News Story

Prior to recall, Green Township board violated campaign finance law

Signs that attacked critics failed to name the source of their funding, as required by law

The board of trustees of Mecosta County’s Green Charter Township is a completely different group from the one that started the year. Before the old board was swept out in a flurry of resignations and recalls, the Michigan Secretary of State found that trustees violated campaign finance law.

The penalty of the June 30 ruling was a formal warning for failure to identify political advocacy as such. This is the “paid for by” portion usually found in political ads. The signs did not contain one.

“Because the materials explicitly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate, or for the passage or defeat of a ballot proposal, the materials contain express advocacy as defined by the Act,” reads a portion of the June 30 letter from the Michigan Secretary of State.

“As explained above, such materials must contain a ‘paid for by’ statement. However, the evidence shows that the materials at issue here omit part or all of that required statement. That absence supports the conclusion that a potential violation of the (Michigan Campaign Finance Act) has occurred,” the letter reads.

The violation could carry a potential 93-day jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. But the Bureau of Elections instead issued a formal warning to the board and a reminder to properly identify who paid for the political activity.

Note that all printed materials referencing you or your candidacy produced in the future must include this identification statement,” the letter said, with the text underlined.

Read the complaint for yourself here

After the Green Township board’s 7-0 vote last December in favor of the Gotion EV battery project, trustees faced public backlash.

In an effort to defend themselves, trustees pushed back. They placed at least one sign appeared in the township, with the trustees’ names and years of service on the left side — 267 years, all told — and their critics’ names and years of service — all zeroes — on the right.

“Don’t sign their petition,” the sign read.

That part of the complaint, the unauthorized use of names in a political ad, was not a violation, the state said.

The complaint was filed by Lori Sue Brock, records show. She was one of the critics named on the sign.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.