State Supreme Court rejects payroll deduction of PAC

As if we need another reminder that elections have consequences, the Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday reversed its earlier decision on payroll deduction of PAC contributions by public employees, deciding that doing so breaks state campaign finance law.


The ruling stems from a contract between the Gull Lake Education Association and the Gull Lake Community Schools. The contract required the district to administer a payroll deduction plan for voluntary contributions of MEA members to MEA-PAC, the association’s political action committee. The district agreed to distribute payroll deduction forms, process them, and transmit payroll deductions to MEA-PAC and MEA proposed to pay all costs.


The school district conditioned acceptance of the contract on MEA obtaining a declaratory ruling from the secretary of state, who ruled that the district could not use public resources for such a payroll deduction plan. The case went through the courts and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 last December that the arrangement was legal.


But not anymore. So, what’s changed? Why is payroll deduction now illegal?


The earlier ruling came from a liberal-leaning Supreme Court and now conservatives are in the majority. While court races are officially non-partisan, the candidates are nominated by the two major political parties.


Now, the conservative court majority has decided that public bodies are prohibited by law from using public resources to make a “contribution or expenditure” for political purposes and that by remitting payments to the MEA-PAC, the school district makes both a “contribution” and an “expenditure.”


We expect that any school districts, community colleges, or universities that have been providing payroll deduction will now stop that practice.


Many PAC contributors have already moved to electronic funds transfers. Learn more about making either a one-time or recurring donation using a credit card or checking account (with electronic funds transfer).