East Lansing Campaigns Disclose Financial Backers, or Don’t

Monday, October 30, 2017, 6:58 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Council candidates shown with images from various political mailers for the current election

Last Friday, October 27, at 5 p.m. marked the deadline for local campaigns to disclose sources of funding to the Ingham County Clerk’s office. The campaigns for Ruth Beier and Aaron Stephens filed their required disclosure forms, while the campaign for Susan Woods apparently did not. Meanwhile, the Yes and No campaigns for the income tax proposal filed their required disclosures, while the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors PAC, which has been spending thousands to support Stephens, apparently did not file its form.

Here’s what we know. By way of reminder, East Lansing Info (ELi) is a nonpartisan public service news organization that specifically serves the people of East Lansing.

Campaign to re-elect Ruth Beier to East Lansing City Council:

Ruth Beier’s campaign committee, Friends of Ruth Beier, filed its required disclosure, and that disclosure indicates that Beier’s campaign took in no new contributions and made no expenditures.

Beier is running for re-election. ELi reported in 2015 on who funded her last campaign.

Campaign to re-elect Susan Woods to East Lansing City Council:

Susan Wood’s campaign committee, Friends of Susan W. Woods, apparently did not file its required disclosure by the deadline of last Friday at 5 p.m. As is standard, County Clerk Barb Byrum had previously advised Woods that her committee would be required to file by that deadline.

Woods and other campaigns are required to file this disclosure whether or not they raise or spend money if they do not have a reporting waiver. Woods’ campaign does not have a reporting waiver according to Byrum’s letter from September.

Woods is running for re-election. ELi reported in 2015 on who funded her last campaign.

Campaign to elect Aaron Stephens to East Lansing City Council:

Aaron Stephen’s campaign committee, the Committee to Elect Aaron Stephens, filed its required disclosure on time (even though the campaign mis-dated the form November 4, 2017). That form indicates that the campaign took in a total of $10,545. Of that, according to our calculations:

  • about 20% of contributions to Stephens’ campaign came from East Lansing contributors.
  • about 60% came from within Michigan and about 40% from out of state.
  • the out-of-state contributions included $1,000 from a PAC, namely Launch Progress PAC, out of Brooklyn, New York.
  • about 40% ($4,200), came from people with the last name of Stephens, presumably relatives, from Rochester Hills, Michigan and Beverley Hills, Florida.

 

The Realtors’ PAC spending funds to elect Aaron Stephens:

At this point, ELi is aware of four glossy mailers sent out by the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors PAC supporting the election of Aaron Stephens. Above is an image from one of those mailers. 

ELi reported last week that we tried to find out from Stephens and from the PAC why this realtors’ group is supporting Stephens, and could not get clear answers from either.

According to material from the State of Michigan’s Bureau of Elections, this PAC was supposed to have filed a campaign finance disclosure by Friday at 5 p.m. The County Clerk’s website, however, shows no record of such a disclosure having been filed.

Yesterday evening, we wrote to the group’s treasurer, Brad Ward, and to Mark Dickens, Vice President of Policy and Operations for the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors, to ask why their form has apparently not been filed. We have received no response.

As a consequence, we have no idea who is funding this PAC at this time, so we still cannot explain what the group’s particular interest is in Stephens. The group organized only this month and was subsequently sent the standard notice by County Clerk Byrum that “Failure to file the required report by the filing deadline will result in late filing fees. Political Action Committees are subject to late fees up to $1,000 if the required statement is not submitted.”

The No committee on the income tax proposal:

“Citizens for East Lansing’s Future,” the ballot question committee urging a “no” vote on the East Lansing income tax proposal, filed its required disclosure on time. That disclosure plus a follow-up disclosure show a contribution total of $43,420, a very large sum for an East Lansing election.

ELi has previously reported that the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce is against the income tax, a tax which would apply to business income and employee earnings in East Lansing. ELi has also previously reported that various MSU leaders are against the income tax which, by being paired with a City property tax reduction, is aimed at disproportionately taxing MSU employees who are not residents of East Lansing.

Above is an image from a "no" campaign mailer. Here’s what we see on the No committee’s disclosures:

  • The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce donated $28,250 to this group, or about two-thirds of its total contributions.
  • Several businesses located in East Lansing also contributed, including Greenstone Farm Credit ($6,000), Wolverine Development ($2,000), and Prime Housing Group ($1,000). Three partners in the Brogan BRV Benefits firm contributed $750 total, and Colleen Krause, co-owner of David Krause Properties, donated $1,000.
  • Several MSU Trustees contributed, including Melanie Foster ($500), Dianne Byrum ($500; mother of County Clerk Barb Byrum), and Joel Ferguson ($250). MSU Vice President Bill Beekman, listed as an East Lansing resident, also contributed $250.
  • The Green & White PAC contributed $1,000. According to the group’s website, “The Green & White PAC is dedicated to providing support for state policy makers who work in a demonstrable way to advance the fiscal position of Michigan State University in the state budget.”
  • A number of East Lansing residents have also made smaller contributions.

Interestingly, East Lansing resident Don Power, who has been the face of “no” on the campaign mailers, does not appear to have made a contribution to the campaign.

The Yes committee on the tax proposals:

“The Committee to Protect East Lansing’s Future,” the ballot question committee urging “yes” votes on the East Lansing income tax proposal and on the property tax reduction proposal, also filed its required disclosure on time. That disclosure shows the Yes committee has brought in a total of $4,595 in contributions, or about 10% what the No committee has.

Above is an image from a Yes campaign  mailer. As has been previously claimed by the Yes committee, we can now verify that most of the contributions have come from East Lansing’s current five City Council members. Here is what the Yes committee’s disclosure shows:

  • Among the five current City Council members, Mayor Mark Meadows contributed $1,495, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier $500, and Councilmembers Erik Altmann $1,000, Shanna Draheim $400, and Susan Woods $300. This totals $3,695, or about 80% of the total obtained.
  • There were only two other individual contributors: East Lansing residents Charles B. Overbey III ($500) and Susan Haka ($100).
  • The Police Officers Association of Michigan (a union) contributed $300.

 

Want to know more about the elections?

East Lansing Info has you covered.

Visit ELi’s voter guide on the City Council election, which includes links to candidate profiles, coverage of ethics complaints made against two of the candidates, and answers to questions about how the election is playing out.

Also visit Eli’s voter guide on the three tax proposals on the ballot for many East Lansing residents. That page provides summaries of the proposals and also links to our extensive reporting on the controversial East Lansing income tax proposal, including fact-checking of mailers by the Yes and No campaigns.