Former Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield Among Tom Leonard’s Top Five Donors 

Chatfield’s major donations to Leonard’s unsuccessful 2018 bid for Attorney General made him the fourth-largest donor of the campaign.

LANSING — Michigan’s 2018 Attorney General race between Democrat Dana Nessel and Republican Tom Leonard was the most costly campaign for that office in the history of the state, as dark money flowed into GOP coffers. And in 2022, we may see history repeat itself.

In 2018, the AG’s race was projected to be one of the most competitive of the cycle — not just in Michigan, but across the country. So out-of-state actors hoping to sway the Michigan electorate poured over $4 million dollars into supporting one candidate or defaming another. That’s in addition to the over $2 million spent by each candidate on their own campaign.

The political special interests that invested in the 2018 race could not have been more different. Democrat Dana Nessel’s loudest advocates included grassroots organizations and a plethora of small-dollar donors, as well as labor unions, conservationists, civil rights activists, and Planned Parenthood. Republican Tom Leonard’s top donors were wealthy corporate lobbyists; organizations with values that are out of step with many Michigan residents, including Right to Life and the National Rifle Association; and Lee Chatfield’s political action committees.

“Leonard firmly planted himself in Chatfield’s corner four years ago,” Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said. “It’s not a stretch to think that Leonard would do everything in his power as Attorney General to protect his longtime supporter from legal consequences if he is found to have committed crimes.”

If nothing else, Chatfield’s donations to Leonard’s campaign present a clear conflict of interest disqualifying Leonard from participating in any legal cases involving Chatfield.

Instead of acting as the People’s Lawyer to protect his constituents from corrupt politicians, Barnes noted, Leonard would have to contract the work out to private firms — funded by taxpayer dollars — and would be at the mercy of their hourly billing rates, their level of competency, and their biases.

We saw what happened the last time an Attorney General was recused from a consequential lawsuit due to their ties to corrupt politicians involved in a statewide scandal: Bill Schuette’s Attorney General office slow-walked the Flint Water Crisis settlement for years before AG Nessel set up a satellite office in the city of Flint and delivered the largest settlement in state history to the survivors of lead poisoning.

“The bottom line is that Leonard is not a viable candidate for Attorney General,” Barnes said. “His conflict of interest regarding Chatfield disqualifies him from overseeing what could be one of the most crucial cases of the next AG term. We simply can’t afford to elect a candidate who must recuse himself from his duties on day one.


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