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Michigan Opera Theatre’s Opera Ball
Electricity was in the air at the Detroit Opera House the night the 2014 Opera Ball launched the three-day Opera Weekend Spectacular. The 44th MOT season opener – Strauss’s Greek mythology-based opera “Elektra”- inspired the co-chairs’ decision to put a Mediterranean spin on the décor and the menu. The latter was even catered by the Greek Kokas family’s Opus One. The 315 beautiful people in the dinner crowd ($600 ticket) socialized, sipped and smooched before adjourning to the platform constructed over the theater seats while the OPA! party for the younger set (300; $100 ticket) proceeded in the balcony boxes. Before dinner Dan Stall conducted a spirited live auction of nine items that raised a not too shabby $72,400.
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The saying "money makes the world go round," is especially true in politics. Just as the rich guy may get the pretty girl, very often, it's the person with the deepest pockets and biggest purse who gets the most votes. It's not because they're buying those votes, but because money purchases access to voters, helps acquire credibility and can signal to others that they're a serious candidate.
As we enter another election season, the role money is playing in local elections is just as important as on a national level, and just as in flux. That is because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, McKutcheon v. FEC (Federal Election Commission), that was issued in April 2014, which struck down a decades-old cap on the total amount any individual can contribute to federal candidates in a two-year campaign cycle. It is believed that the ruling will increase the role money already plays in American politics, and follows another Supreme Court ruling, from 2010, Citizens United v. FEC. In the Citizens United case, the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions to campaigns. In essence, it permits PACs – political action committees, to spend as much money as they choose, either for a candidate, or against one, without any limits. And contrary to some interpretations, it is not one-sided. PACs, representing differing electoral ideologies, pour money into candidates and issues on both sides of the aisle.
"We've had some Supreme Court decisions that have really relaxed the rules, and changed those rules, and it's really a new game," noted John Klemanski, a political science professor at Oakland University. "We're going to see a lot more outside money because the Supreme Court basically said anyone who's interested in a race can give as much as they want."
Klemanski explained that in the Citizens United case, the court ruled that any source can spend unlimited amounts of money from any source, provided they were not actually coordinating with the campaign itself.
Jocelyn Benson, dean of the Wayne State University Law School, said this election cycle will realize the full effects of both Supreme Court rulings. "We're now seeing the influx of money coming into Oakland County. There are no requirements (from the rulings) to disclose all of the money coming in," she said. "The only requirements is the money from the PACs cannot be spent directly on the candidates. If money that is spent says specifically 'vote for', 'don't vote for', 'reject', or 'elect', then the ad has to disclose where the money has come from, otherwise they don't have to. If the ad says they're a bad person or a good person, they don't have to disclose anything, like some of the (Mark) Schauer (for governor) ads – 'The Schauer's over.' If they don't mention an election exactly, under Michigan law, they don't have to disclose their funding. It's new this year – (Gov.) Snyder just signed this into law."...continued on page 2
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