Original Link: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/republican-governors-association-perry-michigan
By Andy Kroll
Inside the GOP group that skirts election rules by shuffling millions across state lines and then "wiping the fingerprints off the money."
Michigan's 2010 elections had just concluded, and Rich Robinson, the state's leading campaign finance reform advocate, was conducting his usual postmortem. As he tallied the big money behind the conservative groundswell that swept Republican Rick Snyder into the governor's mansion and placed the state Legislature solidly under GOP control, one particular political action committee caught his eye.
Created in December 2009 and shut down shortly after the election, RGA Michigan 2010 had come out of nowhere to spend nearly $8.4 million—54 percent more than any other PAC had poured into any election in Michigan history. Ninety-six percent of the group's donors lived outside the state, and its top three funders included Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, Koch Industries' David Koch, and New York City hedge fund CEO Paul Singer. On the other side of the ledger, RGA Michigan 2010 had given $5.2 million to the Michigan Republican Party—no surprise there—but, mysteriously, it had also funneled $3 million into the campaign coffers of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Robinson, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, began to connect the dots. He remembered the phone calls from reporters in Maine and Florida asking if Robinson knew why money from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce had ended up with PACs in their states. The state's Chamber, which usually spent more than $1 million on TV ads during Michigan elections, officially didn't spend a dime on ads in 2010, according to Robinson. But it had given an unprecedented $5.37 million to a national organization that, Robinson now realized, was at the root of the anomalous spending he'd uncovered: the Washington, DC-based Republican Governors Association.
During the midterms, while many campaign finance observers were fixated on the proliferation of super-PACs and shadow-spending groups, the RGA spent $132 million—more than the five biggest conservative super-PACs and 501(c) groups combined. It was instrumental in electing a slate of GOP governors—Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Ohio's John Kasich, Georgia's Nathan Deal, and Iowa's Terry Branstad, among others—who hastened to crack down on public-sector unions and roll back environmental regulations. These electoral successes were fueled in part by the creative campaign finance strategy that Robinson began to piece together.