The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us) STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
CAMPAIGN FINANCE ACT:
Contribution to campaign committee by employees of corporation doing business with candidate
The Michigan Campaign Finance Act does not prohibit a state legislator's campaign committee from accepting campaign contributions from shareholders, officers or employees of corporations doing business with a corporation owned by the state legislator.
Opinion No. 7032
August 31, 1999
Honorable Andrew Raczkowski
Lansing, MI 48909
You have asked whether the Michigan Campaign Finance Act prohibits a state legislator's candidate committee from accepting campaign contributions from shareholders, officers or employees of corporations doing business with a corporation owned by the state legislator.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Act (Act), 1976 PA 388, MCL 169.201 et seq; MSA 4.1703(1) et seq, regulates campaign financing and restricts campaign contributions. It was enacted "to ensure the integrity of Michigan's political campaigns and offices, thereby protecting the interest of the public at large, individual citizens, and candidates for public office." Senate Legislative Analysis, SB 1570, December 17, 1976.
The Act contains two provisions relating to contributions by corporations to the candidate committee of a person seeking a state office. Section 54(1) prohibits corporations from "mak[ing] a contribution or expenditure [from general corporate funds to a candidate committee of a person seeking a state office]," and section 54(2) prohibits the officers or agents of a corporation from making contributions or expenditures from general corporate funds to a candidate committee. Section 55 empowers a corporation to use general corporate funds to establish a separate segregated fund and to administer the fund, seeking contributions from its shareholders, officers and certain of its employees, to be used for the purpose of making contributions to the candidate committee of a person seeking an elective state office.
In Austin v Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 US 652; 110 S Ct 1391; 108 L Ed 2d 652 (1990), the Act's constitutionality was upheld against a challenge that its provisions violated a corporation's freedom of speech, as guaranteed by US Const, Am I. Writing for the Court's majority, Justice Marshall characterized sections 54 and 55 of the Act as "not impos[ing] an absolute ban on all forms of corporate political spending [from general corporate funds], but permits corporations to make independent political expenditures through separate segregated funds." Id., 494 US at 660.
Thus, the Act expressly permits a corporation's shareholders, officers, and certain enumerated employees to make contributions to a separate segregated fund established by a corporation for the support of candidates for state office. The Act contains no provision barring shareholders, officers and employees of a corporation from making individual contributions1 from their own funds directly to the candidate committee of a candidate for state office. The Act likewise contains no provision prohibiting corporate shareholders, officers and employees from making such contributions simply because the corporation with which they are associated does business with a corporation owned by the candidate for state office.2
It is my opinion, therefore, that the Michigan Campaign Finance Act does not prohibit a state legislator's campaign committee from accepting campaign contributions from shareholders, officers or employees of corporations doing business with a corporation owned by the state legislator.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
STATE OF MICHIGAN
1 These contributions, of course, remain subject to the applicable contribution limitations imposed by section 52 of the Act.
2 Other state laws may restrict specified persons or entities from making political contributions to candidates or committees. For example, the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, MCL 432.201 et seq; MSA 18.969(201) et seq, at section 207b(4), prohibits persons, including corporations, who hold a casino or casino supplier license, or persons with an interest in a casino or casino supplier licensee, from making contributions to political candidates or committees.