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For some Michigan politicians, 'leadership PACs' pay for high-end expenses

headshots of Michigan members of congress
Wikimedia Commons
Jodi Westrick
Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township), and Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) (l-r) have used leadership PACs to fund things like baseball outings, ski trips, and stays at five-star hotels.

You have to spend money to make money ... or so the old saying goes. Most members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation are spending tens, and sometimes, hundreds of thousands of dollars through their political action committees on things like five-star hotels and baseball tickets. The politicians say it’s to help with fundraising. 

Melissa Nann Burke is the Washington Bureau reporter for the Detroit News. She spoke to Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Doug Tribou about her story, "Baseball tickets, ski trips: How Michigan lawmakers use little-known PACs."

Leadership PACs allow politicians to support campaigns of other candidates. These PACs can also spend money in ways campaigns cannot under federal law.

Some of the figures from the Detroit News report: 

  • TRUST PAC, the leadership PAC for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) spent more than $4,600 on Chicago Cubs tickets, $20,000 at the five-star Peninsula Hotel, $3,200 for baseball memorabilia, and $6,200 at a Chicago steakhouse.
  • Over the last two years, the leadership PAC supporting U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) spent more than $30,000 for an annual event at Crystal Mountain Resort in northwestern Michigan.
  • U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) spent more than $11,000 on Detroit Tigers tickets as part of fundraisers through his Motor City PAC. 
  • U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) billed almost $12,000 for a trip to Vail, Colorado, including ski lessons and snowmobile rentals to his leadership PAC, Together United for Liberty & Prosperity (TULIP) PAC. 
Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Public staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
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