Michigan marijuana legalization groups confident in cash backing for petition drives

October 26, 2015:

LANSING, MI — Competing groups racing to put marijuana legalization questions on Michigan’s 2016 ballot claim they are raising enough cash to get to the finish line, but one has temporarily “paused” signature collection and both still have miles to go.

The Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee, known as MI Legalize, raised about $137,000 in the latest fundraising quarter and has now pulled in around $308,000 for its petition drive, according to campaign finance records filed with the state on Monday.

The activist-led group spent around $249,000 for the period — mostly on paid petition circulators — and has about $54,000 in the bank as it seeks to collect at at least 252,523 valid signatures.

The Michigan Cannabis Coalition, meanwhile, raised $78,195 for the quarter, including a $75,000 contribution from Premiere Land Services of Traverse City, a company that typically focuses on oil, gas and other energy development projects.

MCC has raised a total of roughly $351,000 this year and spent $284,000, leaving it with $67,197 in the bank. Most of the early money came from RevSix Data of Pontiac, a firm co-founded by Matt Marsden, a former Republican spokesman who is now serving as the public face of the committee.

RevSix made another $150,000 in-kind contribution in August to pay for signature collection. The group has not paid to put petitions in the field since late September, but Marsden said volunteer efforts have continued and paid collection will resume shortly with a data-driven approach to maximize efficiency.

“I can tell you today we’re roughly 40,000 to 50,000 signatures away from making the ballot, validated not once but twice,” he said. “Our pause in paid signature collection doesn’t reflect anything other than a strategic decision by the campaign.”

MI Legalize, meanwhile, reported more than 200 individual contributions, maxing out at $50,000 from Kevin McCaffery of Ann Arbor. McCaffery is in the entertainment industry, according to the filing. Other top donors include AET LLC, which shares an address with Herbal Solutions in Ypsilanti, and Indoor Edge Growers of Cadillac.

“Things are looking pretty good here,” chairman Jeff Hanks said Monday afternoon, noting that his group has hosted additional fundraisers since the filing deadline and has several others scheduled.

MI Legalize began circulating petitions in late June and has until late December to turn in enough valid signatures. The group wants to allow marijuana possession and use by adults, tax retail sales at 10 percent and allow local communities to license marijuana facilities.

MCC began collecting signatures in July, according to Marsden, meaning its 180-day window will not close until January. The group’s proposal would also legalize marijuana for anyone over 21 years old but allow the state Legislature to set the tax rate and establish licensing requirements. A five-member board would oversee the system.

Fundraising numbers from other ballot committees that filed by the Monday evening deadline:

• Protecting Michigan Taxpayers: The group seeking to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law reported $602,000 in contributions for the period and $1.66 million overall. Top donors include the Michigan Freedom Fund ($425,000 for the period and $805,000 overall) and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan ($33,000 / $455,000). More >>• Protecting Michigan Jobs: The group defending the prevailing wage law raised $219,500 for the period and overall. Top donors include the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council ($66,000) and the International Union of Operating Engineers ($50,000). More >>

• Raise Michigan: The Time to Care Coalition is leading the effort to require paid sick leave for employees in Michigan, running its campaign finance through the group Raise Michigan. The group raised $25,100 this cycle almost entirely from American Federation of Teachers American Association of University Professors Michigan, which donated $25,000. Raise Michigan still has $21,402 cash on hand. In total the group spent $3,985 during this reporting period on things like office space rent and t-shirts.

• Committee to Ban Fracking: This group is looking to ban horizontal fracking, where companies drill vertically and then horizontally to extract natural gas. The effort started in 2012 and its previous efforts have stalled. But this quarter it raised $16,472 and has a total of $47,497 cash on hand. The money came from mostly small individual donors.

• Sierra Club Committee to Make Michigan Safe From Fracking: The Sierra Club committee to support the anti-fracking ballot initiative formed in August and has raised only $100 so far. Fundraising may kick up later, but even having the Sierra Club behind what has been a mostly grassroots effort until now could boost the proposal’s status.

• Let’s Vote Michigan: This grassroots group is looking to legalize voting by mail in Michigan. As of the 7 p.m. deadline, the Secretary of State’s website showed the group had not filed the required paperwork to disclose how much they raised and spent this quarter.

• Citizens for Fair Taxes: The group behind a ballot initiative to raise the Corporate Income Tax to pay for fixing the state’s roads raised nothing this quarter, but spent $294,452 of the $1.5 million it reported raising from unions including the Michigan Council of Carpenters and Operating Engineers last quarter. The group still has $735,397 cash on hand.

MLive reporter Emily Lawler contributed to this article. Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

By Jonathan Oosting | joosting@mlive.com
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on October 26, 2015 at 8:01 PM, updated October 26, 2015 at 9:43 PM

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