Monday, March 12, 2012

Ridiculous laws of the week - Pt 3

This one's a pain for committee treasurers. Out of of all the nitpicky rules out there I have to follow and warn my clients about, this one probably bothers me the most, at least the portion in bold.

MICHIGAN CAMPAIGN FINANCE ACT (EXCERPT)
Act 388 of 1976


169.241 Single contribution of $20.00 or expenditure of $50.00; written instrument; anonymous contribution; contribution in name of another; violations; penalties.

Sec. 41.

(1) A person shall not make or accept a single contribution of more than $20.00 in cash or make or accept a single expenditure of more than $50.00 in cash. Contributions of more than $20.00 and expenditures of more than $50.00, other than an in-kind contribution or expenditure, shall be made by written instrument containing the names of the payor and the payee.

(2) A person shall not accept or expend an anonymous contribution. An anonymous contribution received by a person shall not be deposited but shall be given to a tax exempt charitable organization. The charitable organization receiving the contribution shall provide the person with a receipt. The receipt shall be retained by an appropriate committee pursuant to section 22.

(3) A contribution shall not be made, directly or indirectly, by any person in a name other than the name by which that person is identified for legal purposes.

(4) A person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable, if the person is an individual, by a fine of not more than $1,000.00 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both, or, if the person is other than an individual, by a fine of not more than $10,000.00.


I agree with sections 2 and 3. Full disclosure is important. Section 1 of this is a real pain in the arse. I can't legally donate $25 or $50 in cash, or legally accept it in cash? That's incredibly stupid. Even a $1.00 donation to a campaign has to be recorded and itemized under Michigan law. Most people don't know that. Unlike federal law, there is no unitemized contributions. If you donate $20 in cash to a campaign I'm treasuring, I need to take your name and address, just as I would if you wrote me a $20 check, used a credit card, or paid with a $20 money order. In other words, what difference does it make if you donate in cash, if I have to record your information anyway? Are you going to lie to me? You can do that with a money order too.

If the worries are bad recording and filling out forms with BS, someone who is going to do that with cash donations can just as easily do that with checks or money orders unless there's a major audit. Rules like this just make things a major pain for those who follow the rules. I can't tell you how many times grass roots candidates have balked at me about this when I point out this law. I always tell them that it is a stupid law, but it's not worth being busted by the Bureau of Elections or making the papers.

Also, if you're passing the hat around at functions, the money there can't be used for political funds. Administrative only. I've seen that happen before with a political committee (not my clients or my committees) and pointed it out to people that should have known better. They were asking for trouble. I think my face was pale white as a ghost, even more than it normally is.

There's another law that limits cash expenditures to $50. That one I support and isn't so ridiculous. When people give contributions to political committees, they expect the money to be spent properly. They expect it to go towards the campaign. It's not so I can gamble the money away at the casinos (which is also known as embezzlement or in simple terms - stealing).

The $20 cash limit for contributions needs to go, or at least be changed to $100. If I have to record the information, it shouldn't matter what form of transaction is used.

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