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Former Ingham County Commissioner Dennis Louney received a $100 fine following allegations he broke campaign finance law by misusing his county email address to promote his unsuccessful primary reelection campaign.
Michigan’s Secretary of State Office entered into an agreement last month with Louney, an incumbent candidate. It ordered he pay a $100 civil fine. He was accused last year of using his taxpayer-funded county email address to solicit donations and endorsements, promote fundraisers and form campaign strategies ahead of last August’s primary election.
The agreement neither confirms nor denies that Louney’s actions violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, but it settles the matter. Louney faced pressure to resign last year after the allegations first surfaced. He left the board in August and later lost his mayoral appointment to the Lansing Board of Water & Light. Mayor Andy Schor cited Louney’s alleged misdeed in his decision.
Michigan’s Bureau of Elections completed its investigation in January, entering into the “conciliation agreement” early that month. The agreement notes that the Secretary of State’s Office “alleges there may be a reason to believe Louney broke the law” following reports filed directly to the state by Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum.
Byrum said she offered details “on a silver platter” to state officials. Among them were reports uncovered in the probe that showed Louney emailed officials at Sparrow Health System for input regarding his primary campaign and to discuss an opponent’s “strange” behavior. Dozens more also showed Louney had contacted various local labor unions to discuss endorsements and his then-upcoming fundraising efforts.
One email to officials at Lansing Community College sought to discuss how upcoming budget conversations could have best represented the college’s financial interests. Louney asked for an endorsement in the same message — all sent from an email address provided by the county and funded through taxpayer-funded coffers.
Campaign finance law expressly forbids the use of those resources to further a political campaign.
“It seems typical for the secretary of state to have set such a fine,” Byrum said on Thursday.
Byrum has subsequently requested the state provide restitution to the county, representing the value of Louney’s “misused county resources.” A spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office said the case has been closed. He also noted the value likely would have amounted to less than a dollar regardless.
“Candidly, it’s likely an insignificant amount but it’s more about the principle,” Byrum added. “Those were Ingham County taxpayer resources that covered any of the costs on this.”