In a Dec. 21 statement, the office of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced the two complaints filed against Whitmer have been resolved with no reason to believe any violation occurred in either.
A complaint filed this summer by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative group, pointed to Whitmer’s campaign finance report as evidence she had raked in $3.4 million in the first two quarters of 2021, via 154 donations, all of which exceeded the $7,150 statutory cap on individual contributions. The figure has since grown to $4 million.
Whitmer’s second-quarter fundraising report showed five individuals donated $250,000 and four donors gave $100,000 each to her campaign.
Ironically, it was the numerous petition drives to recall Whitmer, a Democrat, for her pandemic lockdown policies that made these large contributions possible. In the early 1980s, a Michigan secretary of state issued an interpretation of the state election laws that eliminated the individual donation cap for incumbent officials facing recall because there was no such limitation on the proponents of the recall.
In October, Benson’s office stated that since no recall petitions directed against Whitmer had obtained enough signatures, the money raised to fight a recall, which exceeded the individual contribution limit, must be returned to the donors or donated to charity or a party.
Whitmer’s campaign announced in November that they would disburse the amount collected in excess of the individual donation cap, but didn’t specify to whom.
The other campaign finance complaint against Whitmer was filed in late July by Eric Ventimiglia of the conservative group Michigan Rising Action. The complaint alleged that Whitmer used campaign money in March to pay for a personal charter flight to Florida for her and her family.
Benson’s office stated on Dec. 21 that the use of campaign funds to pay for the chartered flight “was a permissible use of funds because their purpose was to ensure the Governor’s physical safety in response to credible and ongoing threats related to her role as Governor of Michigan. The Governor subsequently reimbursed the campaign committee for the market value of first-class flights for herself and her family.”
Ventimiglia said in a statement, “Jocelyn Benson let Gretchen Whitmer off the hook … Benson’s ruling confirms that ‘Rules for thee, not for me’ is not just a political quip, but ingrained in Michigan Democrat’s operating procedures.”
Cameron Pickford of the Michigan Freedom Fund told The Epoch Times: “Secretary of State Benson teamed up with her personal friend, Governor Whitmer, to approve the laundering of millions of dollars in campaign contributions above the legal limit into partisan campaign accounts that could benefit the re-election of both of them. Benson’s action will encourage the filing of recall petitions in order to game the system and raise unlimited campaign funds.”
Whitmer campaign spokesperson Maeve Coyle told the Detroit News that the complaints against the governor were “baseless attacks,” and the campaign was “glad to see the matter closed.”