FEC complaint filed against Rep. Bishop PAC

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

A county-level Democratic Party official has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday over the alleged failure of a political action committee affiliated with Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop to file campaign finance disclosure reports.

In the federal complaint filed this week, the Livingston County Democratic Party’s Chairwoman Judith Daubenmier alleges that Bishop not only filed his reports late, but he failed to disclose at least $1,000 in political contributions in the 13 months since he founded a fundraising political action committee.

The complaint notes that three late reports were filed after a Detroit News article exposed Bishop’s late campaign finance reports in early November. Daubenmier contends that Bishop or the PAC he formed failed to disclose everything, although a Bishop campaign spokesman called it a “bogus complaint.”

Stu Sandler, Bishop’s campaign spokesman, said the committee’s treasurer received a check for the missing $1,000 on July 7, after the June 30 FEC filing deadline. He said it doesn’t have to be disclosed until the next filing deadline at the end of December.

“It’s an absolutely bogus complaint,” Sandler said. “There is no story here.”

But Daubenmier called the report incomplete and said it calls into question the accuracy of other reports.

“Though the reports have now been belatedly filed, at least one contribution received by the PAC has still not been reported, calling into question the accuracy of these reports,” Daubenmier wrote. “After months of concealing their financial operations from the (Federal Elections) Commission and the public, Representative Bishop and his leadership PAC must be held accountable for these late and misleading reports.”

The complaint asks the FEC to investigate the alleged campaign finance violations, compel Bishop to disclose any missing reports “and fine them the maximum amount allowed by law.”

The FEC can’t yet confirm whether it received the report.

“We’ll let the FEC decide the extent to which Mike Bishop broke the law by hiding these special interest donations from his constituents for more than a year. What does he have to hide?” said Paul Kanan, a spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Party.

Bishop’s campaign committee has a pattern of accounting mistakes that prompted more than a dozen separate warning letters from the FEC in recent years requesting that the campaign correct its reporting or face penalty or audit.

A Bishop spokesman has said the committees have added outside help in the form of a compliance firm “to ensure there is accurate accounting and reporting moving forward.”

Bishop, a member of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, registered his leadership PAC with the FEC in October 2016, calling it the Making Bold Initiatives + Solutions to Help America, or M-BISH PAC.

M-BISH PAC has received at least $10,000 in contributions over 2016-17, according to FEC reports that other committees filed. The donations included $5,000 from the General Motors Co. PAC in September 2016 and another $2,500 in September 2017.

The Lansing-based Jackson National PAC, affiliated with Jackson Holdings LLC and Jackson National Life Insurance Co., donated $1,500 to M-BISH PAC this fall. Capitol One Financial Corp. Association Political Fund gave $1,000 in June.

The FEC sent three letters to Valerie Tillstrom, the treasurer of M-BISH PAC, after the report deadlines were missed, saying failure to file a complete report could result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action. Fines begin to accrue the day after the report’s due date.

Daubenmier has filed complaints against others in the past, including Genoa Township lawyer Neal Nielson in 2008 over a sign he had touting then-Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Howell.

In that case, the sign was on Genoa Township property next to a Brighton Area Fire Authority station. Nielsen had deeded the land to the township with the stipulation that he be allowed unrestricted usage of the sign. The state dismissed the complaint.