Category: Blog

Money Talks, Voters Walk

Money Talks, Voters Walk

Interesting contrast between 2 major Supreme Court decisions announced today. First in Brnovich v. DNC the court upheld an Arizona law which requires ballots cast in the wrong precinct be discarded and prohibits anyone other than immediate family, mail carriers and election officials from delivering ballots to the polling place.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito acknowledged that while “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort.” Arizona argued such burdens are needed to combat election fraud. A position Altio seemed to accept writing “one strong and entirely legitimate state interest is the prevention of fraud.”

Even when there is no such evidence of fraud because it’s important to maintain public trust in elections.

In the second case, AFPF v. Bonta, the court strikes down a California law requiring charities to disclose their donors to the state (not publicly). The court ruled that such disclosures are an unconstitutional violation of donors First Amendment rights. To me, the important consideration here is that over the last 10 years dark money groups have spent over $1 billion in US elections. Dark money groups are typically 501c4 Social Welfare organizations, groups which now have Supreme Court approval to spend unlimited money influencing elections from hidden sources.

Even though dark money spending undermines public trust in elected officials.

Is there seriously anyone that would argue that secret donors spending unlimited sums to get candidates elections is not corrupting on elections? The Supreme Court has ruled that it’s reasonable to apply limitations on voting to maintain election integrity, but apparently transparency for billions in political spending is asking too much.

The end result is we’re likely to see more “burdens” on voting and even more secret money in politics.

A Matter of Priorities

A Matter of Priorities

As Senator Nesbitt continues to plays politics, he is doubling down on creating huge tax loop holes for Internet providers. To understand his reasoning, you need not look further than his declaration that former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s resignation was a “big loss”.

Sharing the same industry-first and consumer-last mentality, Chairman Pai led the FCC to dismantle net neutrality (which ensures that providers couldn’t charge more for certain data, for example Comcast charging more to watching NetFlix) and had a tenure marked by skyrocketing prices and a billion dollars in wasted funds. Strong assets for Senator Nesbitt I guess.

An urgent need across much of rural Michigan, Internet access remains expensive or completely unavailable despite much rhetoric and many tax dollars spent. There has been a failure at both the national and state levels to seriously tackle the problem. I wrote a short article to explain some of the more recent failures.

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Does anyone have faith in UIA at this point? Whether it’s spending $50 million on computer upgrade with an 93% error rate or the hundred’s of millions paid out in fraudulent claims last year, Michigan’s unemployment agency has a troubling record.

The UIA has a important role to play helping people get back on their feet in tough times, but through a combination of questionable leadership (both in & out of the agency), poor decisions and a lack of accountability the need for change is clear. It’s become one of many politicians favorite punching bags but these are problems that span multiple administrations.

Yet again while politicians take their shots, the people of Michigan are the ones taking the hits.

Time To Pull The Plug

Time To Pull The Plug

I’m fully aware that fairly or not pretty much anything I post is viewed as partisan, but that doesn’t turn a bad policy into a good one. I posted a more complete explanation on website below, but the latest attempt by Sen. Nesbitt and Rep. Griffin to address the broadband gaps in Michigan is just that, bad policy.

When you offer tax breaks to incentive something, it’s important to clearly define limits to prevent abuse. If you don’t then you’re just writing a blank check and in this case that check will be paid by local governments and schools.

By offering to exempt broadband equipment from property taxes without recognizing that much of the equipment is shared, you create a scenario where providers can now stop paying taxes on upgraded equipment if a single new customer is served. Property taxes fund much of the School Aid fund and local governments, so this policy risks pulling an unknown amount of funding from critical services, which is not only bad policy but potentially dangerous. The House Fiscal Agency can’t even estimate what that amount might be because there are too many unknowns.

Furthermore, the taxes which are potentially exempt are often not even paid by broadband providers. Many times providers pass those costs directly on to consumers in the form of surcharges on your bill. For example, AT&T customers pay a “Cost Assessment Charge” and Verizon customers pay an “Adminstrative Charge” on top of their normal rate. These charges are not government mandated but, according the companies themselves, are used to pay expenses like property taxes.

I’m just saying that while in some cases this might help spur infrastructure expansion, it’s written in a way that leaves a lot of room to be taken advantage of. The bottom line is that Griffin & Nesbitt, both of whom have taken money from telcom industry PACs, should and probably do know better.

Scroll to Top