MEA Attack Ad Slams Voting Record of 52nd District Representative Republican Mark Ouimet
The Michigan Education Association is neither openly supporting nor contributing financially to the effort to recall Republican Governor Rick Snyder as well as the nine Republican state legislators who have been targeted. That’s according to the organizers of the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder (formerly Michigan Citizens United) in a May 9, 2011 interview A2Politico did with the group. In response to the question: “Has the MEA or any other education union affiliate or national office expressed support of this recall effort? Have you asked the MEA’s political action committee for its financial help/support?” organizers told A2Politico that:
We have been frustrated by the lack of official support from the MEA and many other unions. We have had very good support from individual union members and even a few staffers, such as Gail. We do understand that the unions are reluctant to endorse a recall attempt, but at least their members seem to be supporting the effort with their time and their own money. Yes, we have asked the MEA and many others. So far the results are a lot of good wishes, but not much in the way of overt support.
Today, organizers of the recall effort commented about the attack ad via Twitter. They said: “The MEA has its own agenda as far as we understand. Who they attack, really has nothing to do with us.” Recall organizers also said that MEA officials had not been in touch with them.
The MEA may not be supporting the recall efforts directly, but the union, one of Michigan’s most powerful political players, has launched an advertising campaign which attacks 52nd District Representative Mark Ouimet (pictured left) for his recent votes to cut education funding and award $1.8 billion dollars in tax cuts to businesses. Ouimet, along with eight other Republican state legislators, have been targeted for recall because, among other considerations, he won by fewer than 1,800 votes and could be recalled much more easily than Snyder. Organizers, who began collecting signatures at a May 21, 2011 rally in Lansing that drew an estimated 6,000 attendees, must collect over 800,000 signatures from registered voters to put the question of recalling Michigan’s Governor on the ballot. To put the question of recalling Ouimet on the ballot, organizers would need to collect 10,546 signatures.
The Michigan Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, took in over $199,000,000 in 2010, including dues from its 153,000 members who pay $620 each per year for representation. In 2010, according to documents filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the organization spent $3.8 million on political activities, including lobbying. In the 2010 election to replace Democrat Pam Byrnes in the 52nd District, Ouimet raised an impressive $290,550, including thousands from local Ann Arbor Democrats, including the former Superintendent of the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Dr. Todd Roberts. He did not, however, get a dime from the Michigan Education Association. According to campaign finance records, Ouimet took in the bulk of his donations from himself, some $82,043, followed by a $10,400 donation from the Michigan Republican Party.
Ouimet’s opponent, Democrat Christine Green, took in an equally impressive $217,543 in donations, again according to campaign finance documents filed with the State of Michigan. Like Ouimet, Green self-financed a part of her campaign to the tune of $29,342, and she took in over 25 percent of the her money from the Michigan House Democratic Fund, some $55,594. Democrat Green also took in a $4,950 donation from the Michigan Education Association. In the 2010 elections, the MEA donated a total of $1.041 million dollars to 315 Democratic and 67 Republican candidates. The local politico who got the largest donation from the MEA was Ann Arbor’s State Senator, Democrat Rebekah Warren, to whose campaign the union donated $9,900.
To put the MEA’s $1.041 million dollars in donations into perspective, Republican Rick Snyder self-funded $5.88 million dollars of his $11 million dollar campaign, and the Republican Governors Association, in Washington, DC., donated $5.21 million to candidates in Michigan, primarily through a $5.2 million dollar donation to the Michigan Republican Party. The Michigan House Democratic Fund spent $3 million dollars supporting 22 candidates for state office, including Christine Green. Michigan Republican businessman and one-time political candidate Dick DeVos dropped $917,550 supporting four candidates, three of whom won. Robert Lynas, Preisdent of RA Miller Industries, spent $867,950 in 2010 supporting three Republican candidates and the Michigan Republican Party.
Together, individuals DeVos and Lynas spent $690,950 more than the Michigan Education Association did on candidate and party donations in 2010.
The MEA’s Director of Public Affairs, Doug Pratt, when asked about whether the union was targeting Michigan legislators in addition to Ouimet, and whether the ad buy is related to the recently launched recall effort told A2Politico via email, “We are running an ad campaign that holds Republican legislators accountable for the votes they’ve taken to cut public education in order to pay for their massive tax break for corporate CEOs. We will not let these decisions go by without ensuring that voters are aware of what their lawmakers are doing to our state. The campaign does go beyond Rep. Ouimet, however, we are not publicly releasing any other details about the buy.”
Representative Ouimet commented via email this afternoon. He wrote, “I haven’t seen the ad and won’t comment on their [MEA] strategy. However, I’m hearing from many families in our district that their number one priority is jobs – and their second priority is fiscal responsibility. I was sent to Lansing to make the tough decisions, and I said throughout the campaign that we needed to eliminate Michigan’s job-killing business tax, which we’ve done, and to put the state’s fiscal house in order so that we are on stronger footing going forward.”
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