Woods and Realtor PAC Warned on Campaign Finance, and "No" Campaign Misleads on ELi's Reporting

Monday, October 30, 2017, 4:38 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum today sent letters to Susan Woods’ campaign and to the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors’ PAC notifying them that they are currently in violation of Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act. Meanwhile, the “vote no” campaign on the income tax ballot question has put out a new mailer misleadingly using ELi’s reporting.

As ELi reported this morning, Woods’ campaign and the Realtors’ PAC failed to file the necessary campaign finance disclosures that were due last Friday by 5 p.m. Woods is running for re-election to East Lansing’s City Council. The letter from Byrum’s office to Woods’ campaign notes that a fee of $25/day will accrue for each business day the filing is late, up to a maximum of $500.

Political campaigns are required to do campaign finance disclosures even if they bring in or spend no funds. (Ruth Beier’s campaign for re-election has not raised or spent funds but, as we reported this morning, filed the necessary forms.) Woods’ prior campaign for City Council was found in violation of the state’s Campaign Finance Act for misuse of her nonprofit organization’s resources, as ELi previously reported.

The Greater Lansing Association of Realtors’ (GLAR) PAC was established only this month and has been spending thousands of dollars to send out several mailers to support newcomer Aaron Stephens for City Council for reasons that remain unclear. The PAC has not publicly disclosed who is funding it, and has now also failed to file a legally-required financial disclosure.

We contacted two representatives of the realtors’ association and the PAC yesterday to ask why their campaign finance disclosure has not been filed and they have not responded. These are Mark Dickens, Vice President of Policy and Operations for the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors, and Brad Ward, treasurer for the PAC and Vice President of Public Policy and Legal Affairs with Michigan Realtors.

Byrum’s letter to the realtors’ PAC notes that a fee of $25/day will accrue for each business day the filing is late, up to a maximum of $1,000.

Meanwhile, today many East Lansing households received a mailer from the “vote no” campaign misleadingly citing an article by ELi. The mailer, shown below, tells voters, “income tax proponents are providing citizens with ‘misleading’ and ‘not accurate’ information according to the East Lansing Info online newspaper.”

The mailer cites our article fact-checking the Yes and No campaign mailers, but fails to point out that we reported that both campaigns—including the No campaign—have put out some misleading and inaccurate information. Instead, the mailer makes it sound like ELi only found problems with the Yes campaign.

This was the summary of that article: “Fact-checking the political mailers in support of and against the income tax proposal, ELi reporters Alice Dreger and Jessy Gregg find some truths and some misrepresentations on both sides.” Within the article, we pointed out some misleading and some inaccurate information from mailers on both sides.

We wrote to Thomas Morgan, representative of the No campaign, this afternoon to ask him to explain this misleading use of ELi’s work in the group’s mailer. He did not immediately respond.

In our campaign finance report published this morning, ELi reported on the sources of funding for the campaigns that have filed the required disclosure, including the Yes and No campaigns regarding the income tax proposal.

That report shows that the No campaign is being chiefly funded by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (over $28,000) and that the No campaign has raised about ten times what the Yes campaign has raised. The Yes campaign is being chiefly funded by the five East Lansing City Council members.

The No campaign has of late been quoting the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors in its mailers, suggesting an alliance of the realtors’ group with the No campaign. The realtors’ PAC has said it is against the East Lansing income tax proposal. Asked why they are supporting Stephens, who has said he is for the income tax, Dickens told ELi, “We feel like we can work with Aaron on that.”

 

Learn more about the three tax proposals on the November 7 ballot

Learn more about the three people running for City Council on the November 7 ballot