Davis said.
The funding puts the campaign “in a strong position to place this important proposal on the November 2022 ballot and communicate our message that every eligible voter should have their vote counted without intimidation or political interference,” Davis added.
Fred Wszolek, a Republican strategist working on the Secure MI Vote petition and two other GOP initiatives, said it’s understandable — and legal — for donors to use nonprofits to shield their contributions from the public eye, especially on loaded political issues.
Donors could receive “hate mail and death threats” if the contributions became public, he said.
“The First Amendment allows people to donate money to nonprofits, and those nonprofits can do that. I think that’s going to be the shape of all these (ballot) campaigns,” Wszolek said.
He argued that it’s not worth “lamenting” about out-of-state donors who help fund Michigan’s petition campaigns.
“Everything is nationalized,” he said. “You might think, philosophically, that’s not a good thing, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
GOP pushes to tighten election laws
Indeed, black money groups are already squabbling several petition campaigns in the state.
Michigan Guardians of Democracy, for example, also donated nearly $800,000 to the Unlock Michigan campaign to limit the length of pandemic public health orders, and $100,000 to a GOP initiative, Let MI Kids Learn, which would create a voucher-type school scholarship program for families in Michigan.
But the group’s largest contributions have gone to Secure MI Vote, which aims to send voting reforms to Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature, which could pass the initiative with a majority vote and bypass Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. , which has previously vetoed nearly identical bills.
The Secure MI Vote initiative, also partially funded by Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser, would require ID to vote, eliminating the ability for in-person voters to sign an affidavit of ID if they forget or do not have an identity document. It is an option used by approximately 11,400 voters in 2020.
The proposal could make voting by mail more difficult by prohibiting election officials from sending unsolicited applications and requiring voters to provide additional information about applications, including their ID number or partial Social Security number , each time they ask to vote by mail.
The measure would also prohibit clerks from accepting outside grants to help administer elections.
Secure MI Vote needs to collect 340,047 valid voter signatures to advance the initiative to the GOP-led Legislature for likely enactment. The group fell short of its goal of 500,000 signatures in an initial 180-day window, but can collect until June 1 if it launches earlier petitions.
Michigan Guardians of Democracy, the largest contributor to Secure MI Vote, is not legally required to disclose its donors and does not intend to do so, said nonprofit board chair Heather Lombardini .
“We’ve had over 100 donors, and they range from $5 to top donors,” she said.
Lombardini is a conservative fundraiser who has also worked with Senate Republicans. But Guardians is not associated with the Senate GOP or Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, she told Bridge Michigan.
On its website, the nonprofit claims that “VOTER FRAUD IS REAL” and must be stopped to ensure that legal voters don’t “have their vote diluted by those with bad intentions”. In a recent fundraising campaign, the group solicited donations from “patriots who are committed to free and fair elections.”
Law enforcement authorities have filed charges in a handful of alleged voter fraud cases, but the GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee, which has spent months investigating the 2020 presidential election, concluded that there was no evidence of widespread fraud. Democratic President Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,188 votes.
Critics argue that the Secure MI Vote initiative is a form of voter suppression that could disproportionately impact low-income voters and minority voters less likely to have photo ID.
Promoting the vote, the continuation
The Sixteen Thirty Fund, meanwhile, is a major liberal donor, spending more than $410 million nationwide to elect Democrats, conduct voter registration drives, and fund ballot measures in numerous states, according to Politico.
In addition to promoting the vote and protecting the MI vote, the DC-based nonprofit this year donated nearly $1 million in cash and services to Michiganders For Fair Lending, which aims to cap the payday loan interest rates.
Promote the Vote’s 2022 ballot campaign is a follow-up to its successful 2018 proposal that enshrined mail-in voting without reason and other rights in the Michigan Constitution.
The new petition would again amend the state constitution to enshrine the affidavit option for voters without ID, allow nine days of early voting, subsidize an absentee ballot tracking system, and require a postal ballot box for 15,000 voters, among other things.
The potential ballot proposal will “enhance the integrity and security of our elections by modernizing the way we administer elections” and “make our elections more accessible and convenient,” said Davis, executive director of Promote the Vote.