Bill reducing time for criminal campaign finance charges heads to governor

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Nearly two dozen bills addressing criminal justice reform are headed to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Lansing — A bill that would narrow the number of years when lawmakers could be criminally charged for campaign finance violations is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. 

Splitting along party lines, the Michigan House approved the bill late Thursday and the Senate enrolled the bill early Friday morning.

The legislation would prohibit the attorney general’s office from pursuing an indictment for a violation older than five years, down from the current six-year limit for the statute of limitations.

The new five-year statute of limitation would bring the law in line with the current five-year record retention period required for campaign finance documents, said Rep. Aaron Miller, chairman for the House Elections and Ethics Committee.

“I think it provides more than adequate time to refer charges to an attorney general in this case and for an investigation to be charged criminally,” the Sturgis Republican said, noting that the standard was stronger than the three-year statute of limitations for federal campaign finance crimes.

Opponents have said the proposed time frame would be more lenient that the 10-year statute of limitations applied to actions brought against local governments.

“There is no bar that should be higher than that which we hold our elected officials to. By limiting the time frame with which we can bring prosecution against an individual who has violated the Michigan campaign finance act we are lowering that bar.”

The bill has come under scrutiny in part because of its sponsor, GOP Sen. Dave Robertson of Grand Blanc, has struggled with timely campaign finance filings and this week paid off the full $1,681.33 he owed in fees and fines. His former campaign treasurer also is a suspect in an ongoing criminal embezzlement probe.

The bill was part of a larger package that would have shifted campaign finance oversight from incoming Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson to a bipartisan political commission. The remaining bills in the package were never taken up in committee.

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