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GOP-backed legislation moves out of Senate to strip SOS of campaign finance oversight

Jocelyn Benson.jpg
GOP-backed legislation moves out of Senate to strip SOS of campaign finance oversight.

The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate passed legislation to create a new oversight commission for campaign finance in an attempt to strip power from the Secretary of State’s Office before the Democrats take the office.

Thursday, Senators approved a package of bills sponsored by GOP lawmakers that looks to create a fair political practices commission. The six-member board would be comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans. Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, is behind the hallmark bill.

Currently, the responsibility of campaign finance oversight lies within the purview of the Secretary of State’s Office. Jocelyn Benson is poised to assume the office in January, marking the first Democrat to be Michigan’s SOS since 1994. Robertson said his bill, introduced Nov. 29, has nothing to do with the midterm election results, bringing sweeping changes to Michigan’s political landscape.

“I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea of advancing this bill, my legislation, we have time left in this legislative session,” Robertson said during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday.

According to his plan, the commission would require bipartisanship because a majority vote would be needed to make decisions.

“We have heard a lot from the other side of the aisle on this for the need for bipartisanship, okay, in all things, here is an opportunity for them to embrace it,” he said.

Robertson has faced problems with his own campaign finance violations in the past, currently owing $1,681.33 in fees from not filing campaign finance reports timely. Despite his own problems, Robertson said he is the right person to back this legislation.

“Yes, I am the right person to do this because I am the chairman of this committee and I have the power to do this until December 31, actually until January 1 at noon,” he said.

Jocelyn Benson, SOS-elect, issued a statement following the passage of this plan, calling the actions hyper-partisan.

“Their action is an affront to every taxpayer who wants and deserves a government that is transparent and accountable,” Benson said. “I continue to believe, if not hope, that House Republicans want to work together to solve problems, not create them and will reject this bill on its face.”

The passage of the legislation out of the Senate sparked outrage from former Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton. On Twitter, she weighed in on the developments, calling the actions "not in line with American values."

The League of Women Voters of Michigan President Judy Karandjeff put her hope in other leaders in the state to block the commission from moving forward further.

“This legislation is the opposite of what voters demanded from their elected officials on November 6th and should be rejected by our leaders in the State House and by Governor Snyder,” she said.

The GOP-backed legislation now moves to the House for consideration. Lawmakers there could take up the issue next Wednesday.