Sunday, September 15, 2013

Michigan State Bar to push for disclosure in issue campaign ads

Look for a big push by the Michigan State Bar Association to require 501(c)’s to disclose their donors when running “issue ads” in judicial campaigns, ads that often in reality become attack ads, most notably in state Supreme Court races.

State Bar President Bruce Courtade appeared on Tim Skubick’s “Off the Record” PBS-TV show Sunday morning and said the Bar will ask Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to alter a rule and require the disclose.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” Courtade told the panel. “It’s that important.”

Courtade said the number of these issue ads has increased significantly over the past 10 years. He said voters should know who is behind the ads that often either attack or praise one of the candidates, or a slate of candidates.

He said the donation process should be all open.

Skubick pressed him on requiring attorneys to disclose a donation to a judge when appearing before a case, but Courtade didn’t favor that. He said the donations are reportedly publicly already, implying that an opposing attorney has access to that information.

Courtade implied that if Johnson doesn’t change the rule, the Bar will pursue the matter another way, possibly in the courts.

Courtade said he also would like to see Michigan change its nomination process of Supreme Court justices, who are nominated by the Republican and Democratic parties. He said having political parties nominate candidates in a nonpartisan race sends “mixed messages.” He said he hasn’t decided on the alternative.


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