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Report finds it's difficult to identify donors to Michigan ballot question campaigns

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A new reportshows 70% of the money spent on Michigan ballot questions last year came from non-profit groups that concealed their donors.

In November, voters approved measures legalizing recreational marijuana, a commission to redraw political districtsandexpanding voting access. State lawmakers approved two other petitions, raising the minimum wage and requiring earned sick leave,only to water down the laws later.

Craig Mauger is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He says supporters and opponents of a half-dozen ballot question campaigns spent nearly $46 million altogether during the 2018 election cycle.

Mauger says it’s unclear who’s giving money to the many out-of-state non-profits that spent heavily on ballot questions.

“We can’t make connections between what interests someone might have who’s providing the money and the language they’re putting into either our law in some cases... or a lot of these proposals are constitutional amendments,” says Mauger.

Mauger says as recently as 2012, Michiganders had a better idea of who was backing and opposing ballot questions.

“Why do we have campaign finance disclosure for ballot proposal committees, if at the end of the day, you can’t tell much at all about where the money’s actually coming from?” says Mauger.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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