Where’s the check?

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Way back in September, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office decreed that something called the Vision 05 Political Action Committee would have to ask the Kilpatrick mayoral campaign to return $20,000 in illegal donations. In an Oct. 5 letter, PAC treasurer Todd Bettison, a Detroit police commander, told the state that his outfit had duly informed campaign officials they needed to cough up a refund.

Since then? Nada.

Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, says her office hasn’t received any more communication, much less a canceled check, from Bettison.

Kilpatrick campaign spokesman Bob Berg (who made a habit this summer of not returning calls about Vision 05) said Monday that he wasn’t familiar with the Vision 05 situation. Berg said he’d check with the campaign’s finance guys, but wasn’t able to get us the information by News Hits’ Monday deadline.

Bettison stopped returning our calls a long time ago, so we couldn’t ask him what the holdup is.

In the meantime, the election has passed. And though $20,000 is just a drop in the bucket of the Kilpatrick campaign war chest, Michigan Campaign Finance Network Director Rich Robinson says that’s not the point.

The Vision 05 situation, Robinson says, illustrates the need for reform of Michigan’s campaign finance laws.

“We don’t have rule of law, we have enforcement by whim,” Robinson says.

A reluctance to punish culprits is only one problem. Catching campaign scofflaws in the first place is apparently another nonpriority for the state’s toothless watchdogs. In this case, it was Metro Times that discovered the violation. Robinson suggests the state needs to start auditing campaign finance statements.

“If that’s hanging over your head, it may provide some incentive to be honest in your reporting,” Robinson says. “Because right now, the way the law is written, there’s not much incentive to be honest.”

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]

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