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Close loophole that’s flooding Whitmer with cash

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has become adept at finding legal loopholes to work around the state Legislature on budget matters and COVID-19 restrictions. Now she’s found one she can slip through to sidestep campaign finance laws and raise millions of additional dollars for her reelection campaign.

The Detroit News reports the Democratic governor is claiming an exemption from the state law capping campaign donations under an obscure 1984 ruling that allows a governor facing recall to raise unlimited funds.

While numerous recall threats have been targeted at Whitmer, no group has submitted petition signatures to the state Board of Canvassers.

Numerous recall threats have been targeted at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but no group has submitted petition signatures to the state Board of Canvassers.

“There are some serious questions whether a recall is actively being sought here,” Eric Doster, a campaign finance attorney, told The News.

There’s no evidence that an active recall campaign is underway, or that signatures are being gathered.

Claiming to be a recall target has enabled her to add an additional $3.4 million to her campaign fund from dozens of donors, both in state and out, who blew past the $7,150 individual limit per election cycle to give her as much as a quarter million dollars each.

That influx of unlimited contributions has pushed Whitmer’s 2022 war chest to a record $10.74 million.

It’s a neat little trick and one that will give Whitmer a huge advantage over her Republican challengers, who will have to comply with the donation limit while she’s getting money through a fire hose from super wealthy supporters.

It highlights the need for Michigan to toughen its embarrassingly weak campaign finance laws, something that also was driven home earlier in the week by the revelation that state Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, spent $221 from his campaign account at a strip club.

Jones’ defense that he didn’t realize he was in a strip club is no more disingenuous than Whitmer’s claim to be facing recall.

The ruling on which her fraud is built came in 1984 from then-Secretary of State Richard Austin, who cited the unfairness of holding a candidate battling a recall to donation caps while the recall proponents could collect money without limits.

But the money Whitmer is raising won’t be spent to fend off a recall; it will be used to hold at bay her GOP challengers who must abide by the caps. Austin’s ruling was never intended to be applied in that manner.

Instead of creating a level field, it builds one that gives the governor a powerful financial advantage and insults the purpose of contribution limits, which is to guard against influence peddling.

Since there is no recall election scheduled, her scheme would seem to violate the intent of campaign finance law.

It at least merits an investigation by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Also, Austin’s ruling must be clarified by the Legislature so that the limits come off only when there’s a recall election, and not during a normal election cycle.

While they’re at it, lawmakers must set specific guidelines for what constitutes a campaign expense. Certainly whooping it up with your pals at a strip joint shouldn’t qualify.

— Detroit News

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