Gavel Grab

Profile Highlights Rich Robinson’s Transparency Work

Rich Robinson, a longtime Justice at Stake ally, has become an indispensable source for journalists seeking to penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding money in politics, according to a recent profile in the Columbia Journalism review.

Robinson is the “one-man operation behind the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network” watchdog group, a JAS partner organization. He is known for getting information that is tough to locate, given Michigan’s lack of transparency, the article said. The article said there is a need for more people like  Robinson who work to shine a light on the flow of money in politics both at the state and national level.

Originally, Robinson had a difficult time building credibility with reporters, who did not always believe the figures he gave them. Now, the article said, he is considered a “fixture of campaign-finance and accountability coverage in Michigan.”

Robinson told the CJR that he became involved in campaign finance while attempting to decipher the result of the Bush v. Gore ruling. He became the executive director of MCFN in 2001, and has continued to follow the increasing amounts of money that pervade through political campaigns.

According to the article, Robinson has been particularly interested in the rise of “undisclosed political cash.” He has released findings about the influence of 501(c)(4) organizations in elections, and how they are outspending super PACs.

Robinson utilizes public inspection files at local TV stations to locate data on ad spending. Robinson is in support of new FCC rule that will require the stations to post their files online (see Gavel Grab). Many stations have expressed opposition to the rule, but Robinson declares the point moot; “the public needs to know how much is spent, not how much a spot costs,” he said.

In June, JAS sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi urging the bipartisan leadership to protect the FCC rule on political disclosure. To read the letter, click here. To learn more about the importance of disclosure laws, see the JAS issues page on the topic.

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