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Legislation would limit fundraising around recalls

The Michigan Senate approved Republican-sponsored legislation Tuesday that would close a fundraising loophole surrounding recall efforts.

Senate Bill 788 was sponsored by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), and would set legal definitions for what is considered an active recall effort and require all unspent funds in a recall committee to be returned to donors in the order they were received.

The bill, which passed 21-14 along party lines, was introduced in response to what Republicans said was Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer taking advantage of a situation last year to exceed campaign contribution limits.

“Soliciting mega-donations to fight against imaginary recalls is misleading to donors and, ultimately, harmful to voters and a fair election process,” said Runestad. “The governor’s excess funds should have been returned to donors instead of funneled to her party.”

Whitmer campaign officials noted last year that nearly 30 recall petitions had been filed against Whitmer, and the exemption lets governors defend themselves against recalls.

Individual donors are normally capped at $7,150. However, Whitmer’s campaign collected several donations that exceeded that limit using an exception in the law that allows for unlimited fundraising to protect from recall efforts.

After raising nearly $4 million to fight off the recalls, Whitmer’s campaign was able to legally transfer the funds to the Michigan Democratic Party.

Under current law, there is no clear definition of when a candidate is considered a recall candidate.

The Senate bill follows similar legislation introduced last month by a local lawmaker.

House Bill 5910, sponsored by Ann Bollin (R-Brighton), would require a recall candidate to form a recall committee within 10 days of a recall being initiated and open an account as soon as a contribution is received or an expenditure is made.

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