Complaint alleges Barrett paid consultant for U.S. House campaign from state account

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

A liberal group has filed a campaign finance complaint against a Republican running for the U.S. House in mid-Michigan, alleging that state Sen. Tom Barrett used his state campaign account to pay a consultant for his congressional campaign in violation of federal law.

Barrett, a Republican from Charlotte, is challenging sophomore Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin in the new 7th District in the greater Lansing area in a tossup contest expected to be among the most competitive congressional races nationally.

Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte

The complaint was filed by the group End Citizens United, which has endorsed Slotkin and donated $4,500 to her campaign. Barrett's campaign called the complaint "meritless."

The complaint takes aim at four payments totaling $40,000 made by Barrett's state Senate campaign to the consulting firm, Roe Strategic, around the time that Barrett launched his U.S. campaign in mid-November 2021.

The payments to the firm, led by Republican strategist Jason Cabel Roe, were designated as being for "redistricting consulting."

But End Citizens United says the timing is not coincidental and alleges the payments were actually for work done in support of Barrett's federal campaign.

The payments were made in the two weeks before and after Barrett's Nov. 15 launch and the month after, according to the complaint, which also notes that Roe has been an adviser on Barrett's congressional campaign.

"This is meritless nonsense being pushed by a progressive group that has endorsed and is funding Elissa Slotkin’s campaign," Roe said Wednesday.

The complaint claims that Barrett's state committee had never paid Roe Strategic for consulting previously, and that once the congressional campaign was launched, that committee instead began to pay Roe Strategic for consulting going forward. Through June, Barrett's federal campaign had paid the firm about $114,300 in consulting fees, according to the complaint. End Citizens United is not challenging the payments to Roe Strategic from Barrett's federal account.

End Citizens United claims that paying Roe Strategic out of the state account violated federal campaign finance law, which prohibits the transfer of funds from a candidate's nonfederal campaign committee to their federal campaign committee.

Federal Election Commission regulations also states that individuals who are simultaneously running for state and federal office must raise and spend "only" federal funds for the federal election.

Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United, said of Barrett in a statement that he "dishonestly spent tens of thousands of his state campaign cash on his congressional campaign, then lied about what he used that money for. We’re asking the FEC to immediately investigate Barrett and hold him accountable.”

mburke@detroitnews.com