Corporations, unions and special interest groups set up political action committees - PACs - to collect money so they can distribute it to politicians. This is how they buy influence. It enables them to speak louder than the ordinary citizen.
At $211,775, the Police Officers Association of MI (POAM) Legislative Fund is 64th on the list of the 150 state PACs who raised the most money in the period 1/1/2013-10/20/2014.
On POAM's website, they are celebrating their latest legislative victory. On October 15, Governor Snyder signed HB 5097 into law (Public Act 322). It exempts public safety workers from a law prohibiting wage increases while negotiations continue after a collective bargaining agreement has expired.
From the POAM website:
In the period 1/1/2013-10/20/2014, POAM contributed $35,025 to political campaigns. Do you suppose that had anything to do with getting the legislature and governor to fix this "mistake?"
Ah, but this is the way our imperfect democracy works.
There is something especially sleazy about POAM, however.
Just recently, I did an analysis of the Auto Dealers of Michigan PAC - where it gets its money and who it goes to. It gets its money from auto dealers across Michigan. Back in 2007, I looked at Blue Cross Blue Shield. The BCBS PAC gets its money from "voluntary" bi-weekly deductions from the paychecks of its employees. In 2008, I looked at the Beer and Wine Wholesalers. They get their money from beer and wine wholesalers. So you'd expect the Police Officers Assoc. of MI PAC to be funded by contributions from police officers.
That's not the case. POAM gets its money from us.
POAM contracts with a telemarketer who makes calls to people all over Michigan and asks them to contribute. 4,866 individual contributions were made in the period from 10/21/2013 to 10/20/2014. Contributions vary from $2 to $200, but these were the most common amounts:
A total of $115,179 was collected. $91,025.50 of that - 79.0% - went to the telemarketer, Midwest Publishing Inc.
Many of the people who are persuaded to make these contributions are elderly and/or poor.
So far, I haven't been able to find anyone who remembers what is said in these calls from the telemarketer, but there was a story about it in the newsweekly Northern Express in Traverse City in 2004 by reporter Eartha Melzer. She said she received "a very official sounding call from the Police Officers Association of Michigan." The caller said "In difficult times such as these, do you think it is important to support the police?"
I did obtain a solicitation letter a contributor received recently. "Without sponsors like yourself," it says, "POAM would not be able to advance our causes on behalf of over 10,000 members across Michigan." POAM spent $35,000 advancing its causes in 2014. They could have raised that amount by asking their 10,000 members to each contribute $3.50.
They are at least honest about where the money goes - 20% of it, anyway: "The money we raise will be used to contribute to political candidates who are committed to advancing pro-police causes."
I also obtained an invoice letter, apparently sent after someone has agreed to contribute. There is a P.S. at the bottom that says "If you could add just $2.00 to your promised pledge today, it would be very much appreciated."
Most of POAM's pro-police causes involve higher compensation for police, which gets Michigan taxpayers nothing but higher taxes. They have a lot of nerve asking us to come up with the money for their contributions to politicians.
With a name like Midwest Publishing Inc, we would hope that the $168,867 the telemarketer was paid since January 1, 2013 was used to pay Michigan workers. That's not the case. Midwest Publishing Inc's address is 10844 N. 23rd Avenue in Phoenix, AZ. They've been providing this service to POAM for at least 10 years. The following figures were compiled from campaign finance reports downloaded from the Secretary of State's website:
When I first published this story on November 26, I wasn't aware that POAM has what it calls a "satellite organization," a separate union for police supervisors called COAM, Command Officers Association of Michigan, and COAM's PAC also uses Midwest Publishing Inc to solicit contributions. I found one person who contributed 3 times to POAM and 4 times to COAM in 2014. The peculiar thing about the COAM PAC is that it is not contributing much to politicians - not at all in the last 4 years. Its campaign fund has grown from a little over $12,000 in 2005 to nearly $57,000 in 2014.
January 2016 update: Sometime in 2013, a report called "America's Worst Charities" was published from a study done by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Midwest Publishing Inc was among the worst solicitors. The study found that they keep 82.3% of what they collect. The report says "Watchdog groups say no more than 35 percent of donations should go to fundraising costs." In the case of POAM and COAM, the money goes to legislators rather than charity. I also notice from the report that a big percentage of bad "charities" are police and firefighter organizations.
Send comments to email@example.com. And if you've been solicited for a contribution to POAM or COAM, I'd like to hear from you. Call me at 517-505-2696.