West Michigan News Company

Legal Theft Kept Secret

Laws Allowing Elected Officials to Take Money for their Office

By Pat Foster

Every state in our union has  passed laws that allow the public to see government documents in order to say that government is open and transparent to its’ citizens.  Each Act including the federal has exceptions to this Act, so these laws are not open to public inspection.

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act, titled MCL 15.243(1){r} specifically exempts Records of a campaign committee including a committee that receives  money from a state campaign fund” One of the “records” of a campaign committee are their bank accounts. Bank accounts being “records”  are therefore secret, because the Freedom of Information Act exempts them from public view or audit.

The money that goes in or out of those accounts is governed by the Michigan Campaign Fiance Act. MCL 169.224(5) that allows elected officials to opt out of filing their campaign finance reports if they do not anticipate either receiving or spending $1,000 during the election period. Judges and justices are automatically given a exemption from filing unless they go over the $1,000 limit, which is cumulative during the total period you held office. If you do exceed the $1,000 by say $1,000,000, nobody will ever audit you, and that money is tax free for you spend on anything you want.

 Stephen Markman, the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court was given his waiver from filing his reports on 12/04/2012, which was the last year he filed contribution and expense reports. His last year of contributions totaled $778,577.16. If he took in over ¾ of a million dollars in one year, at which time he signed his waiver, which says that he must file if his total contributions or expenses exceed $1,000, and he now has 6 years, and he did not take in at least $1,000, why should he even have taken the waiver, or kept his bank account open during that period.

MCL 169.224(5) gives all elected officials the option to opt out of filing their campaign finance reports:

 “When filing a statement of organization, a committee, other than an independent committee, a political committee, or a political party committee, may indicate in a written statement signed by the treasurer of the committee that the committee does not expect for each election to receive an amount in excess of $1,000.00 or expend an amount in excess of $1,000.00. The treasurer of a committee of an incumbent judge or justice is considered to have made the statement required under this subsection following appointment or election of that judge or justice and is not required to file a written statement under this subsection indicating that the committee does not expect for each election to receive or expend an amount in excess of $1,000.00.


Michigan Freedom of Information Act -Exemptions to the act. MCL 15-243

Michigan Campaign Finance Act. MCL 169.224

Michigan MCR 2.310(D) A request to produce to a nonparty.

Michigan Secretary of State website for research on candidates reports.

MCL 169.224(8) allows every elected official from public office to retire from that office without anybody ever seeing what is in their publicly created , tax free bank accounts as long as they are debt free.

“(8) A candidate committee that files a written statement under subsection (5) or that is considered to have made a statement under subsection (5) is not required to file a dissolution statement under subsection (7) if the committee  failed to receive or expend an amount in excess of $1,000 and ! Of the following applies

(a)  The candidate was defeated in an election and has no outstanding campaign debts or assets.

(b) The candidate vacates an elected office and has no outstanding campaign debts or assets.”

The U.S. Supreme Court was served a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with only one question asked the Court: “Do litigants have the right to see through discovery an elected official’s campaign finance bank accounts protected from public view by statute?”  The petition was denied, so the highest court in the land to the lowest circuit court were all silent on that question. The legal doctrine that silence affirms is applicable, so all litigants can now start filing to see the campaign finance bank account of the judge they are standing before, and have a clear right to see it or the judge must step down, because of their Judicial Canons usually says that they must be impartial. Those accounts can make them partial to the party paying them the most.

There are usually two methods of discovery that can be used. The most common is a subpoena sent directly to their bank depository asking for copies of bank statements for a period covering your case. The second is a a Request to Produce to a Nonparty usually found in your court rules. In Michigan it is MCR 2.310(D)(1) “A request to a nonparty may be served at any time…” after the case has started.

Not everybody is taking money, but the law creates a conflict of interest that allows them to do so.Your diligence in asking for discovery will force them to correct that conflict.

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