DETROIT, Mich. — A campaign to recall Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has inadvertently ended up putting more money in the governor's pockets, allowing her to take campaign contributions much higher than she normally could, according to a campaign finance expert.
The latest campaign finance filings show Whitmer has a record-breaking amount of money in her campaign fund, with $8.6 million collected since the start of 2021 and $10.7 million cash on hand. The funds add up to more money than the first-term governor raised during her entire 2018 campaign.
Normally, Michigan gubernatorial candidates cannot take contributions higher than $7,150 per person. A 1984 ruling from the Michigan Department of State allows any candidate faced with a recall to collect unlimited contributions from donors.
Whitmer has been able to receive contributions as high as $250,000, according to campaign finance reports.
“Certainly it’s an ethical grey area, because it’s not as though the governor is at threat of legitimately being recalled in the near future and to say that she was really explicitly getting these donations purely to fight these recall efforts would be dubious at best,” said Simon D. Schuster, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Schuster estimates Whitmer was able to make an additional $2.7 million than she would have had the 1984 rule not been in place.
Whitmer was asked about the contributions during a press conference in Detroit on Tuesday.
“I think you know we need, we need reform when it comes to political contributions," she said. "But so long as the rules are what they are, I’m going to make sure that I always abide by the rules, but that I am gonna run hard, just like I do everything. When I set my mind to something, we’re gonna see it through.”
As for the campaign to recall Whitmer, there has been little success. Despite dozens of attempts, no recall efforts have gotten enough signatures to force a recall vote.
“Unless a really serious recall effort against the governor emerges, I don’t see [the additional campaign contributions] being used for any other purpose than to further her reelection efforts,” said Schuster.
Whitmer also said she hopes that in her second term and with a different legislature she would be able to implement campaign finance law changes.
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