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APRIL 24, 2006
Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land today offered a 10-point plan that brings more openness to Michigan's campaign finance process and fortifies compliance efforts through additional enforcement tools.
Highlights include employing "real-time" electronic reporting to make disclosure of campaign money more immediate and accessible, requiring that the sponsors and financing sources of "issue" ads be reported, and giving the Department of State audit authority and subpoena power to create a truly effective compliance process. Several proposals address issues raised during recent elections.
"Openness and accountability must be the foundations of our campaign finance system," said Land, Michigan's chief election officer. "This plan embraces these principles by putting public information where it belongs - at voters' fingertips. Timely, easily accessible information is a voter's strongest ally.
"These reforms also emphasize the responsibility of candidates and committee treasurers to meet their obligations under the law. The vast majority of filers play by the rules. Unfortunately there are those who do not, making this package necessary to promote even greater compliance through more timely disclosure, new clarifications of the law, additional restrictions and enforcement mechanisms."
Land's proposals include:
- Requiring real-time online reporting of all contributions, receipts, expenditures and disbursements by every committee filing with the state.
- Prohibiting committees from spending contributed funds until the information is posted on the Department of State Web site. As Land says, "Don't spend a dime until it's posted online!" The department's Web site will be redesigned so that citizens can immediately view each committee's recent transactions and current cash balance, similar to an electronic checkbook register.
- Requiring committees to provide their unique identification number with each contribution made to a candidate committee or another committee. That helps regulators and the public better track contributions.
- Requiring that the sponsors and financing sources of "issue" ads be reported.
- Eliminating confusion by having all Political Action Committees (PACs) file with the Department of State. Some PACs currently register with county clerks.
- Keeping campaign finance laws current by requiring all new political communication mediums - such as the Internet and robotic phone calls - to carry a disclaimer that identifies who is paying for the message.
- Closing a special allowance in current law that permits candidates to transfer money raised for their current office to a new committee created for seeking a higher office. Land wants to prohibit those transfers, usually made by incumbents, and require candidates to deposit money raised for their next campaign into a committee formed solely for that purpose.
- Providing the Department of State with audit authority and subpoena powers so that it can ensure proper reporting and bring necessary data to compliance hearings. An effective compliance process needs the basic tools to do the job.
The proposals complement Land's election reform plan unveiled in January.
"We continue to modernize Michigan's election process for the benefit of voters," she said. "Now, we must update our campaign finance laws to meet today's challenges. This plan ensures that the process is more open, accountable and clearly defined."
> List of campaign finance initiatives (PDF FILE)
> List of campaign finance initiatives (HTML)
> Secretary of State Home Page