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Mich. GOP calls on Gilbert to refund spouse’s cash

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau
Melissa Gilbert reads her childrens book "Daisy And Josephine" at Barnes & Noble in New York City.

Washington — The Michigan Republican Party wants Democratic congressional candidate and former “Little House on the Prairie” star Melissa Gilbert to refund her husband’s $5,400 campaign contribution and put it toward paying the money she owes in back taxes.

Timothy Busfield, an actor and director, made two $2,700 donations to his wife’s campaign on Sept. 30, according to campaign finance reports.

“Melissa Gilbert and her husband need to pay their taxes, not give thousands to their own campaign to help secure a government paycheck,” GOP Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said in a statement.

“Families across the 8th district work hard to pay their taxes. Gilbert needs to do the same.”

Gilbert’s campaign manager, James Stretch, said Monday that Gilbert has a repayment plan with the Internal Revenue Service and is working to pay the debt “as fast as possible.”

“Meanwhile, she’s working on building the resources that create a winning campaign,” Stretch said.

In the seven weeks since she announced her campaign, Gilbert raised nearly $200,400 for her campaign against first-term Republican Rep. Mike Bishop. The amount was thanks in part to contributions from many Hollywood luminaries including actors Jennifer Garner, Alec Baldwin and Kiefer Sutherland.

She ended the third quarter with about $183,300 cash on hand. Seventeen percent of the money raised came from Michigan donors.

Despite Bishop’s head start, Gilbert brought in nearly as much as the former Michigan Senate majority leader from Rochester, who raised nearly $214,000 in the three-month period ending Sept. 30. Twenty-three percent of Bishop’s quarterly cash came from Michigan donors.

Bishop has about $396,800 cash on hand. His largest donations came from political action committees including New York Life Insurance, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, House Speaker John Boehner’s Freedom Project and Michigan Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s TRUST PAC (Team Republicans for Utilizing Sensible Tactics).

Gilbert declared her candidacy in August after moving to Howell two years ago. Republicans have criticized her candidacy because she is behind in paying federal and California taxes, as first reported by The Detroit News in June.

Her campaign said in August that Gilbert is on a payment plan to pay back her outstanding federal taxes ($360,550) over eight and a half years, and her California taxes ($112,527) over roughly 46 months.

Gilbert has blamed the tax debt on a stalled acting career, the economy and her divorce from actor Bruce Boxleitner.

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