|AG office asked to probe Detroit lawmaker
Michael Gerstein, The Detroit News Published 3:07 p.m. ET Oct. 13, 2017 | Updated 11:19 p.m. ET Oct. 13, 2017
(Photo: Michigan House Democrats)
Lansing — Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office has asked the state Attorney General’s office to conduct a criminal review of a campaign finance paperwork issue involving Detroit Democrat Rep. Bettie Cook Scott.
Johnson’s spokesman, Fred Woodhams, said Friday that her office asked Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office on Oct. 2 to investigate the lawmaker for potential perjury over $6,100 in unreported campaign donations after Scott previously signed an affidavit with the state claiming she did not raise more than $1,000.
The groups that donated to Scott, such as the Michigan Education Association PAC, Michigan United Auto Workers PAC and former Harper Woods Democratic Rep. Brian Banks disclosed their donations to the state. But Cook Scott did not file her own reports, leaving Johnson’s office to piece together what happened with other documents.
Woodhams said Johnson’s office asked the attorney general to investigate whether “she potentially committed perjury” by signing paperwork “which says she did not owe any reports and didn’t have any late filing fees; but she did owe reports, which she was notified of in May and February by the department.”
Johnson’s department didn’t require Cook Scott to sign a “post election compliance statement” prior to taking office like most lawmakers do because she had a reporting waiver saying she wouldn’t spend or raise more than $1,000, Woodhams said.
Cook Scott sent the department a campaign finance report in December, but it didn’t include all of the donations she received during her campaign. She also sent a paper copy instead of submitting it electronically, as the state requires. The lawmaker included paperwork showing she had $7,500 in unspent campaign cash.
Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely confirmed that the office received the request but did not offer more details.
Cook Scott did not return calls or a text message from The Detroit News on Friday. The former Detroit police officer had served four years in the House ending in 2010 when she was elected to the state House in 2016.
The lack of transparency raises serious questions, said Craig Mauger, director of the watchdog nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
“As a public official who’s raising money from people, you have the duty to report who you’re raising money from. … It’s pretty simple to do,” Mauger said. “It’s not a lengthy process, especially if you have only a few donors.”
Mauger said signing the affidavit means she “made a promise to the public, … and the public deserves to know if you changed your mind on that.”