Michigan Civil Service Commission Ruling Allowing State Agencies To Deduct PAC Contributions for Public-Sector Unions is in Conflict with State Law

“The Commission failed in its core mission by injecting politics into state employment matters,” says Center’s senior legal analyst

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007

Contact: Patrick J. Wright
Senior Legal Analyst

MIDLAND — The Dec. 19 decision by the Michigan Civil Service Commission to enable the state to undertake payroll deductions for public-sector union political action committees clearly conflicts with Michigan law, according to Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright. Under the new rule, state agencies could deduct consenting public employees’ contributions to their union’s PAC from their state-issued paycheck, as long as the agencies receive a fee from the union. Wright noted that the ruling flies in the face of a criminal statute that states “a public body shall not use or authorize the use of funds, personnel, office space, computer hardware or software, property, stationery, postage, vehicles, equipment, supplies, or other public resources to make a contribution or expenditure” for PACs.

“The Civil Service Commission reached its decision despite contrary opinions from the attorney general, the secretary of state and, initially, outside legal counsel paid for by the CSC,” said Wright, who attended the Commission hearing. “Even when members were informed that the Michigan Court of Appeals had taken the unusual step of granting an expedited appeal in a case involving the statute, the Commission rushed ahead with its decision.

“The Civil Service Commission was created to take politics out of state employment matters,” Wright added. “This ruling implies that the Commission has dropped its neutrality and is seeking to assist a favored political entity — unions. Public-sector union PACs are now in a unique position to use state equipment and personnel to collect political contributions. This is a setback for government neutrality in employment matters.”