POLITICS & PREJUDICES
Senator Arlan Meekhof Amends Bill to Prevent Disclosure of Donors
Stamping out your right to know.
Published: November 19, 2013
By most standards, Arlan Meekhof isn’t highly educated. True, he did make it through Allendale High School. While in his mid-30s, he tried his hand at higher education by enrolling in Davenport College, but he never earned even a two-year degree.
He did make a living, so far as I can tell, selling furniture parts, until he managed to get elected to the 30th State Senate District.
But his lack of formal education doesn’t mean he isn’t smart, or at least shrewd. In Lansing, he has found his calling: to do everything he can to screw over people — especially if they are poor. Destroy their unions; prevent them from having any kind of medical care if at all possible.
Meekhof, now in the state senate, fought like a balding, bearded 54-year-old tiger against extending Medicaid.
His Facebook page brags about that, among other efforts, such as bashing and weakening teachers’ unions, limiting women’s reproductive rights, and, oh yes — killing deer. But now he has a new cause.
Meekhof wants to make sure you don’t have the right to find out who lurks behind the scurrilous big money ads that influence elections. He has a fair amount of power: He is now the Majority Floor Leader and his Republicans control everything. They, and he, have complete, utter and virtually undisguised contempt for the public’s right to know.
“That’s your opinion,” he sneered at a reporter who asked whether voters should have the right to know who is behind the millions of dollars spent trying to influence elections.
His opinion is clear. Meekhof doesn’t believe you should know anything about campaign spending the Koch brothers or other fat cats don’t want to reveal.
Last week, Meekhof and his right-wing buddies in the state senate took a big step to prevent you from ever finding out.
Here’s what happened: Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is a conservative Republican, no doubt about it. But last week, she apparently had a pang of conscience.
On the morning of Nov. 14, she announced her intent to issue a new ruling requiring groups that fund so-called “issue ads” in an election to disclose their donors rolls.
Doing so is simply a matter of fairness. Right now, I could legally form a group called “Citizens Who Love Their Mommies.” Then, let’s say I got some evil American-hating terrorists from the Middle East to donate millions to it.
Next year, Citizens Who Love Their Mommies could flood the airwaves with “issue ads” hinting that Arlan Meekhof is really a Muslim and that the shape of his beard is a sign of this.
We could distort his record, get pictures that make him look sinister and hint that he was a sleeper cell agent.
That would probably piss off Meekhof. Especially when he learned that the only thing he could find out is that the money came from Citizens Who Love Their Mommies.
But Meekhof, who represents one of the safest Republican districts there is, has no fear of that. Within hours, possibly minutes, of Secretary Johnson’s announcement, he moved to protect the right of the rich to do things in the dark.
Swiftly, he amended a bill (SB 661) to prevent full disclosure of donors. The bill, by the way, was designed to double the amount of money anyone could give to a candidate.
Then the bill was rammed through the senate, where Republicans have more than two-thirds of all the seats. Meekhof’s smelly little ploy was too much even for six Republicans, who joined Democrats in opposing it.
Now the bill is in the House — or was as of Monday morning. Republicans have a smaller majority there, and it may be harder to pass. Those who want fat cats — including the Koch brothers — to have the ability to legally hide how much they spend to buy elections are fighting in the best way they know how.
In other words, they are lying. Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, a little cagier than before he narrowly escaped indictment for election fraud, hinted that full disclosure may be “infringing on someone’s free speech … an unnecessary burden when they are speaking out against their government.”
Indeed, Greg McNeilly, a GOP strategist and lapdog, blustered that requiring the names of those trying to buy our government is “fundamentally un-American.”
Right. But whether or not creatures like McNeilly and Meekhof really expect you to believe that, the fact is the U.S. Supreme Court has said they are wrong.
Many of us were dismayed in January 2010, when the conservative majority on the court ruled, in the famous Citizens United case, that there could be no limits on the amount of money corporations could give to try to influence elections.
Yet a majority of those same justices, including Anthony Kennedy, the author of that decision, expressly ruled that states could require full disclosure of who gave that money.
Some states, in fact, are now doing so — but not Michigan. For years, the civic watchdog Rich Robinson has run the nonprofit and nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which is dedicated to honesty and transparency in politics. He was outraged by what the state senate pulled.
“Michigan is earning a reputation as the dark money capital of American politics. If this bill passes the House, it deserves to be vetoed,” Robinson said, which means it may be up to Gov. Rick Snyder. Gee, I wonder if we should be worried.
> Email Jack Lessenberry