Macomb County officials have announced a crackdown on election candidates who fail to disclose who is funding their campaign, as required by state law.
County Treasurer Larry Rocca and County Clerk Fred Miller have initiated a new process of dealing with candidates who do not file their campaign finance reports in a timely manner. Scofflaws who have ignored the fines and late fees imposed for tardiness now owe a combined $427,000 to the county.
“We are sending a strong message to those who would ignore the state’s campaign finance laws,” said Treasurer Larry Rocca. “Your time is up. Follow the law, correct your errors, and pay your fines or we’ll see you in court.”
Under the new protocol, a candidate running for office in Macomb County who does not file a campaign finance report will be contacted three times by letter or by phone, with fines and fees issued along the way. If the third correspondence is ignored, county legal counsel will take the delinquent offender to court.
Officials point out that reports detailing a candidate committee’s campaign donations and spending practices allows voters to rely upon a transparent system to “follow the money” and determine who are the large donors backing a campaign. All of these records are available online from the clerk’s office at http://macomb.mi.campaignfinance.us/.
Former county clerk Carmella Sabaugh first tried to take a tougher stance toward scofflaw candidates in 2006. At that time, the county dealt with 41 offenders. By 2010, that number had grown to 65 and the amount owed reached $69,000. The uncollected debts have increased six-fold since then.
The violators range from political neophytes who never understood the campaign system to those who have brazenly ignored the law, in some cases for several years. Typically, a few are current officeholders but most are former candidates who let their candidate committee go dormant after losing an election.
Rocca and Miller have also created a “second chance” program that allows offenders to wipe the slate clean by paying 50 percent of what’s owed to the county. The discount will be awarded if the candidate files all of the missing paperwork and dissolves the committee. This partial reprieve will last from May 20 to July 19.
“By increasing and varying our outreach to these delinquent filers, we’re giving them ample opportunity to set their record straight,” Miller said. “This is not about generating revenue for the county. Rather, it’s about enforcing the law and giving those who participate in the electoral process every chance to be accountable for their actions.”