PAC files financials — but it doesn’t look pretty 

The Vision 05 political action committee has filed its long overdue financial reports, but it’s not out of the woods yet — the PAC’s reports raise almost as many questions as they answer.

PACs are formed so special interest groups can support favored candidates. Metro Times reported two weeks ago that this one (which has supported Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to the tune of $24,500) had failed to qualify to donate that much money, which means the Kwamster may have to return a pretty hefty chunk of change.

But that’s not the only problem. By failing to file financial reports for more than a year, Vision 05 effectively prevented the Secretary of State, the media and the public from finding out who was giving money to the PAC, and who was getting it. Michigan’s campaign finance disclosure laws are designed to show the flow of money from donors to candidates. Both candidates and PACs are required to file reports three times a year, showing details about donations, contributions and expenses. Regulatory oversight and public scrutiny are supposed to keep campaign finance on the up-and-up.

Examining Vision 05’s finance reports makes it apparent why such matters should be public record.

The PAC is headed by recently promoted Detroit Police Cmdr. Todd Bettison, who filed the reports Sept. 1 — about two weeks after Bettison learned Metro Times was working on a story about Vision 05.

The Secretary of State’s review of Bettison’s initial reports wasn’t good. Among the problems cited: Bettison accepted a total of $8,750 from four corporations. Corporate donations are a no-no. A fifth company, Pterodactyl, gave $8,500 to the PAC. Problem is, as far as we can tell, it isn’t legally registered to do business in Michigan.

Vision 05 also failed to qualify as an independent PAC, which is allowed to donate up to $34,000 to a candidate; political PACs are limited to $3,400. (To qualify as an independent, a PAC must have 25 members and support three candidates in a calendar year.) On top of that, Vision 05 was operating as a PAC — and took in $17,000 in donations last July — before it registered with the state. That didn’t happen until October.

Bettison filed amendments to his original finance reports on Friday. Secretary of State spokeswoman Kelly Chesney says they’re under review.

The question remains whether Kwame, whose fundraising efforts haven’t been up to snuff in this campaign, will be able to keep the $24,500 Vision 05 has given him — or if Vision 05 will be able to keep donations it wasn’t supposed to accept.

It’s not looking good for either.

News Hits didn’t see anything in the amended reports that would make that $8,750 in donations from four of the corporations acceptable. Nor is any information given about the mysterious Pterodactyl, whose registration to do business in Wayne County expired last year. News Hits was unsuccessful in tracking down anyone from Pterodactyl Co.

If it’s shown that the $8,500 from Pterodactyl represents a group donation, Chesney says those contributors would be required to organize as a political action committee itself, complete with campaign finance statements.

Vision 05’s amended reports show the PAC donated $500 to City Council candidate Jai-Lee Dearing’s campaign. If that’s true (Metro Times’ review of Dearing’s July 22 filing didn’t show a Vision 05 donation), the PAC would still fall one candidate short of the three needed to qualify for independent status.

If the state rules that the PAC over-donated to the mayor, Kilpatrick will have to return some $20,000 to Vision 05. That could come in handy for the PAC if it has to return almost that much to corporate donors.

And then there’s the matter of Bettison. Vision 05 is racking up fines and fees with the Secretary of State. Campaign finance watchdogs say some PACs consider fines (which max out at $1,000 for each violation) the cost of doing business. But when a PAC is losing water the way Vision 05 is, a half-dozen $1,000 fines may be the nail in the coffin.

That would be bad news for Bettison, who could be held liable for the fines.

Bettison told Metro Times he got involved because someone asked him to serve as the PAC’s treasurer, but he refused to say who.

In its original statement of organization, a second address was registered to a Cleansing Springs Missionary Baptist Church, whose pastor is Ralph Godbee. Godbee didn’t return calls seeking more information about the PAC’s origins. An amended statement of organization, filed Aug. 24, removed the Cleansing Springs address.

Bettison, 34, was promoted to commander on Sept. 1. It’s an appointed position, one made by the police chief, who is appointed by the mayor. Bettison is currently assigned to the city’s Super Bowl Planning Office, but he’s held a variety of jobs in the department, including head of the department’s fleet (before the Navigator scandal) and, briefly, he was the top man at the 8th Precinct.

Bettison says he knows it looks bad that he was promoted soon after funneling a healthy infusion of cash into the mayor’s lagging campaign war chest, but the 12-year department veteran says he got his promotion on merit.

“When I tested for sergeant, I wrote the highest test score,” Bettison says. “When I tested for lieutenant, I wrote the highest test score.”

That doesn’t explain how he dropped the ball on the Vision 05 PAC. He claims his mistakes come from ignorance, not malfeasance. He says he didn’t realize he had to file triannual reports: “I didn’t read the fine print.”

Now it’s being read for him.

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