The Michigan Freedom Fund filed a campaign finance complaint Wednesday against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) after she raised more than the maximum allowed from several donors.
In the 1980s, the secretary of state opined that an officer holder facing a recall election could raise unlimited sums from individuals. Several recall petitions have been approved by the state Board of Canvassers, but no legitimate recall campaign is under way and the legal window to formulate one is quickly closing. But that did not stop Whitmer from exploiting the 37-year-old opinion to raise hundreds of thousands from some individuals, who would ordinarily be bound by a $7,150 limit.
According to the Michigan Freedom Fund:
Governor Whitmer has taken $3.4 million in illegal contributions from over 154 individual donors including $257,150 from Mark Bernstein (brother to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein), and $250,000 each from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Patricia and Ronda Stryker, and Stacy Schuster of Samson Energy.
The Whitmer campaign touted its record-breaking $8.6 million haul last week, omitting that it twisted the rules to obtain such an amount.
“Gov. Whitmer is deliberately breaking the law and illegally taking millions of dollars from Hollywood and New York elites because she believes the rules don’t apply to her,” MFF Executive Director Tori Sachs said in a statement.
“Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson must compel Whitmer to immediately return the illegal contributions and issue sanctions on Whitmer’s campaign that are aligned with the most egregious illegal scheme in violation of contribution limits in Michigan history.”
“If your office refuses to enforce Michigan law against Governor Whitmer, then you can be sure that candidates will also take advantage of the newly created ‘Whitmer Loophole,'” Sachs said, according to the Detroit News.
Sachs argued the secretary of state’s opinion from the 1980s Whitmer used to justify the large checks was faulty because the state legislature sets donation limits, not a secretary of state.
The complaint was filed with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), a political ally of Whitmer who will also be deciding on whether to penalize Whitmer for using campaign funds for a personal private jet trip to Florida.
The state House Republican Campaign Committee warned Whitmer’s actions set “a dangerous precedent.”
Even if the Secretary of State can simply dismiss contribution limits out of hand when it benefits friends and political allies, this doesn’t meet the standard at all. It is clearly illegal,” said HRCC Co-Chair Sarah Lightner said in a statement, adding:
These are not active recall elections – they are just a bunch of people talking about doing one someday. By this broken standard, anyone could draft recall petitions against legislators they support and allow them to solicit unlimited dollars to double or triple their fundraising.
Lightner argued Whitmer’s “personal ethics are too far gone” and government watchdogs should object.
The Michigan Freedom Fund said the “illegal” contributions amounted to $3.4 million.