Advance Notice: Briefs

‘Scofflaw’ Robertson wrong man to lead campaign finance change-up, clerk says

By: - December 18, 2018 2:45 am

Jocelyn Benson

As the Legislature enters its final scheduled week of legislative action, the top elections official in Genesee County is again slamming term-limited state Sen. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc).

Democratic Genesee County Clerk John Gleason today told reporters that Robertson appears to have a “chronic problem” with campaign finance violations. Gleason reiterated his belief that Robertson is not the right person to sponsor a package of bills that would shift oversight on the matter from Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.

John Gleason

The GOP-led Legislature has several bills that would take power away from incoming Democratic state executives, which has drawn national attention.

On a conference call today, Gleason pointed to Robertson’s outstanding debt of $150 in the county, as well as $1,681 in campaign finance violations outstanding at the state level.

“A concern that I have … that’s been elevated is that there is an indication, if not implication, of an embezzlement happening in his Senate office and it appears to me that this is a last gasp effort by Senator Robertson to escape … his obligations,” Gleason said.

That embezzlement implication refers to a Michigan State Police investigation into conduct by a former Robertson staffer, as the Advance previously reported.

The specifics of Robertson’s violations at the state level are unclear, and that is part of the problem, according to Gleason.

“There’s a reason you get a fine,” Gleason said. “Either because you have errors and omissions or misspending in your campaign finance account. Obviously, he has a concern. I think there needs to be a thorough review of Senator Robertson’s record.”

A message left seeking comment from Robertson’s office was not returned today.

The package, Senate Bills 1248, 1249, 1250, 1251 and 1252, was adopted by the Senate earlier this month, and are now waiting to be taken up by the House. Should the legislation be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, oversight of campaign finance would shift from the secretary of state to a new panel made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.

Dave Robertson

Chris Thomas, the state’s former longtime Bureau of Elections director, previously told the Advance about his concerns with the proposal, saying he believes the panel would simply deadlock on key matters.

Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans has said, “Sen. Robertson’s goal was to set up an independent, bipartisan commission modeled after similar entities in 23 other states to have oversight over campaign finance rather than house that oversight in a single political office.”

Gleason, however, questions the timing of Robertson’s legislation, noting that he could have introduced similar bills at anytime during his time in the Senate, rather than as the state’s executive offices prepare to be occupied by Democrats.

“Our concern is that Robertson has been a scofflaw for years and nobody has interceded,” Gleason said today. “That’s why I think that Robertson is scared to death that Benson and [Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana] Nessel will hold him accountable.”

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.