Helping the other side is The Sixteen Thirty Funda liberal dark-money powerhouse that has given $2.5 million to a group fighting the GOP initiative and another $700,000 to a new Promote the Vote committee looking to expand voting rights in Michigan’s constitution. gave dollars.
The Washington DC-based Sixteen Thirty Fund is among more than 300 non-governmental donors supporting Promote the Vote’s new petitions campaign, including California film director Steven Spielberg, who donated $125,000 to the committee, as evidenced by the first campaign funding of the Group issues test report.
Dark money and outside donors are increasingly influencing Michigan politics, particularly on issues like voting rights, which are part of a broader national debate, said Simon Schuster, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
“We view ballot initiatives and citizen referendums as a type of direct democracy tool, not a type of Republican form of government,” Schuster told Bridge Michigan. “And if the forces behind these initiatives completely hide their sources of financial support, I think voters should ask themselves if that is watering down the spirit.”
When asked about its dark money and funding from other states, Promote the Vote responded with a generic statement touting smaller donors. The vast majority of the Election Committee’s input came from people who had donated $500 or less, Executive Director Micheal Davis said.
The funding puts the campaign “in a strong position to bring this important proposal to the November 2022 vote and communicate our message that every eligible voter’s vote should be counted without intimidation or political interference,” Davis added.
Fred Wszolek, a Republican strategist who works on the Secure MI Vote petition and two other GOP initiatives, said it’s understandable — and legal — for donors to use nonprofits to protect their contributions from the public, particularly on political issues.
Donors could receive “hate mail and death threats” if donations were made public, he said.
“The first change allows people to donate money to nonprofits, and those nonprofits can do so. I think that will be the form of all these (election) campaigns,” said Wszolek.
He claimed it wasn’t worth “whining” about out-of-state donors helping fund petition drives in Michigan.
“Everything is nationalized,” he said. “You might think philosophically it’s not a great thing, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
The GOP is pushing for tougher electoral laws
In fact, dark money groups are already attacking several petition drives in the state.
Michigan Guardians of Democracy, for example, has also donated nearly $800,000 to the Unlock Michigan campaign to limit the duration of pandemic public health orders and $100,000 to a GOP initiative. Let MI Kids learnthat would create a voucher-like school scholarship program for Michigan families.
However, the group’s biggest contributions went to Secure MI Vote, which aims to send voting reforms to MIchigan’s GOP-led Legislature that could enact the initiative with a majority vote, bypassing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who already opposed nearly identical votes vetoed bills.
The Secure MI Vote initiative, also funded in part by Michigan Republican Party leader Ron Weiser, would require ID to vote, eliminating the ability for in-person voters to sign an affidavit of identity if they forget ID or absent. That’s an option used by about 11,400 voters in 2020.
That Suggestion make voting by mail more difficult by prohibiting polling officials from sending out unsolicited applications and requiring voters to fill out additional information about the applications, including their ID number or partial Social Security number, each time they request ballot-by-mail.
The measure would also ban employees from accepting outside grants to help administer elections.
Secure MI Vote must collect 340,047 valid voter signatures to submit the initiative to the GOP-led Legislature for likely passage. The group fell short of its goal of 500,000 signatures within an initial 180-day window, but has until June 1 to collect if it discards previous petitions.
Michigan Guardians of Democracy, the primary contributor to Secure MI Vote, is not required by law to disclose its donors and has no intention of doing so, said Heather Lombardini, the nonprofit’s board chair.
“We’ve had well over 100 donors, and they range from $5 to large donors,” she said.
Lombardini is a conservative fundraiser who has also worked with Senate Republicans. But Guardians is not affiliated with the Senate GOP or Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, she told Bridge Michigan.
On its website, the non-profit organization claims “VOTER FRAUD IS REAL‘ and must be stopped to ensure that legitimate voters do not ‘let their votes be watered down by those with bad intentions’. In a recent fundraising pitch, the group solicited donations from “patriots committed to free and fair elections.”
Law enforcement has pressed charges in a handful of alleged counts of voter fraud, but the GOP-led state Senate Oversight Committee, which has spent months investigating the 2020 presidential election, concluded there was no evidence of widespread fraud. Democratic President Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,188 votes.
Critics argue that the Secure MI Vote initiative is a form of voter suppression that could disproportionately impact low-income voters and minority voters who are less likely to have photo ID.
Promote the Vote, the sequel
The Sixteen Thirty Fund, meanwhile, is a major Liberal donor, spending more than $410 million nationwide to elect Democrats, run voter registration campaigns and fund electoral efforts in numerous states. according to Politico.
In addition to promoting voting and Protect MI VoteFor example, the DC-based non-profit organization Michiganders For Fair Lending has provided nearly $1 million in money and services this year aimed at capping interest rates on payday loans.
Promote the Vote’s 2022 election campaign is a follow-up to the successful 2018 proposal that added no-reason-vote-by-mail and other rights to Michigan’s constitution.
The new petition would again amend the state constitution to, among other things, enshrine the option of an affidavit for voters without ID, allow nine-day early voting, subsidize a mail-in ballot tracking system and require one mail-in ballot box for every 15,000 voters.
The potential election proposal “will enhance the integrity and security of our elections by modernizing the way we conduct elections” and “make our elections more accessible and convenient,” said Davis, executive director of Promote the Vote.