Jan 29, 2007

When is a PAC not a PAC

With school board elections coming up – the deadline to file is Feb. 14 – and the attempted book banning at Howell High School by the so-called “Love” PAC, I decided to look on the Secretary of State’s web site to see who has contributed to the PAC and how much. Someone recently claimed in the comments section that the so-called “love” group has 1,900 members.

However, when I went to the SOS web site I could not find the group had ever registered as a PAC. I know they endorsed in last year’s election, and they even managed to get a member elected. So why no PAC?

According to the SOS, a PAC must be registered if they attempt to affect the outcome of an election. The definition says “Michigan's Campaign Finance Act, P.A. 388 of 1976, to influence voters for or against the nomination or election of one or more candidates in Michigan or the qualification, passage or defeat of one or more ballot questions in Michigan. “

I looked up old news reports when they first sprang up, and it clearly said they were forming a Political Action Committee. This is from the March 23, 2006 Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Frustrated that the Howell Public Schools district has not addressed their issues, a group of parents want to push traditional values to center stage in the upcoming May 2 school board election.
This week, they announced the formation of a political action committee to do that pushing.
Paperwork was filed last week for the formation of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education Political Action Committee by members of the LOVE traditional values group.
The activity of the LOVE PAC may be something unique in the world of school board elections. Brad Banasik, legal counsel for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said he had never heard of a PAC forming in a specific school district for a school election.
"Most board elections are considered to be nonpartisan," he said. "Your PACs tend to be involved in partisan issues. You may find a PAC in something like a recall election where they form to support the board members being recalled, but for a PAC to support a group of candidates or an individual candidate, that's the first I've ever heard of it."

I’m no expert on campaign finance, so hopefully someone out there can set me straight on why I could not find a PAC registered.


Republican Michigander said...

It's not that hard to find. I found it.

Anonymous said...

Here's a hint: County Clerk.

Communications guru said...

I saw nothing in the Campaign Finance Lw, or a reason, why they should not file with the state.

Anonymous said...

I thought you used to be a reporter. It took me five minutes on the internet to find this:
PA 388 of 1978 as amended. Section 169.236. To paraphrase: political committees seeking to influence candidates or ballot questions within one (1) county can file with that county's clerk.
This points out a shortcoming of blogs -- if you were a newspaper, radio or TV reporter with an editor, he or she presumably would have suggested you look a little deeper (or would have known this already). Instead, you make a partisan point without all of the facts. Or as Steven Colbert would said -- NAILED!

Republican Michigander said...

Anonyomous is nicer than I am with the hints. Why help him?

I'll just say that I know that the LOVE-PAC is filed correctly. I filed a ballot question committee (similar rules, jurisdiction-wise) a year before LOVE-PAC came out. I doublechecked where I file as this was not state level as the previous BQC filed. The BQC I filed covered a larger area than LOVE-PAC. As that committee was correctly filed in the correct place, so was LOVE-PAC.

Communications guru said...

If who-ever-you-are and dan are the campaign finance experts that’s fine, and I will put a blurb right at the top of my post saying why I could not find the PAC on the Secretary of State web site.

Yes, I am well aware of Section 169.236. that “political committees seeking to influence candidates or ballot questions within one (1) county can file with that county's clerk.” However, that’s not the case here.

Most of the school boundaries run outside of Livingston County, such as Fowlerville, Brighton, Pinckney and Hartland, and if the so-called “love” PAC is trying to effect the outcome of elections that spill out of Livingston County’s boundaries like the say they are then they are in violation of the law.

This is their mission, The Livingston Organization for Values in Education. This is a group of parents, students, and community leaders, united together to promote a positive "Values Friendly" enviornment for our public schools.

It says Livingston and public schools, and that seems to me to go well outside of Livingston County’s borders. If it has not filed with the SOS it should have because it appears to me they are in violation of campaign finance law. But then again, I was just asking why I could not find them on the SOS web site.

Marie Claire said...

Dear Sir,

The tone of your post was far beyond merely wondering why LOVE "wasn't on the SOS website." It was downright accusatory.

Next time, please do talk to LOVE before for you criticize them out of ignorance. They're a good group of people, no matter what impression people get from the media or hearsay.


Communications guru said...

You are half right, Ms. Claire. My tone was and is “accusatory,” but it’s not “far beyond” anything.

I truly did not understand why I could not find the so-called “love” PAC on the SOS web site, and I wanted someone to inform me why before I accused them of committing a crime. Now that I know they never filed with the state I know they are in violation of the law. They are trying to influence elections that reach beyond just one county. Perhaps it was an oversight, but now that they know they are wrong they must file correctly.

The simple fact is they are a group that discriminates against another group of people, and in my book that’s a hate group.

Thanks for your comments

Republican Michigander said...

If the LOVE Group is breaking the law, than LITERALLY every single school board candidate (for Pinckney - the one county based district that crosses county lines), PAC, and ballot question registered in the county is breaking the law.

That includes all those pro-millage groups and all candidates/ballot committees/PAC's that did business in the Pinckney district.

I doubt any of them were breaking the law at least when it comes to county registration. Hell, I called both the state and county elections divisions when I registered my ballot question committee to make sure I did it right.

Communications guru said...

I don’t think a PAC and individual school board candidates are on the same level because they can, or could in the past, file nominating petitions at the school board office, but again, I’m not a campaign finance expert. But Fowlerville Community Schools does cross over county lines, and I believe so do Hartland and Brighton. But it really doesn’t mater if it’s four or two school district that cross over, the fact remains two do for sure.

You, or one f your nameless cohorts, said the so-called “LOVE” PAC is not in violation because of “Section 169.236. that “political committees seeking to influence candidates or ballot questions within one (1) county can file with that county's clerk.” We know that’s not the case here. Perhaps they were not in violation of the law when they filed, but they should comply with the law and now file correctly with the SOS. Don’t you agree?

I don’t recall any pro-millage groups or ballot committees PACs in Pinckney or Fowlerville. I also don’t know what ballot question PAC you registered, so I have no idea if you did it correctly.

Republican Michigander said...

I'll take your word on Fowlerville, and we all know Pinckney splits districts, so let's use that as an example for argument's sake.

PAC's, candidate committees, and Ballot Question Committees are run by the same rules registration-wise. So that means if LOVE PAC violates the law, so do the school's ballot question committes, the Pinckney candidates, and all ballot question committees that influenced Pinckney elections violated the law.

Pinckney has a pro-millage ballot question committee. It's dormant now as far as I know, but was active for 05. (as was Brighton and Howell. I forgot the name of it.) There was also "Voters for Enhancement Millage" in 05, which was countywide and covered all five Livingston based districts, including Pinckney. Voters for Enhancement Millage was basicaly, an "umbrella" group of the other district level committees. ALL of these were on the county level, not the state level. I know this firsthand.

I'm not going to call myself an expert on campaign laws. I only know about 6 people I'd really consider an expert. Those are the people I call when I have questions. However, I'm good enough at this to say that I've never been fined, and haven't had an error/omissions notice (since corrected in timely fashion) in 4 1/2 years. I plan on making that 20+ years.

I had questions about where to file my first county level committee. Before I filed, I called the state department of elections as well as County. I filed county. I believe that what counts is where the districts are based. (LESA) Whitmore Lake's millage committee isn't filed at the state level. Their district cuts across at least two counties (Green Oak and Northfield Townships). Our clerk got the info of the filing from Washtenaw's Clerk. That makes sense since they are Washtenaw County based. If your interpretation is correct, they broke the law. I do not believe all the Whitmore Lake and Pinckney candidates/committees/PACs violated the law.

If I am incorrect, I'll ask the replacement treasurer of my committee to transfer the records to the state, and I'll tell LOVE's treasurer to do the same.