Whack a PAC

Jul 3, 2002 at 12:00 am

Like Isaac Newton being bopped on the noggin by a falling apple and coming up with the concept of gravitational force, News Hits was whacked upside the head with a report just released by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. This nonprofit group of do-gooders based in Lansing spent some time digging into the records of political action committees. Its report got us to thinking that there must be a Newtonian theory to portray how money, as if adhering to some natural law of physics, inexorably flows into political coffers — no matter what campaign finance reform dams may be erected in the futile attempt to keep the ultra-rich from exerting undue influence.

As the report (which can be viewed in full at www.mcfn.org) points out: “Most PACs that are active in Michigan state elections represent established communities of shared interest: trade associations, professional associations, business associations, labor organizations, employees of corporations, single-interest groups and partisan political groups.”

But in recent years, a new breed of PAC has surfaced to circumvent contribution limits imposed on individuals. According to the network’s report, this phenomenon of so-called “personal” PACs is a burgeoning trend.

The most egregious example found by the network is Citizens for Michigan. The PAC had a total of 26 contributors, 25 of whom combined to pitch in a whopping $33. The 26th contributor, Detroit businessman Anthony Soave, added $174,500. Soave heads Soave Enterprises, which is involved in everything from recycling to commercial real estate to demolition to venture capitalism to Mary Kay cosmetics. (That last one’s a joke.) Beneficiaries of Soave’s largesse included Detroit mayoral candidates Kwame Kilpatrick and Gil Hill, as well as candidates for the City Council, Wayne County Commission and the Legislature.

“This PAC,” noted the report, “is without parallel as a committee based on the financial contributions of one person — 99.98 percent pure Soave.”

And so, what is the equivalent of Newton’s falling apple when it comes to attempts to rein in the political influence of the extremely rich? News Hits thinks the corollary is an arcade game, the one that involves using a padded mallet to whack the heads of plastic moles as they pop up again and again, no matter how many get bonked. It’s like a law of nature — no matter how many times the hammer slams down, the monied moles find another loophole to squeeze through.

Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]