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Campaign finance bill would set minimum fine for violations

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Michigan legislators have introduced a bill to increase fines on campaign finance violations. House Bill 4703 would set a minimum fine of 25% of the money illegally spent for violations.

For example, if a $1 million campaign ad violates the law, the bill would require the candidate pay $250,000 for the fine. Currently, the Secretary of State can decide the fine for campaign finance violations.

State Representative Lynn Afendoulis (R-Grand Rapids) introduced the bill. She says, “The bill that I have proposed does not set a ceiling, it just sets a floor.”

"If I thought a fine was going to be so low, I might simply build it into my budget and continue the violation if I were so inclined. So, I want to create a law that makes sure that there is teeth in that and there is a disincentive."

The bill has bipartisan support.

"I think accountability is something that many of us in the House are focused on, whether you're a Democrat or Republican - it's not a partisan issue. This is an issue of ethics and accountability, and people on both sides of the aisle are interested in that," Afendoulis says.

She says he 25% minimum was chosen “not terribly scientifically." 

"We talked to a number of people and just tried to determine what might have actual teeth, what might inflict a little bit of pain for a violation like that," says Afendoulis. "And there was broad agreement that 25% was a good number.”

She says past fines for violations of Michigan’s campaign finance laws have been insignificant and ineffective. 

The bill has been referred to Committee on Elections and Ethics, and Afendoulis hopes it gets a hearing as soon as possible.

In a statement, the Secretary of State says she hasn't taken a position on this specific bill.

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