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Fake Grassroots PAC From Maryland Interferes In Michigan Democratic Primary

Astroturf was originally the term used for fake grass, made out of plastic and other synthetic materials, installed as a replacement for turf in highly-used sports fields. These days, the term is more frequently used to describe political operations that pretend to be grassroots efforts organized by the rank and file as a result of popular demand, while they’re really top-down inventions created through big spending by wealthy individuals or corporations.

An awful lot of astroturf has been spotted this year in the area around Southfield, a suburb to the northwest of Detroit, and a hub of power in the 14th congressional district of Michigan. The Democratic primary in the district takes place in just one month, and one organization that has involved itself in the political battle there is the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC – known as GOALPAC for short.

The 14th district race is attracting a great deal of attention, because the incumbent, U.S. Representative Gary Peters, has decided to run for U.S. Senate rather than to seek re-election. There are four different Democratic politicians competing for their party’s nomination for the seat.

goalpac astroturfOne of these candidates, Rudy Hobbs, has attracted the support of the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC. Just yesterday, the organization spent over $42,000 to promote the Hobbs for Congress campaign.

Where did the money to that GOALPAC used to support Hobbs come from? Was it from typical rank and file Democratic voters in Michigan, as the name Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading suggests?

Far from it.

First of all, the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC isn’t really a Michigan organization. It’s a political operation that’s run out of the nation’s capital, with a mailing address in Bethesda, Maryland, and a bank account set up at a branch located at 730 15th St NW, Washington D.C. The accountants who keep books for GOALPAC work out of an office at Suite 590, 1050 17th St NW, Washington D.C.

Second, the sources of the money that the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC spends are anything but grassroots. Top contributors include:

  • J. Eric Gould, of the Florida lobbying firm Thurman Gould
  • Melanie Nathanson, of the Virginia lobbying firm Nathanson & Hauck
  • Anthony Podesta, of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm The Podesta Group
  • Beau Schuyler and Charles Brain of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Capitol Hill Strategies
  • Arshi Siddiqui of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Akin Gump Strayss Hauer & Feld
  • Steven Champlin of The Dubberstein Group… yes, another lobbying firm based in Washington D.C.

    Also contributing big checks to GOALPAC are the political action committees of:

  • The American Association of Orthapaedic Surgeons
  • BAE Systems
  • DaVita Health Care Partners
  • DTE Energy
  • The Investment Company Institute
  • The National Association of Realtors

    The cash is not coming from the salt of the earth, so the heavy involvement of lobbyists and corporate PACs in propping up the congressional candidacy of Ruby Hobbs should lead discerning Michigan voters to ask: Exactly who will Ruby Hobbs owe favors to, if he is elected as the 14th district’s next representative in Congress?

  • 2 thoughts on “Fake Grassroots PAC From Maryland Interferes In Michigan Democratic Primary”

    1. Charles Manning says:

      Very interesting report. Where did you get all this information?

      So one of the four Democrats seeking the Peters’ seat receives $42,000. This immediately raises questions. How do Rudy Hobbs’ positions differ from the positions of the other candidates? How do the qualifications of the candidates compare? What communications have occurred between Hobbs and GOALPAC? What do the contributors to GOALPAC have in common ideologically?

      This is a textbook case for the necessity of a new ethical code for candidates for political office. After the 2012 electoral debacle, I began calling for candidates in political races or positions to adhere to a code of ethics including the following: They should disclose every source of funds used to get them elected or re-elected, or otherwise supported while in office, and every source of favorable reporting by news media. They should disclose all private and public contacts with those sources about public interests. These disclosures should include any discussions of past or anticipated votes by the recipient, any agreements to include or exclude topics from public remarks by the recipient (e.g., is the recipient telling the supporter that the recipient won’t mention or discuss issues, such as climate change, torture of detainees, use of drones to assassinate individuals, or other topics that were excluded from the 2012 campaigns?), any discussion about employees or appointees with regard to whom the recipient might have influence, and any discussion concerning what to say or not to say, or what information to withhold from public exposure. Candidates should require those who supply money to disclose their sources, i.e., earnings from donations, employment, investments, inheritance, etc. That is, Hobbs should require GOALPAC to disclose these things to him before Hobbs will accept the $42,000, and should disclose to the voters what he learns about these contributors. The code of ethics should allow Americans to determine who has understandings and agreements with the sources of the campaign funds and with supportive media, whether these benefits are accepted before or after initial election – that is, the code should eliminate to the maximum degree possible the undisclosed, if not outright secret, interactions between political candidates and the sources of their campaign finances or in-kind media benefits that have caused our democracy to become a tool of the rich. There should be an exemption from such disclosures about small contributors only if the candidate or office holder has had no private communications with the contributor.

      The defeat of Eric Cantor tells us that wealth and media support aren’t the guarantees of political success some of us thought they were. The ethical code I’m proposing would be designed to allow the voter to know what monetary and in-kind influences affect any candidate, however well or poorly funded, however the candidate may be regarded by the media.

    2. Peregrin Wood says:

      Charles, much of the information comes from the FEC independent expenditure search function, which provides easy permalinks for me to provide you with for this specific report, but can be found at

      Recent filings by GOALPAC can be found at:

      There SHOULD be many things required of candidates when it comes to campaign finance, but in practice, the FEC has very few resources with which to enforce such requirements. The best we can do at present is to bring a bit more attention to these financial connections, as an alternative bit of information for interested voters.

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