How many folks in the Brighton School District got a postcard mailing from the Brighton Education Association? On it, it says "Paid for by Brighton Education Association." However, there is no PAC by that name listed at the County Clerks office, nor the Michigan Secretary of State. The BEA did it again.
This isn't the first go around with the local MEA affiliates. Brighton/Howell. Howell seemed to clean up its act on its mailing after they got turned in for an anonymous mailing. They go through East Lansing for their mailing. HEA is an MEA affiliate, so that's perfectly legal.
This is however two in a row for the Brighton MEA. They got lucky in their defense with the John Conely mailing and got off on a technicality. It was one of those "definition of is" types of situations because of the wording of the ad. If you think I'm going to post the exact technicality here, you're crazy. I'm not giving anybody a blueprint to skirt the campaign finance regulations here. The BEA/MEA broke laws regarding PACs, but it couldn't be proven at that time because of one word not on the ad. This time however.....Son, your egos are writing checks your bodies can't cash.
The Argus had a story on this
Brighton Area Schools Board of Education member Bill Anderson believes a postcard sent out by the Brighton Education Association teachers' union supporting candidate Bill Trombley was illegal and plans to file a complaint with state election officials.
Trombley, making his first bid for the school board, was elected Tuesday and defeated incumbent Greg Rassel.
The postcard, sent out Nov. 1 to Brighton area voters, states it was paid by the Brighton Education Association. It also has several comments by Trombley stating why he was running. Of the four candidates running, the teachers' union endorsed only Trombley.
Anderson said it's a violation of campaign finance laws for a teachers' union to pay for campaign literature. He also said the postcard must be an independent piece that supports a candidate; instead, he said this postcard appears to be sent directly from Trombley.
"The problem is they failed to identify their political action committee on here," said Anderson, who is a legislative liaison for the Michigan Townships Association.
Addressing Anderson's points.
I think it's the PAC that paid for it, based on the newsletter comment, however the disclaimer doesn't mention a PAC. Someone else also turned them in, and on that complaint stated a failure to file campaign finance reports and statements of organization. I saw the complaint and double checked it. It's solidly backed up with evidence.
As far as the independent expenditures, PAC money can pay for just about anything they want as long as the expenditure is reported. What makes something "independent" is who paid for it. It's a bit sneaky with the terms "I am running" which is something I actually didn't notice. I'd have to check a few things to determine the legality of that, but I think it's still legal as long as the paid for by disclaimer is listed. I'll have to see what's considered "misleading" by law.
However, a BEA newsletter from October states a political action committee paid for the cards, "not BEA money."
I saw that newsletter. That "PAC," much like that 8-d Coordinating Council PAC, described in the newsletter is also not registered with the County Clerk or Secretary of State's office. THAT's what makes this mailing illegal. This
"PAC", which is been around for at least two election cycles, has not been registered. The statement of organization has not been filed. Triannual statements (if state) or Pre/Post General statements (if county) have not been filed. That's the illegality.
Anderson said this isn't the first time the teachers' union has had a problem with campaign literature.
"We're having a pattern here," Anderson said.
It's the 3rd time in the county alone that I've caught. And the MEA wonders why so many folks don't like their leadership. Maybe something like this can send a message, or at least a Mark Schaueresque fine.
I wouldn't expect anything less from MEA leadership at either state or local levels. I hope they now enjoy Tom McMillin as committee chair.