Legislator: Small fines aren’t enough to discourage bad actors
State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis today introduced a plan to add more accountability to Michigan’s campaign finance laws.
Afendoulis, of Grand Rapids Township, said fines imposed for violations of Michigan’s campaign finance laws in the past have been insignificant and ineffective. Her plan adds teeth to the law by establishing a minimum penalty.
“We can’t let people who disregard our campaign finance laws get off with nothing but a slap on the wrist,” Afendoulis said. “We will help restore faith in government by creating real accountability and increasing transparency.”
Afendoulis said a perfect example took place earlier this year, after a political nonprofit violated the Campaign Finance Act by using an issue advocacy ad to endorse a candidate during the last statewide election cycle.
“The Secretary of State – who had the discretion to fine the organization up to 300 percent of the total amount spent on the ad – chose to impose a fine of less than 2 percent,” Afendoulis said. “The group paid a meager $37,500 fine on a spend of approximately $2 million. That is hardly a deterrent to repeat behavior. In fact, at that rate, it might make sense to build a fine into one’s budget.”
Afendoulis’ solution would require the Secretary of State to impose a fine of no less than 25 percent of the total amount spent on a campaign ad that violates the law.
The plan, House Bill 4703, has been referred to the House Elections and Ethics Committee for consideration.