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Liberal group files complaints against 3 Michigan reps

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A liberal group has filed a complaint with the House Office of Congressional Ethics against 23 Republican members, including Michigan U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek, Tim Walberg and Mike Bishop, over rules prohibiting official resources from being used for campaign or political purposes.

The American Legal Defense Fund alleges that Benishek of the Upper Peninsula, Walberg of Tipton and Bishop of Rochester violated the rules by entering into contracts to participate in the Republican National Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program, which offers special fund-raising and campaign help to vulnerable members running for re-election.

Stu Sandler, a spokesman for Bishop’s campaign, called the American Legal Defense Fund a “sham Democratic group” with a history of filing frivolous lawsuits.

“This is an obvious attempt to distract from the fact that the Democrat opponent is a blatant tax cheat,” Sandler said, referring to actress Melissa Gilbert’s unpaid $360,000 in federal income taxes reported by The Detroit News in June.

ALDF alleges that the contract obligates the members to share, coordinate and detail their legislative strategies with the NRCC and violates the ban on the use of official resources for campaign or political purposes.

The group claims that the Patriot Program contract’s reference to a congressman as a “member” and the requirement of a signature by the member’s chief of staff “is intended to reflect the members’ official role,” according to the complaint.

Republican House members are “literally selling their legislative agendas to a political committee for campaign cash,” Mary Jennings, spokeswoman for ALDF said in a statement.

The NRCC dismissed the complaint as without merit. Spokesman Chris Pack described the ALDF as a “partisan complaint factory.”

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736.