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Monday, May 7, 2012

Michigan Rising campaign finance statements raise questions on PAC's operations

ROJS News Investigative Reports

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ROJS News & Radio over the past five months has been engaged in a investigation of a Michigan Political Action Committee, better known as a PAC formerly named 'The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder', re-titled on November 3, 2011 as 'Michigan Rising'. 

This group held what was titled as a 'kick-off event' to start circulating petitions to recall Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Saturday, May 5, 2012 simulcasted on Michigan Rising's 'U-Stream Channel'.

On Saturday, May 5th Michigan Rising received a sharp decline in event attendees, over the former PAC 'The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder' had one year prior, according to the out of Lansing, Michigan.

"Mirella Lang was one of the roughly 100 demonstrators that participated in the three-hour rally. She was the first to sign the "Recall Snyder" petition and says she's most upset about the cuts he has made to education."
A previous report by ROJS News & Radio, noted 'The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder's (CRRS)' May 21, 2011 rally had up to 10,000 people were in attendance, along with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and UAW International President Bob King spoke at the event.
"Up to 10,000 Michiganders ascended upon the Lansing, Michigan Capital building lawn in a rally to support public school education and official kick-off of the petition to Recall Governor Rick Snyder (R). Speakers at the event included UAW President Bob King and the former Democratic candidate for Governor in 2010, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero."
At the end of CRRS 180 day campaign, they were unsuccessfully in their attempt to gather 806,000 signatures for a recall referendum vote to retain or remove Gov. Rick Snyder from office. Shortly thereafter, reports surfaced of volunteers who questioned the intent of CRRS former 'Executive Board' members to meet the task sought.

Media reports surfaced in April 2012 claiming CRRS received up to 500,000 signatures to recall Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011. CRRS former Oakland County Captain Lora Trezil and past Treasurer Gail Schmidt asserts between 179,417 to 200,867 Michigan voters signatures were received during the entire 180 day campaign -separated between two 90 day campaigns- to place a recall vote on the ballot against Michigan's current Governor.

A detailed report from former CRRS former Treasurer Schmidt submitted on January 4, 2012 to - a blog operated by labor organizer Patricia Myers- noted allegations ranging from attempts to mismanage donations received into the PAC by some members of the 'Core Committee', to direct contention of the number of Michigan voters signatures received during CRRS former tenure, to recall Gov. Snyder.

A number of CRRS 'Core Committee members or County Leadership Captains' currently sit on the now 'Executive Board' of Michigan Rising. The members include now state of Florida relocated C.E.O. Julius Miller, Treasurer-Marion (Marty) Townsend, and CRRS former Washtenaw County Captain, now designed Record-keeper for Michigan Rising-Jan BenDor. Three new members of Michigan Rising comprise of Committee Member-Dennis Pank, Teresa (Terry) Blundell and owner of The Rochester Citizen and now Michigan Rising spokesperson, Bruce Fealk.

At the May 5, 2012, 'Kick-off Event' for Michigan Rising a number of local and national speakers attended including journalist of The Nation magazine and Wisconsin political activist John Nichols, Southeastern Michigan radio host Tony Trupiano and Michigan political commentary blogger Chris Savage of Eclectablog. Calls were made throughout the event to donate funds to Michigan Rising PAC in their 'renewed' effort to recall Gov. Rick Snyder along with purchasing hats, t-shirts and bumper stickers, currently for sell at the groups' website.

According to Michigan Political Action Committee guidelines, PAC's are required to file what are called as TriAnnual reports three times per year if they receive over $1,000 a year in donated funds. On February 16, 2012, Michigan Board of Elections with the Secretary of State informed Michigan Rising via a letter to its' now Treasurer Marion (Marty) Townsend, of this requirement.

At this point and time ROJS News & Radio can't confirm or deny if the Michigan Rising has received over $1,000 in donations requiring the group to file a Committee Finance Committee report. An article by journalist Ryan Stanton denotes Treasurer Marion Townsend confirming three $1,000 donations but, she cited these monetary funds occurred over 'the past year'.
Townsend said the group has no funding at this point other than small donations people have sent. She said the typical donation has been about $18. 
"I think over the past year we have had maybe three $1,000 donations and the rest have all been $100 and below," she said. "Most of them are $3 to $25 and they're coming from people just like us — people who are watching these policies being enacted and are dissatisfied with the performance of Gov. Snyder."
According to CRRS former Treasurer Gail Schmidt's January 4th report to, during the 2011 effort to recall Gov. Rick Snyder the group received well over $25,000 in total donations.
"Also, from the beginning of September through approximately the 16th, donations of $25,000+ came in; however, the Committee didn’t utilize any of those funds to attempt to gather signatures...."I returned the remaining campaign funds of $28,000+ to Daily Kos since that organization was responsible for all of the donations. If they redirect it to Michigan Rising, that remains to be seen when the group files its campaign finance report with the state later this month." 
ROJS News & Radio has confirmed on the record in early March 2012, that the report by Gail Schmidt, is her written statement.

The Bureau of Elections, Secretary of State Campaign Finance Committee website endorses Ms. Schmidt report on monetary donations received for CRRS in 2011 to the total of $64,339.07, according to its' October 2011 financial statement.

Michigan Campaign Finance Act 388 of 1976 states the following events are mandated by law to occur if PAC's are more than nine days late with filing their Tri-Annual reports.
(7) Within 9 business days after the report or statement is required to be filed, the filer shall make any corrections in the statement or report filed with the appropriate filing official. If the report or statement was not filed, then the report or statement shall be late filed within 9 business days after the time it was required to be filed and shall be subject to late filing fees. 
(8) After 9 business days and before 12 business days have expired after the deadline for filing the statement or report, the filing official shall report errors or omissions that were not corrected and failures to file to the attorney general.
Michigan Rising has until Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST before the State Bureau of Elections/Michigan Secretary of State would report the late filing to State Attorney General office. On May 1, 2012 the Bureau of Elections notified Michigan Rising's Treasurer Marion Townsend that the groups' late filing was in violation of MCL 169.233 (3), 169.218 and warned about a possible breach of MCL 169.218(8).
Photo Credit-Michigan Department of State Website

ROJS News & Radio will continue our investigation into Michigan Campaign Finance Committee PAC's monetary statement filings, and report as the story unfolds. 

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