Leonard’s 2018 whirlwind lobbying junket to London suggests he’s too mired in a similar scandal to bring former Republican Speaker of the House to justice

LANSING —  “The former Republican Michigan Speaker of the House is under investigation for alleged sexual and financial misconduct, the full extent of which is still coming to light. Like a fox guarding the hen house, Leonard, also a Republican, is the last person voters should expect to hold the former Speaker accountable for his abuse of public trust and financial resources,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes.

The former Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield’s unusually prodigious fundraising techniques over the past five years are now the target of a a joint investigation by state and federal law enforcement agencies.

“We always knew there was something fishy about his fundraising methods,” Barnes said. “He managed to garner five times more donations than the next-highest fundraiser, and Lansing’s GOP leadership simply celebrated it without question. Now we know that his massive campaign haul may have been tainted by illegal conduct.” 

“Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan State Police are investigating allegations that Chatfield misused funds to help restore legitimacy to our state government,” Barnes added.

“Whether alleged misuse of campaign and taxpayer funds has been committed by a Republican or a Democrat, Attorney General Dana Nessel will investigate and go where the facts take her,” she said.

Republican Attorney General candidate Tom Leonard has a sketchy financial history of his own. During his time as Michigan House Speaker immediately preceding Chatfield’s term, Leonard went on a free trip to London where he and other lawmakers met with lobbyists under the guise of an “educational retreat.

Leonard’s Speaker counterpart from Ohio, who also participated in the London junket, resigned a year later after an FBI investigation into his travel unearthed a history of questionable interactions with lobbyists. Leonard was able to duck accountability thanks in part to Michigan’s weak regulatory statutes governing campaign finances and lobbying.

After the smoke settled on that scandal, Leonard launched an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Attorney General’s office in 2018. He was aided by over $70,000 in donations from Chatfield’s slew of PACs, but he still could not convince the Michigan electorate that he could be trusted with the job.

“Who do you want defending the rule of law in our state? Personally, I want an Attorney General who abides by the law,” Barnes said. “Anyone who must conceal aspects of their own career should not be put in charge of investigating others. To leave the potential prosecution of Chatfield’s wrongdoing in his buddy Tom Leonard’s hands would be a huge disservice to Michigan residents.”


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