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AG Nessel Issues Formal Opinion on Questions Related to the Michigan Campaign Finance Act
October 04, 2023
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a formal opinion today concluding that a six-year statute of limitations applies to the collection of late filing fees and fines assessed under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA). The opinion also concluded that uncollectable, unpaid late fees assessed against a candidate must still be considered when determining whether a candidate is qualified to be on the ballot, and unpaid fines should not be removed from a committee’s record.
Senator Paul Wojno requested a formal opinion on four questions to help county clerks better understand how to properly handle outstanding, belated campaign finance fees and fines.
- Is there a statute of limitations applicable to the collection of late filing fees and fines assessed under the MCFA?
- If so, what is the limitation period?
- If there is a limitation period, should the filing official only consider late fees that are not barred by the statute of limitations for the purpose of determining whether a candidate was qualified to be on the ballot pursuant to MCL 168.558(4)?
- If there is a limitation period, should the assessed fines beyond the limitation be removed from the committee’s record?
On the questions concerning the statute of limitations, the Attorney General concluded that while neither the MCFA nor the Revised Judicature Act (RJA) contains a specific limitation period that would apply to the collection of late fees and fines assessed under the MCFA, in the absence of any directly applicable statutory period, the case law indicates that the six-year “catch-all” limitation period in the RJA applies.
The AG opinion goes on to discuss that there is a difference between collecting late fees and fines and how those late fees and fines should be considered for purposes of the MCFA. In particular, when it comes to late fees assessed against a candidate:
“The intent behind [the affidavit of identity requirement] is to ensure that a candidate is in full compliance with the MCFA when it comes to the filing of statements and reports and the payment of late fees and fines. And a candidate who failed to pay all late fees that had been imposed under the MCFA is not in full compliance with the Act. This is true regardless of whether those late filing fees are actually collectible.”
Similarly, there are also non-collection-related purposes for maintaining a record of a committee’s unpaid fines. For example, under the Secretary of State’s administrative rules, a committee cannot dissolve if it has outstanding debts, which would include unpaid fines, whether they are collectible or not. In light of such non-collection-related purposes, unpaid fines outside the statute of limitations should not be removed from a committee’s record.