Report: $4.5M minimum spent on no-fault auto lobbying

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    As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and key legislative leaders negotiate in secret over a deal to reform Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance policy, a flood of interest group money has made its mark on the debate.

    Susan J. Demas graphic

    That’s according to a new report released last week by the nonprofit watchdog group Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN). Its report determined that “groups entrenched in the fight over Michigan’s auto insurance laws combined to spend at least $4.5 million in support of current state officeholders over the last five years alone.”

    According to the MCFN report, there were at least 18 different political action committees (PACs) spending money during that period to help shape policy in the decades-long battle over auto insurance reform.

    Michigan has the only system in the nation that mandates vehicle operators purchase, and auto insurers provide, unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) that will cover medical costs in the event of a catastrophic accident.

    Chatfield and Shirkey
    Lee Chatfield (left) and Mike Shirkey (right)

    Republicans have called for measures that allow drivers to purchase coverage plans with lower levels of medical protection that better match their budgets. And they’ve been joined recently by some Detroit-area Democrats who say the measures are better than nothing.

    Meanwhile, Democrats and various consumer protection groups and healthcare providers argue that unlimited medical benefits are a key protection for Michigan’s drivers. They say, instead, that the state needs to crack down on enforcement and implement a variety of regulations over auto insurers, such as putting restrictions on how non-driving factors like gender and ZIP code are used in setting rates.

    So far, both the House and Senate have passed different pieces of legislation that the governor has said she would veto. Whitmer has repeatedly said she doesn’t believe the plans would result in meaningfully lower costs for consumers.

    According to the MCFN, groups working on behalf of auto insurance companies have spent around $2.7 million lobbying lawmakers over the last five years. Over the same time period, groups that oppose the bills have spent about $1.8 million.

    Michigan's Chamber of Commerce
    Michigan Chamber of Commerce | Susan J. Demas

    According to the MCFN, two PACs connected to the influential business lobbying group Michigan Chamber of Commerce were among the largest donors to current lawmakers. The Chamber has spoken in favor of Republicans’ currently passed legislation.

    Groups lobbying against that and similar legislation have included the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, as well as PACs tied to specific hospital systems like Spectrum Health and the Henry Ford Health System.

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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