Show me the (soft) money

About a dozen supporters of mayoral candidate Gil Hill let the punches fly Monday. Whether they land with any impact remains to be seen.

With their man placing a distant second in the mayoral primary, a handful of Hill backers, including the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, joined a group called “Detroiters for Full Disclosure” in front of the city-county building to demand that front-runner Kwame Kilpatrick reveal all contributors and expenditures related to his two Lansing-based political action funds.

Sheffield and others said concern about Kilpatrick’s campaign finances is genuine and not politically motivated. “It’s hard to fathom that he only raised $700,000,” said Sheffield, referring to the amount the state Democratic House leader reported to have raised and spent on his mayoral campaign as of Aug. 26. “And if money was spent on his campaign by other entities, that should be disclosed as well. We’re talking about whether or not we can trust him.”

Meanwhile, a couple men who said they were on Hill’s campaign committee carried signs demanding, “Show me the $$,” and accusing Kilpatrick of “stealing” from the homeless. The latter was in reference to recent reports in the Detroit Free Press that Kilpatrick solicited $50,000 from the head of a tax-funded homeless shelter for his get-out-the-vote Kilpatrick Civic Fund. Kilpatrick has said that he didn’t realize the man was paid by the city to run the nonprofit shelter and was only told the fella was loaded. In further defending himself publicly, Kilpatrick joked that, if he could, he would have asked Mother Teresa for donations. The humor didn’t go over well with some of Monday’s protesters. “That’s a rather smart-alecky answer, and this is a serious issue,” said Theo Broughton, a west-side Detroit resident and longtime community activist.

Kilpatrick was adamant with Metro Times on this issue. One of his political funds was used to encourage folks to vote for president and state legislative offices in the 2000 election. The other was used for Democratic Caucus organizing efforts, he said. “By law, not a penny of the money that’s gone into those funds has gone into this campaign,” Kilpatrick said, referring to the mayoral contest. “That did not happen, and we would never allow that to happen. It will not. It cannot. And it has never done that.”

According to the Kilpatrick campaign, if people have a problem with campaign finance law, they oughta look to change it instead of persecuting Kilpatrick for doing what most politicians — including Republican Gov. John Engler — do to help their party win at the polls. That’s not a bad idea. These nonprofit funds allow both individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money without being required to reveal those contributors to the general public. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the public really cares. “I think 50 percent of the voters spoke about how they feel on this,” Kilpatrick said after a recent public appearance. We’ll see on Election Day.

Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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