The maneuver allows applicants to bypass the governor and avoid a general election where action must be taken by a simple majority.

Coordinated efforts?

A pair of Republican-backed voting committees seeking change in Michigan’s electoral system and response to the pandemic draw their funds from three groups of dark money registered at the same address, Lansing – numbers on top of Jimmy John on Allegan Street.

Labrant said it reflected a “highly coordinated effort,” but those who run the groups said using the same address was a convenience for accounting.

Three groups 501 (c) (4) – Michigan Guardians of Democracy, Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility and Michigan! My Michigan! – A total of $ 3.3 million was paid Unlock Michigana petition committee that seeks to limit the validity of the governor’s emergency orders to 28 days.

That dark money accounted for nearly 90 percent of Unlock Michigan’s total revenue of $ 3.7 million by the end of December, company documents show.

Another election commission that shares this address on Alegan Street Safe voting MIThe Republican-backed Committee on Petitions is pushing for voter IDs, restrictions on mail delivery and a ban on foreign-funded elections.

Of the $ 841,000 for safe voting MI collected in 2021, nearly 90 percent – $ 750,000 – came from the Michigan Guardians of Democracy.

Location – office space for consulting firm GOP Bright Spark Strategies. Its founder, Heather Lombardini, helps run each of the nonprofits, show business files.

Lombardini helped incorporate The Michigan Guardians of Democracy in September. It serves as president and director of Michigan Citizens for fiscal responsibilitywhich was formed in 2010 and how the treasurer of Michigan! My Michigan!a group linked to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirky, R-Clarklake.

“Much of our business is bookkeeping,” Lombardini said in an email to Bridge Michigan. “All accounts … are for different customers.”

Unlock spokesman in Michigan Fred Vsolek echoed Lombardini, arguing that the same address only suggests that “they have the same accountant. It does not involve coordination. “

The shared location is not an unusual arrangement for “dark money schemes,” but requires close scrutiny, said McKean of the Campaign Legal Center. The practice is also common among political action committees in Michigan – groups that need to disclose their donors – especially when they are connected to each other.

Labrant said registering multiple nonprofits at the same address allows wealthy people to direct money through different groups without attracting “too much heat”.

Managers of nonprofits can easily set up new groups as additional fundraisers if the money already raised is not enough to “complete the work with petitions,” Labrant said.

“They’ll just go out and create another 501 (c) (4), raise a bunch of unlimited money, and then that gear will give an extra $ 500,000 apiece to these two election commissions,” he said.

Dark money has been pouring into Michigan for decades, but Labrant said it is a new observation at this level.

In 2013, for example, “The Right to Life in Michigan”. successfully pushed for an electoral measure that stops public and private election abortion insurance. The group raised more than $ 44,000, most of which came from its own local offices, according to an analysis by Bridge Michigan.

In 2008, the Michigan Coalition for Charity – the election commission that successfully proposed the legalization of medical marijuana – received $ 1.72 million, including $ 1.69 million from the Marijuana Policy Project, 501 (c) (4) Dark Money Group. in Washington, D.C., campaign documents. to show.

LaBrant has filed two unsuccessful complaints, arguing that Michigan citizens for fiscal responsibility – the main sponsor of Unlock Michigan – must comply with disclosure requirements because it continues to raise funds to advocate for voting, while qualifying as a committee vote.

The Michigan secretary of state found no violation of campaign finance laws in any of Labrant’s complaints. Labrant said another complaint he filed in the summer of 2021 against all three nonprofits funding Unlock Michigan is being considered.

Jamie Roe, a spokesman for Secure MI Vote, told Bridge Michigan that his committee was following the law.

“People who support us are people who share our desire to secure elections,” Roe said.

According to him, the lack of “special interests” in the elections held by the government is of greater concern. A Secure MI Vote vote proposal would ban private donations to the election – such as the millions of dollars donated by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to a nonprofit that sent money to governments across the country to help cover the 2020 election.

“We are much more concerned about what is happening to external special interests and corporate interests that fund aspects of government election administration,” Roe said. “As for the state election rules, we do not accept them. If the people have a desire to change them, the legislature is free to change them. “

Liberal dark money is pouring in

Left-wing groups fighting Secure MI Vote have so far surpassed it – and have done so with dark money.

Protect M.I. to voteAccording to Pamphlet of the Michigan Democratic Party encouraging people to report collecting signatures Secure MI Vote by calling the hotline.

Automated voice mail on the other end greets subscribers by greeting them on the “company hotline,” and all calls are routed to voicemail. The election commission has no website or social media pages.

Protect MI Vote has received $ 2.5 million – 90 percent of revenue so far – from Fund sixteen thirtyWashington’s Dark Money Group, which raised $ 390 million in 2020, according to tax returns received OpenSecrets. The Sixteen Thirty Foundation was the largest funder of other dark money groups that funded liberal super PACs in the 2020 election cycle. This was reported by OpenSecrets.

Protect MI Vote paid $ 1.8 million to Fieldworks, LLC, a company of field companies with offices in Washington, DC, and Michigan. The same campaign received payments from the Democratic Funds of the House of Michigan and Senate and Promote the Vote, which advocated for constitutional amendments in 2018 that allowed, among other things, direct voting, voter registration on the same day and absentee voting without excuses. show past company documents.

Naomi Seligman, a spokeswoman for Protect MI Vote, did not answer directly whether the group has problems with the transparency of its donors.

“Protect MI vote is grateful to all our donors and supporters, including the Sixteen Thirty Foundation, who share our commitment to protecting Michigan voters’ access to the ballot box,” Seligman said in a statement. “We will continue to raise and invest the resources needed to make Michigan voters aware of the deceptive nature of this initiative and the implications for our freedom of voting.”

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