Saturday, May 3, 2008

Retail chain pays PR firm to finance recall of township officials

Michigan is investigating the possible election misconduct by a retail chain with more than 180 stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

The Meijer retail chain paid a public relations firm more than $30,000 to help run a campaign to recall township officials opposed to building a store in Acme Township, Michigan.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle disclosed documents related to the campaign that include contracts, invoices and e-mails.

According to the documents, the public relations firm wrote campaign literature and letters to the Record-Eagle that were signed by local residents; oversaw collection of petition signatures; upgraded the Web site of a pro-Meijer citizens group; and gave strategic advice to local supporters of the recall.

"For a corporation to secretly finance a recall campaign is pretty unique," said Rich Robinson, executive director of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

It's illegal under state law for corporations to contribute directly to political campaigns, although employees can donate through company-sponsored political action committees.

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