Michigan lawmaker reports $221 campaign spending at strip club

Beth LeBlanc Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A Michigan lawmaker reported spending $221 of his campaign money at a strip club in Dearborn for a March 8 "constituent meeting" to discuss "potential economic projects," according to a disclosure filed Sunday.

State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, turned in his new fundraising report ahead of Monday's 5 p.m. deadline for state officeholders and candidates to submit the records. In a phone interview, Jones described the Pantheion Club, the venue of the meeting, as a "lounge" and said he wasn't sure if it was a strip club before the phone call became disconnected.

A Twitter account using the name Pantheion Club describes it as "the oldest and most established gentlemens (sic) club in Michigan."

Rep. Jewell Jones

"We have (to) meet people where they're at some times ... #HOLLA," Jones said in a text message after the interview. He added that the club had "great lamb chops."

Jones, a third-term lawmaker, made headlines in recent weeks after he was arrested on April 6 after his black Chevy Tahoe drifted in and out of lanes along Interstate 96 before pulling off the shoulder and into a ditch, according to a Michigan State Police report. He was accused of struggling with troopers after the crash and allegedly told officers that he'd call the governor and that he had oversight of the MSP budget. 

His blood alcohol content, according to the police report, was 0.19. The legal driving limit is 0.08.

State Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, submitted this expenditure as part of a campaign finance disclosure on Sunday, July 25, 2021.

His new campaign finance disclosure, which covers from Jan. 1 through July 20 reveals his account expended more than $6,400 over the period at restaurants or lounges for events that were described as "meetings."

Overall, the committee spent $15,926 over the first seven months of the year, including $12,057 on costs that were "incidental" to Jones holding office.

The spending also featured $696 at Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar in Las Vegas on March 22. Jones described it as a "dinner meeting with other legislators." A week later, the campaign spent $514 at Jon's Goodtime Bar & Grill in Inkster for a "meeting with community stakeholders on potential projects."

It is not rare for a Michigan lawmaker to use campaign funds to purchase dinners related to their official duties. However, the level and type of spending described in his new report is unusual.

Simon Schuster, executive director of the nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said Michigan's elected officials "often use campaign funds to wine, dine and entertain themselves ... under the guise of conducting business."

"While this sort of spending isn't uncommon, sadly, the venue Rep. Jones chose truly pushes the limit of credulity," Schuster said.

Jones was bound over to Livingston County Circuit Court June 30 on drunken driving charges and his next hearing in the case is scheduled for August.

Last week, he was fined $1,000 for a bond violation in which he failed to pay the fee to keep his alcohol monitor tethering on. The violation was his second. 

In June, Jones was accused of misrepresenting the circumstances surrounding military orders that prevented him from getting his court-ordered drug and alcohol testing. 

Jones had been allowed to suspend pretrial drug and alcohol testing for June 12-26 training with the Michigan National Guard at Camp Grayling, according to court records. But prosecutors argued Jones during that time frame tagged himself on Facebook as being at Planet Fitness in Wayne and legislative records indicate he was in Lansing for committee meetings, according to court records.

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.