Politics & Prejudices
Detroit: Running out of time
$1 in assets for $33 in liabilities; push is coming to shove
Published: March 21, 2012
Backing away: Last week, Curt Guyette reported that Wayne State University law professor Jocelyn Benson was leading an effort to amend Michigan's Constitution to require corporations to disclose how they are spending money to influence elections. At first blush, that sounded like a big step in the right direction.
True, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an immensely discouraging ruling two years ago (the Citizens United case) that said lawmakers couldn't limit the amount of money corporations and unions gave to campaigns. But the justices said there was nothing wrong with making them disclose who they gave money to.
Michigan doesn't even make corporations do that. Encouraged, I called Benson over the weekend. But she told me that her group had changed their plans, and they weren't going to try to get this on the ballot until 2014. "We need to get more people educated and involved in the process in order to have a broad base of support for this."
Translated, that means she probably believes that there was no way her underfunded troops could collect 320,000 valid signatures by the July deadline. She denied that, but her denial doesn't make any sense.
If she could get the signatures, this year would be the time to go for it. Putting this off is dismaying, because two years is an eternity in politics; by that time, nobody may care, and Benson may well be focused on another run for office again. Her amendment is also further flawed: It would not require individuals or unions to disclose their giving, leaving the clear suspicion that this is only a vehicle to boost Benson's partisan political ambitions — or turnout at the polls.
Even if her troops were to get their proposed Corporate Accountability Amendment on the ballot then, winning passage will be harder in an off-year than a general election.
Sigh. Requiring everybody to reveal which elections they are trying to buy was such a good idea.
Maybe one day our grandchildren will even see it come to pass.
> Email Jack Lessenberry