Michigan Gov. Whitmer may be forced to return $3.4 million in excess contributions

Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel argues the excess contributions must be returned or donated if a recall election isn’t called.

Updated: October 18, 2021 - 11:09pm

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer may have to return $3.4 million in campaign funds received from major donors.

Whitmer's 2022 re-election campaign war chest accepted the monies through what the GOP calls a loophole by which she avoided campaign donation rules. The so-called loophole relaxes contribution limits if an officeholder is faced with an ongoing reelection recall effort.

While several recall petitions have been filed against the governor, none are active or funded.

Whitmer raised a record $8.65 million in 2021 with $10.7 million cash on hand. Her strategy raised $3.4 million 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. Michigan election law caps campaign contributions at $7,150 per person.

In a Wednesday court filing on behalf of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office argued the $3.4 million in excess must be “returned” or donated to a party or a charity if a recall election isn’t called.

Benson’s attorneys argued any recall petition can be filed until Jan. 1, 2022, after which any recall effort will be “concluded” and the money would be transferred months before the April 19, 2022 deadline for Republican gubernatorial candidates to file their nominating petitions.

MIGOP Communications Director Gustavo Portela said they would hold Whitmer accountable.

“Gretchen Whitmer has illegally raised funds in excess of Michigan’s contribution limit by claiming a recall exception that doesn’t exist,” Portela said in a statement. “We’ll fight in court to ensure that campaign finance riles continue to be applied fairly across the board for all candidates running for Governor because no one is above the law.”

Whitmer’s office hasn’t responded to a request for an inquiry.

GOP gubernatorial candidates facing off against Whitmer in 2022 include Garrett Soldano, Ryan Kelley, and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig.

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