State Sen. John Schwarz is establishing a bipartisan statewide campaign finance reform organization that will be running parallel with the national package proposed by U.S. Sen. John McCain, for whom Schwarz served as Michigan campaign chairman during the 2000 Republican presidential primaries.
The nonprofit group, which will be called “The Campaign for Michigan,” will focus on three ways to clean up the system, Schwarz (R-Battle Creek) said. He plans to prohibit elected officials who are bound by term limits from raising money once they are no longer eligible to run for re-election.
“They”re obviously using that money for walking around money,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz said he would also like to put a stop to money changing hands between legislators who approach lobbyists and lobbyists who approach legislators.
“The system is awash in money and it”s not good,” he said.
Schwarz said another problem facing Michigan is the use of so-called soft money-contributions from individuals, corporations and unions to political parties.
“If we could get to a situation where we”ve eliminated the worst in soft money and achieved full disclosure (of funds), that would be tremendous,” Schwarz said.
Though “The Campaign for Michigan” will include members from both parties, Schwarz said he has not yet decided which Democrats he plans to approach for assistance.
One Democrat who said he is eager to speak with Schwarz about working on campaign finance reform is state Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.).
“I”m pleased that he”s working on a statewide organization,” Peters said.
This push for campaign finance reform needs to be bipartisan in order to succeed, Peters said, because in the past it has been a question of one party leveraging against another.
Campaign finance reform is badly needed in Michigan, Peters added.
“There is so much special interest money in the process that tends to dictate which issues get on the agenda,” he said, adding that he is not implying that votes are being bought, just that the funds tend to skew what issues get looked at first.
One thing Schwarz and Peters can easily agree on is that it is time for campaign finance reform to find a spot in both the national and state law books.
“Campaign finance reform is a critical issue in Michigan as it is across the country,” Peters said. “It”s becoming obscene how much money is necessary to run for political office.”
The national bill, which will come to the floor in March, is likely to pass this time around, Schwarz said. “Senator McCain has the votes in the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Though Schwarz does not think a state campaign finance reform bill will be introduced until the spring, the formation of the committee coincides with the Arizona senator”s efforts to spread the word about the issue alongside the bill”s co-sponsor Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
The two began a six-state tour Monday by holding a town meeting in Little Rock, Ark.