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Bill allowing unlimited political spending by corporations, unions passes state Senate

MIkolay Frolochkin
The state Senate's bill codifies the Supreme Court's controversial ruling in the Citizens United case.

It’s been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations and labor unions can spend as much money as they want on political campaigns.

The court left it up to states to decide whether it institute their own limits. And today the Michigan Senate officially said, “No thanks.”

It passed legislation that would basically codify what the court said in its controversial Citizens United opinion.

State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof says campaign donations are a way to exercise free speech.

“I don’t think it’s Democrat or Republican. All people have free speech regardless of how they’re organized. And that includes unions,” Meekhof said.

Critics of the legislation say it gives special interests too much influence over elections. 

Craig Mauger is with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He says the bill goes beyond the Supreme Court case and allows candidates to effectively go around current limits on how much money candidates can raise.

“The state has these limits on how much individuals and PACs can give to people and this bill would allow an easy way around that. Because you could solicit unlimited contributions to an entity that you could then work pretty closely with,” Mauger said.

Super PACs wouldn’t be allowed to directly give money to candidates. But the groups could use the money to support candidates through things like mailers and TV commercials.

The bills are expected to be taken up in the state House soon.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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