LANSING (WXYZ) — Two dark money groups that helped fund efforts to repeal Governor Whitmer's emergency powers now face scrutiny from Michigan’s Attorney General over whether they skirted the law.
A 2020 complaint filed by Robert LaBrant, a longtime Republican power broker in the state, was forwarded to Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office after an elections official found that two funds “took actions that might constitute a violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance act.”
“The evidence is very compelling,” said Mark Brewer, an elections attorney representing LaBrant. “The pattern of contributions, the volume, the coordination. We thought we had a very strong case.”
Brewer is the former head of the Michigan Democratic Party.
In his complaint, LaBrant alleged that the “Michigan! My Michigan!” Fund and the “Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility” fund were accepting secret donations — allowable under the law — but then funneling them to the Unlock Michigan ballot proposal, which aimed to take away the Governor’s emergency powers.
“The public (is) entitled to know who’s funding a ballot proposal,” Brewer said. “And so what they did here is hide those donors by funneling the money through these dark money funds.”
The funds donated well over $2 million to Unlock Michigan and are linked to state senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who has avoided virtually all questions about how the funds operate.
In a letter from last Friday, Adam Fracassi of the Bureau of Elections noted how the funds refused to share information about specific donations and said the department had "no choice" but to proceed with referring the matter to the Attorney General's office.
It is unclear what action Nessel's office might take.
According to The Detroit News, Senator Shirkey called the latest developments “politically motivated."
Heather Lombardini, President of Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility (MCFR), released the following statement in response to today's news:
"The Secretary of State already dismissed an identical complaint on this matter. Now that Democrat Attorney Mark Brewer is involved they have “reason to believe” there was a violation? MCFR and MMM have at all times complied with Michigan campaign finance laws. We are looking forward to defending these baseless accusations and bringing to light the Secretary of State’s decision to put politics ahead of the law. We remain committed to discussing potential resolution if and when the Secretary of State realizes that facts, the law and democracy should always prevail over political ambitions."
Brian Shekell, Counsel for MCFR and MMM, also released the following statement:
“We believe that the Secretary of State‘s claim that there is “reason to believe” that these organizations violated the campaign finance act is without reason at all. If necessary, we welcome the opportunity to prove that this administrative finding is simply wrong and that MCFR and MMM have fully complied with the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.”
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.