Retiring senators still spending campaign cash despite not running for office

By M.L. Elrick
Fox 2 News Investigative Reporter

Michigan's Campaign Finance law has so many loopholes that a politician could drive a truck hauling office furniture through it. 

A joint Fox 2 News-Michigan Campaign Finance Network investigation reveals that the campaign funds of multiple state senators spent thousands of dollars on items like computers, phones, office décor and furniture years after the senators had run their last re-election campaign. Some campaign accounts paid retiring lawmakers thousands of dollars for expenses listed only as "credit card payment." The campaign fund of retired state Sen. Roger Kahn of Saginaw also paid him more than a thousand dollars for car repairs in 2014, his last year in office.

More recently, I caught up with former state Sen. Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township, whose campaign fund spent more than $3,000 on office décor and furniture in 2018, his last year in office. Brandenburg acknowledged that he still has the office furniture, which he keeps at his business. When I pointed out that he no longer has a campaign office, he told me he plans to donate the furniture to charity.

A spokesman for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says campaign finance law does not require lawmakers to dispose of property purchased with campaign funds when the lawmaker leaves office. Campaign finance experts tell me they advise their clients to either sell, donate or use their own money to purchase goods their campaign bought when they leave office. 

Most of the lawmakers we found whose campaign funds purchased goods during their final year in office declined to discuss those purchases or failed to return calls seeking comment.

Kahn hung up on me. And Brandenburg told me he was retired and didn't have to answer my questions.

So I spoke with a few of Brandenburg's former constituents in Harrison Township who were pumping gas at the Chillbox, where I caught up with Brandenburg after he refused to meet with me.

They said they believed lawmakers should donate goods purchased with campaign funds when the lawmaker leaves office, and that left over campaign cash should be returned to donors.

See what else they - and Brandenburg - have to say in my latest investigation for Fox 2 News.

Contact M.L. Elrick at or 248-552-5261. Follow him on Facebook at "ML Elrick," on Twitter @elrick or on Instagram at "ml_elrick." Check out his podcast "ML's Soul of Detroit" at on iTunes, Stitcher or other podcast hosting services.