Behind the Poll:

Outrage over leniency for Michigan Gov. Whitmer in campaign finance case

Conservative groups are up in arms over Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s ruling on Tuesday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not violate Michigan campaign finance law in two separate instances.

The Michigan Freedom Fund filed a formal campaign finance complaint against the governor last summer after she raised in excess of $3.4 million. Michigan Campaign Finance law limits individual donations to $7,150, but allows an exemption to accept unlimited contributions if a governor is facing a recall attempt.

Whitmer raised a record $8.65 million in 2021 with $10.7 million cash on hand. Of that sum, $3.4 million was raised from 119 large donors, including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who gave $250,000. Attorney Mark Bernstein, brother of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, donated $257,150.

Benson’s decision does not force the governor to return the money to the initial donors. It does, however, allow her to remit the monies to other campaign war chests.

“Gretchen Whitmer made the biggest illegal campaign cash grab in Michigan history and Jocelyn Benson is laundering it for her so the millions in donations over the limit can be used for both of their re-election campaigns next year,” Tori Sachs, MFF executive director, said in a statement. “The Freedom Fund filed its campaign finance complaint because the law applies to everyone – even Gretchen Whitmer,” Sachs added.

Sachs also asserted Benson, a Democrat, is “encouraging partisans to file recalls in order to game the system and raise unlimited campaign funds.”

Benson also granted a pass to the governor for using campaign funds to pay for a private charter plane, which she and her daughters used for a four-day Florida trip for the purpose of visiting Whitmer’s father while at the time she was imposing strict COVID-19 restrictions on business owners and residents in Michigan.
Bruce Walker