In This Week's Edition
- Abortion Ban in Michigan?
- More on the Fieger Investigation
- Detroit's Election: The Recount
- What's Happening in Washington?
- Looking Ahead to 2006...and 2008
- Legislature Update
- Around the State
- Sound Bites of the Week
- State tax receipts for fiscal 2005: $20.09 billion.
- Ballots cast in Detroit's election last month: 235,558.
- Individuals in the Sex Offender Registry: 37,916.
- Exclamation points in Terri Lynn Land's online campaign newsletter: 26.
- Spokespersons Attorney General Mike Cox has gone through since taking office: 5.
- States with worse roads than Michigan: 3, according to Overdrive magazine.
- Reported hate crimes in 2004: 556.
A Lansing-based group called Citizens for Life is circulating petitions that would define life as beginning at the moment of conception. If this proposal gets on the 2006 ballot and is approved by voters, it would present a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Citizens for Life hopes to form an alliance with the two largest organizations in the state that oppose abortion, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference. Right to Life's legislative director Ed Rivet called the proposal "overall consistent with the goal of our movement," but questions whether there is enough time to put together a petition drive for 2006.
Brian Dickerson of the Free Press thinks pro-choice forces should welcome an out-and-out battle over abortion rights, pointing out that polls show only a small fraction of Michigan voters favor a complete ban on the procedure.
More on the Fieger Investigation
Cox Speaks to the Detroit News. On Monday, Attorney General Cox spoke to the Detroit News editorial board about the investigation of trial lawyer Geoffrey Fieger. Cox admitted that he will probably hand off the investigation of Fieger's anonymous $457,000 contribution in last year's Supreme Court election to a special prosecutor, and that said that he'd spoken to Roman Gribbs, a former sheriff and judge, about handling the case.
The other investigation of Fieger, involving the alleged laundering of campaign contributions through his firm's employees, is being handled by the U.S. Attorney's office. On Thursday,federal prosecutors said that an ex-employee of Fieger's firm did not trigger their investigation. In papers filed in court, prosecutors expressed concern that Fieger might try to intimidate government witnesses if they are identified.
GOP Following a Double Standard? A story in Friday's Free Press suggested that while Cox and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land were quick to investigate Fieger, they might have applied a different standard to their own supporters. According to the Free Press, Cox and Land went easy on the Greater Detroit Leadership PAC, which also violated campaign finance laws.
The Leadership PAC gave $15,000 to Cox and hired Brian Pierce, a Cox ally, to put on a fund-raiser. Later, Pierce advised Larry Baxter, a Jackson businessman, that donating to the Leadership PAC could help his son's candidacy for the State House without--but he never told Baxter about his ties to the PAC. Baxter's company wrote a check to the Leadership PAC. Even though Baxter violated the law--corporations can't donate to PACs--Land's office decided not to refer the matter to Cox.
Fieger's lawyer called the Leadership PAC incident "cronyism of the worst sort." Rich Robinson, executive director of the watchdog organization Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said, "The Department of State chose to bend over backwards to make the case go away." However, the Department of State denied that it had played favorites, pointing out that there was no way to negotiate a settlement with Fieger's organization, Citizens for Judicial Reform. The group's address turned out to be a burned-out tire store in Detroit and the person listed as its treasurer probably wasn't a real person.
Detroit's Election: The Recount
The Long Count Begins. On Thursday, 80 employees of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers began a hand recount of nearly a quarter of a million ballots cast in last month's Detroit election. State law requires the recount to be completed within 30 days.
Kilpatrick's Strange Bedfellows. The mayor has acquired some strange bedfellows in his legal battle against the recount. Several leading Republicans, including Jeff Timmer, executive director of the state GOP, are lending him a hand. Some believe that the GOP is using the recount as a dry run for a challenge of next year's election.
Why Hendrix Demanded a Recount. To Freman Hendrix, the most shocking aspect of his loss to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was his failure to carry the neighborhoods of northwest Detroit, which he assumed would provide him with the margin of victory. The Kilpatrick team insists that it won fair and square, and that it ran a better ground game in all parts of the city.
But some remain suspicious. The News reported that many Kilpatrick supporters were "irregular" or "uncommon" voters--including people with outstanding warrants, alcoholics, convicted felons, and child support delinquents.
For politics junkies, the Free Press published a map showing who won which parts of Detroit.
Two More Recounts Okayed. The Wayne County Board of Canvassers approved recount requests made by City Clerk Jackie Currie and Council candidate Jai-Lee Dearing. Last week, the board approved requests by Freman Hendrix and by Board of Education candidate Mary Faust Hammons.
The Ghost of Recounts Past. A Free Press roundup shows that recounts rarely change the outcome of the election. But that isn't always the case. In 1950, a statewide canvass of a close gubernatorial election resulted in an apparent 6,000-vote win for Republican Harry Kelly turn into a 1,154-vote victory for Soapy Williams. That was the closest governor's race in state history.
What's Happening in Washington?
The House went back in session on Tuesday. The Senate won't be in session until next Wednesday.
Federal Budget Cuts Under Fire. According to the News, budget cuts proposed by the House could cost Michigan $1 billion in funds for Medicaid, food stamps, and child-support enforcement.
Members of political parties criticized cuts for child-support enforcement. Chief Justice Maura Corrigan of the Michigan Supreme Court called the House decision "penny-wise and pound foolish." Corrigan was joined by Marianne Udow, director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, and Susan Thorman, president of the state's Friend of the Court Association, in calling on Congress to reconsider the funding reduction.
Stupak: Upgrade Emergency Communicatons. Representative Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) would like the government to spend $500 million to upgrade communications for first responders. Citing communications failures after Hurricane Katrina, members of the 9/11 Commission sharply criticized the government's efforts in that area.
Anti-Meth Bill Advances. Legislation that would restrict the sale of cold remedies has been added to the Patriot Act reauthorization bill. Buyers of medications containing pseudoephedrine would have to show a photo ID and would be limited to 120 pills per transaction. The legislation is aimed at curbing home-based methamphetamine labs. A similar state law will take effect later this month.
GOP Representatives and "Duke" Cunningham's Money. Three Republican members of Congress gave away money given them by Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned from the House after pleading guilty to graft charges. Representatives Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Hills) and Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township) will donate at least $10,000, and Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland), donated $3,000 last week.
However, Representatives Mike Rogers (R-Brighton) and Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) said they have no plans to give the money back.
McCain Urges Moratorium on Indian Gaming. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, called for a moratorium on the recognition of new tribes as well as the construction of new casinos until there is better oversight of the use of gaming revenue for political contributions. McCain's call comes in the wake of allegations that members of Congress intervened to help tribes win federal funds while accepting political donations from the tribes' lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
Dingell Nears Silver Anniversary. On Tuesday, John Dingell (D-Dearborn) will mark 50 years' service in the U.S. House. Here are some quotes by Dingell about his career on Capitol Hill, courtesy of the Associated Press.
Looking Ahead to 2006...and 2008
Archer Steps Down as Governor's Campaign Chair. Former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer stepped down as the head of Governor Granholm's re-election campaign to make it easier for her to work with Mayor Kilpatrick. Archer backed challenger Freman Hendrix in the mayoral race.
Senate Candidates on the Issues. GOP Senate candidates Keith Butler, Michael Bouchard, and Jerry Zandstra held their first joint appearance at a forum in Bloomfield Hills. Differences emerged among the three: Bouchard and Butler opposed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban affirmative action in the public sector, while Zandstra supported it; Bouchard and Butler opposed congressional legislation that would outlaw torture, while Zandstra supported the ban.
Update on Affirmative Action Ban. The Board of Canvassers again postponed action on the Civil Rights Initiative. Meanwhile, opponents of the proposal plan to ask the Michigan Supreme Court for a ruling taking it off the ballot.
Tax Break Bill Goes to Governor. A Republican-backed package of tax breaks won easy passage in the legislature. The proposal would give businesses a refundable personal property tax credit, reward companies that transfer jobs to Michigan, and maintain protect struggling suppliers Delphi and Visteon from a big tax hike at the end of this year. This time Governor Granholm indicated that she would sign the legislation, but warned that proposed federal budget reductions could force her to take another look at the impact of the tax-cut bill on her desk.
Parties Close to Agreement on Welfare Bill. Lawmakers and the governor are close to agreement on welfare reform. However, some Democratic lawmakers are concerned about a four-limit on benefits and a "three-strikes" provision that would impose a lifetime benefits ban on those don't comply with work and training requirements.
Dems Blast GOP on Minimum Wage, Jobless Benefits Votes. House Democrats criticized the House for defeating two measures aimed at helping working families. A proposal by Representative Marie Donigan (D-Royal Oak) that would raise the minimum wage to $7.15 an hour, and another proposal by Representative John Espinoza (D-Croswell) extend unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 52 weeks.
House Votes to Increase School Funding. By a wide majority, the House approved a bill that would give $16.5 million from the School Aid Fund to the state's lowest-funded districts, provided that state officials find that there is enough in the fund to cover the increase.
New Bills in the Hopper. A bill sponsored by Representative Frank Acciavatti (D-Eastpointe) would require pharmacists to dispense a generic drug unless a brand is specified by a doctor....Representative John Proos (R-St. Joseph) introduced legislation that would waive the six-percent sales tax on "energy efficient" appliances....A non-binding resolution sponsored by Representative Steve Bieda (D-Warren) would encourage animal pounds and shelters to adopt a "no-kill" policy....Legislation before the Senate would exempt mothers who breast-feed their children from jury duty.....A bill sponsored by Representative Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) and others would impose tougher penalties on those who destroy crops.
Trial Lawyers and John Edwards. Geoffrey Fieger's law firm wasn't the only one that gave to John Edwards's presidential campaign. Other firms gave generously to Edwards, who made a fortune and a reputation as a trial lawyer before he won a Senate seat in North Carolina.
In Brief. Governor Granholm is expected to sign legislation that would allow limited direct wine shipments....The Senate approved compromise legislation restricting the withdrawal of large amounts of water....The House passed a bill that would bar persons convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor from working in adult care facilities....Also clearing the House: legislation that would reduce bureaucratic red tape for Michigan businesses....Representatives also passed a bill that would limit the number of passengers in a vehicle driven by a person younger than 18.
Around the State
Meet Ed Sarpolous. My roundups often report on poll numbers by EPIC/MRA. The man behind that respected polling firm is Ed Sarpolous, and the Associated Press story that appeared on Monday tells the story of how Sarpolous, who originally wanted to be a clinical psychologist but wound up in the opinion survey business.
Opinion Roundup. Brian Dickerson of the Free Press wonders why the Michigan Supreme Court ordered trial judges to end affirmative-action efforts for juries but failed to address the larger issue of the under-representation of African Americans on juries....The Detroit News urged lawmakers to be "fair and humane" as well as tough-minded in revamping the state welfare code....The News also said no to what it called a bailout for automakers, arguing that autoworkers should pay more for their health insurance....Representative Michael Murphy (D-Lansing) explained why he introduced legislation that would crack down on corporate pension abuses.
In Brief. Geneva Smith, who lost here bid for re-election to the Lansing City Council, said she will run for Virg Bernero's soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. Bernero (D-Lansing) was elected mayor of Lansing. Representative Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) is considered the favorite. Meanwhile, John Knowles, a law student, said he's running for Whitmer's House seat as a Republican....The controversy over the Detroit Water Board continues to simmer, as Macomb County officials try to lessen Mayor Kilpatrick's power as board administrator....An Ingham County circuit judge dismissed a Michigan Education Association lawsuit challenging the establishment of charter schools by Bay Mills Community College.
Sound Bites of the Week
"I made some fine, dumb-ass blunders. I'm smart enough to admit I made the mistakes. I'm not dumb enough to tell you what they are."--Representative John Dingell.
"With proper training, we can bring forth information, but we need the tools."--Oakland Country Michael Bouchard, commenting on anti-torture legislation, which he opposes. He didn't specify whether "tools" included thumbscrews or the rack.