It’s Opposite Day in Michigan; the grassroots campaign to legalize marijuana in Michigan has good resources, and the campaign originated by wealthy businesspersons has a bank account that’s nearly empty.
Michigan’s state government has authorized two different groups proposing to legalize the adult use, possession and distribution of marijuana to circulate petitions, with the goal of having their proposal appear on the November 2016 General Election ballot. A campaign finance report disclosure covering a 78 day period reveals the Michigan Cannabis Coalition (MCC) had only $1,035.74 in their bank account as of July 8, 2015. During that same time period the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, known as MILegalize, announced more than $60,000 raised in a single evening’s fundraising activities, with a matching funds pledge for $100,000.00 more.
MILegalize has a Board of Directors consisting of more than a dozen heads of statewide cannabis organizations, attorneys, local advocacy leaders and long-time members of the marijuana law reform movement in Michigan. The group’s appeal is direct to the voters, with Town Hall meetings and volunteer petitioners appearing all over the state.
The MCC is led by a paid political consultant, Matt Marsden, and an undisclosed group of financial and political backers based in the state’s wealthiest region, Oakland County. MCC leaders have long touted their connections to the established conservative political strata as proof of the campaign’s viability.
Those two campaigns are required to file statements about their finances. In a previous finance disclosure, MCC reported zero donations and zero expenditures for the period of 3/17/2015 – 4/20/2015.
For the statement period 4/21/2015 – 7/8/2015, the MCC recorded only a single donation of more than $50.00. That donation was in the amount of $21,000.00 and came from Densar Consulting, owned by long-time Oakland County Republican political operative Dennis Darnoi of Farmington Hills.
That donation came on April 23. From April 24 until July 8, the MCC took in a total of $225.00; they reported zero donations during the last 35 days of the reporting period, from June 3 until July 8.
Most of the Densar donation money came in and went out the very same day, as a $20,000.00 expenditure was made on April 23rd to National Petition Management (NPM), according to the finance disclosure. NPM is a professional petitioning organization; their website lists the home office as Roseville, California, but the check was sent to the Brighton, Michigan address of company owner Lee Albright.
MCC went public with their crowdfunding effort to support marijuana legalization. In an article dated April 11, the MCC’s GoFundMe campaign was described as a first-ever in Michigan politics. The site went live on April 20, 4/20, which the article describes as a “stoner holiday.”
A website specializing in crowdfunding activities reported the MCC campaign would offer “t-shirts and hats as rewards” for donating. The finance disclosure form lists five $10 donations and 9 $5 donations, the kind of contributions expected from an Internet source. The GoFundMe page for the MCC is now shut down and is no longer accepting donations.
On April 9, MLive reported that Marsden is “a Republican operative hired to provide a voice for the coalition.” He appeared onstage in Traverse City on May 28 during a Town Hall sponsored by local news stations Channel 4 and 7, representing the MCC and legalization in general. Yet the financial disclosure lists no payment to the hired operative nor is there any record of his activities as an in-kind donation. The disclosure indicates Marsden himself has contributed $65 to the campaign, making him the MCC’s second largest donor on record.
In an article published in April, Marsden told the ultra-powerful MLive Media Group that there are ”already some big donors who have made commitments” to fund the campaign. Per the article:
The group hired attorneys from the Honingman Miller Schwartz and Cohn law firm to draft the petition, according to Marsden, who said they have also retained “the best signature collector in the country.”
Albright’s group is circulating several petitions across Michigan via their paid petitioning collectors. “It would seem that not all of Albright’s workers have been given the MCC petitions,” per Chris Silva, the MILegalize Campaign Manager, who observed that this was not typical behavior for the highly-respected NPM group.
“It would be odd for an organization of NPM’s size to accept a downpayment of only $20,000 to begin a full signature campaign,” Silva commented, “when 253,000 signatures are needed.”
A third group, the Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC) was touted by media as a legitimate group intent on legalizing marijuana in Michigan. Theirs, dubbed the Big Business Proposal, mirrored the Responsible Ohio proposal of creating an exclusive right to produce marijuana for the adult use market and designate ten already-wealthy players to participate in the monopoly.
The MRC does not publicly display their proposal’s language, will not reveal the identity of their leaders, has not applied to the state for permission to circulate petitions, and their website (michresponsibilitycouncil.org/) has been taken down from the Internet.
MILegalize continues to storm the state with Town Hall meetings and petitioning activities. Recent Town Hall meetings in Saginaw, in Traverse City, in Port Huron and in Jackson are the latest in a series of events planned, including a golf fundraiser popping off this weekend and a Sunday fundraiser at Como’s Restaurant in Ferndale, which is in the MCC’s home base of Oakland County.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles