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‘Local control’ campaign committee involved in campaign finance complaint

Environmental activists have filed a campaign finance complaint involving a ballot question that could impact much of Northern Michigan.

The campaign, let by the Citizens for Local Choice committee, seeks to undo a key portion of Michigan’s recently passed climate change legislation that allows a state agency to override local authorities to approve large-scale solar and wind projects.

The policy has caused outrage among many rural Michigan residents, who feel the authority may be used to stifle local opposition to new energy developments.


The organization is collecting signatures to put the question of repealing the solar and wind approval law before voters on the November ballot.

But a campaign finance complaint filed this week accuses a non-profit of illegally transferring thousands of dollars to the campaign to conceal the identities of donors.

The complaint alleges that Our Home Our Voice — a 501(c)(4) non-profit — illegally donated over $50,000 to Citizens for Local Choice — or CLC — effectively acting as an unregistered campaign committee in violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

Kevon Martis, a Lenawee county commissioner named in the complaint, denied any wrongdoing.


“This is a frivolous complaint. It has no merit,” he said. “It’s designed to distract the media, the campaign and our volunteers from the overwhelming support we are receiving to restore the rights of local governments to zone large scale wind, solar and battery storage projects.”

Mark Brewer, former head of the Michigan Democratic Party and attorney who filed the complaint, detailed several associations between the two organizations that he says suggest illegal activity.

“Once you start raising money for a ballot proposal, you have to register a ballot question committee with the state and you have to file reports about the money you raised, how much from whom,” he said. “And this group raised well over $50,000 without doing that.”

Brewer also referred to the organizations’ relationship as “just a shell game, which appears to be intended to hide the donors.”


The two organizations also used the same address in separate filings — the CLC committee lists a P.O. box in Deerfield as treasurer Roger Johnson’s address and also reports receiving a $53,000 contribution from our home our voice from the same P.O. box. Johnson similarly denied any wrongdoing.

Martis has been associated with both organizations, asking for donations for our home our voice in a Facebook group he administers and was listed as a member of the CLC committee in an event promotion.

Martis declined to provide specifics about his relationship with Our Home Our Voice, but the organization has previously listed him as a media contact.

In December, a Facebook user asked where the money raised by Our Home Our Voice would be going, to which an account named Kevon Martis replied, “We will be introducing a petition drive and ballot initiative to repeal the law outright.”


The same Martis account also said in a January post that our home our voice was $16,000 off its initial fundraising goal and that it requires significant resources to “successfully prepare a ballot initiative.” Nine days later, Our Home Our Voice made a public donation of $53,000 to CLC.

Brewer said that without public disclosures, voters aren’t able to properly judge the interests that may be supporting the organizations.

“There may well be fossil fuel money here,” he said. “But we don’t know and the public doesn’t know until these disclosures are made, and the public has a legal right to know where this money came from.”

If found in violation of the Campaign Finance Act, Our Home Our Voice would have to pay a fine to the Department of State. If that situation isn’t resolved amicably, the Department could refer criminal charges to the Attorney General.

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