Michigan Rising: A Political Souffle That Has Fallen
by Rob Smith
Michigan Rising was born The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder. It was exciting and dynamic—citizens who came together to try to rid Michigan of Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Volunteers across the state took on the incredible job of collecting 800,000+ signatures from registered voters. With Governor Snyder’s approval ratings in the low-30 percent range, finding 800,000 registered voters who wanted to have a chance to reconsider whether Michigan should be led by Snyder seemed possible. After all, Wisconsin was politically afire, too. There, Democrats backed by the Wisconsin Democratic Party, were determined to oust their own Republican governor.
Mark Brewer and his Michigan Democratic Party refused to back Michigan Rising or the movement to recall Governor Snyder. Even after the Michigan Federation of Teachers and Daily Kos decided to throw their support behind the organization and the movement, the Michigan Democratic Party remained intractable, leaders there convinced that it would be impossible to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures in the 90 day time frame alloted. Was it a chicken and egg decision? Did the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder fail because the Michigan Democratic Party refused to help? In Wisconsin, volunteers there managed to collect enough signatures to put the question of recalling their governor to the voters, but it didn’t pass.
Here in Michigan, there are many “What if” questions unanswered.
The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder claimed to have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures, but to have come up short ultimately, of the number required to get the question on the ballot in Michigan. Michigan’s political talking heads were quick to say “I told you so,” and then the finger-pointing really started. Volunteers within the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder made some pretty serious accusations about bungled finances, disorganized leadership and even accused leaders of lying to the public and the press about the number of signatures collected. The picture these people painted was of a group that sabotaged itself and, ultimately, the movement to recall Michigan’s governor.
In November 2011, the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder was reborn as a Super PAC called Michigan Rising. Michigan Rising hoped to pick up where the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder had failed. The Super PAC status provided additional opportunities to accept large donations. However, Michigan Rising ultimately failed, as well. The core group, pretty much the same people who had founded and run the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder, had even worse luck the second time around. Dogged by news reports of their initial failure to collect enough signatures or raise the $50,000 they projected necessary to succeed in their drive, Michigan Rising flopped.
In January 2012, A2Politico posted a piece about Michigan Rising. Five of the core committee organizers of Michigan Rising talked about their effort, and what they’d learned from the first effort that would give them a better chance of success the second time around. A2P talked to Volunteer Coordinator Dennis Pank, Public Committee Chairperson Marty Townsend, Communications Director Terry Blundell, CEO Julius Muller, and Elections Specialist Jan BenDor. Not present were Media Coordinator & Spokesperson Bruce Fealk and Public Awareness Liaison Officer Ricky Ernest. That piece ended with this upbeat (and ultimately inaccurate) assessment:
The name Michigan Rising may turn out to be a very aptly-chosen moniker. Muller, Townsend and the other core team of organizers are clearly much better positioned this time around than they were last summer. They have a clear strategy, have developed comprehensive training materials and are diligently working to raise funds. They appear poised to rise again—this time armed with knowledge and experience that will aid their endeavor.
It was wishful thinking. After the second disappointment, Michigan Rising reinvented itself as a progressive think tank, perhaps the liberal answer to the oh-so-well-funded conservative leaning Mackinac Center. Now, Michigan Rising is all about voter education. It’s providing a handy voter guide for the upcoming November 6th election. Ultimately, the group’s mission has become “Returning the government of the state of Michigan to the people and removing the oppressive force of corporatization and those who we believe represent the interests of corporations above the people of Michigan,” according to the website. The group regularly sends out solicitation emails and asks for donations on their site.
This is the latest email from the Michigan Rising group:
We have 28 days until the election on November 6th. During that time Michigan Rising will be working in collaboration with various other organizations across Michigan to Get Out The Vote.
In addition, we are going full-steam ahead with our Voter Guide Distribution. You can help inform Michigan voters and get them to the polls by donating $5 or more so that we can reach as many as possible before November 6th.
For your donation of $25 or more you will receive 20 postcards by mail which you can then distribute amongst your friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances. If you are unable to donate $25 or more, your donation will still be used to distribute this Voter Guide.
A note on voting:
Any registered voter can vote right now. Just go to the local City or Township Clerk and ask for an absentee ballot. By law, these offices must be open on Saturday, Nov. 3, 10 am to 2 pm, and on Monday, November 5, until 4 pm.
The total numbers of voters registered by Michigan rising are still coming in but we’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts ofLora Durham and Linda Locklin who together have registered 1014 people in Washtenaw County. It is a tremendous contribution from these ladies and one that citizens of Michigan can all aspire to.
Also, a big Thank You to all of those who have contributed already and who are assisting us now in our Get Out The Vote efforts.
How’s the fundraising going? Who knows? The last statement filed by the group was the April 2012 Triannual. According to that record, the group raised $42,070 and spent $27,383. A huge chunk of money came from Kos Media. The treasurer of the Recall Rick PAC maintains she was pressured by members of the Michigan Rising PAC core group to hand over the money from Kos Media to them as seed money for the new Super PAC. However, she says she sent a check from the Recall Rick PAC to Kos Media in October 2011. An official at Kos Media confirmed to A2Politico via email that the check arrived. The problem is that Kos Media had no legal right to accept the money from the Recall Rick PAC, and the Recall Rick PAC Treasurer had no legal right to dispose of the money from the PAC by giving it to a for-profit corporation.
The April 2012 campaign finance statement from the Michigan Rising Super PAC, filed May 14, 2012, documents a $28,000 donation from Kos Media.
To date, Michigan Rising has missed all of its campaign finance deadlines since the PAC’s formation in November 2011. The group has been slapped with multiple warning letters by the State of Michigan Elections Bureau, as well as multiple fines for missing the campaign finance deadlines. As of September 20, 2012, Michigan Rising owed $1,000 in late filing fees for missing the July 2012 deadline.
Yet, fundraising continues, despite the public having no way to see where the donated money is going. Marion (Marty) Townsend is listed as the Michigan Rising PAC’s Treasurer, and is responsible for getting the campaign finance statements turned in by the deadlines. Multiple emails to her asking about the missed deadlines went unanswered. The State of Michigan’s Department of State has a handy page of links for PACs to information about campaign finance, including deadlines, contribution limits, and a list of “instructional seminars on the disclosure obligations of candidates, PACs and other committee types seeking guidance in complying with Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act, P.A. 388 of 1976 as amended.”
Short URL: http://www.a2politico.com/?p=14576