The Michigan Republican Party — chaired by University of Michigan regent Ron Weiser — filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District on Monday in an attempt to block Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s exemption from traditional campaign donation limits, a practice which has already allowed her to raise record amounts for her expected re-election campaign in 2022.
Current Michigan law allows officials to accept unlimited donations if they are the subject of recall efforts, following a 1984 administrative ruling. This ruling said that when facing a recall, donation limits do not apply to allow candidates to match the fundraising ability of recall committees.
Though none of the recall efforts were successful, approximately 30 petitions aiming to recall Whitmer have been filed with the Board of Canvassers since January 2020.
As a result, Whitmer has received several individual contributions that far exceed the traditional limit of $7,150 and set an overall fundraising record of $8.6 million since the beginning of the year, according to a July 2021 filing.
The Michigan GOP named Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who is responsible for state campaign finance and election laws, as a defendant in the lawsuit.
The GOP made the argument that by barring individuals from making similar donations to Whitmer’s GOP challengers, Benson is violating the rights of all Republican donors and engaging in “viewpoint discrimination.”
The lawsuit claims the constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under the law are violated by the lack of donation limits to Whitmer’s campaign.
There are currently 10 Republican candidates who have declared their intention to run for governor in 2022, most notably former Detroit police chief James Craig and conservative commentator Tudor Dixon.
Weiser and the Michigan Republican party have previously been subject to campaign finance controversy after it was revealed that Weiser used party funds to pay former Secretary of State candidate Stan Grot $200,000 to allegedly exit the campaign, violating the state’s campaign finance laws.
Whitmer and Benson did not immediately issue a public response to the lawsuit. The University of Michigan’s chapters of College Democrats and College Republicans declined The Daily’s request for comment.
This story has been updated to reflect College Democrats’ response to The Daily