The Vision 05 political action committee has filed its long overdue financial reports, but its not out of the woods yet the PACs reports raise almost as many questions as they answer.
PACs are formed so special interest groups can support favored candidates. Metro Times reported two weeks ago that this one (which has supported Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to the tune of $24,500) had failed to qualify to donate that much money, which means the Kwamster may have to return a pretty hefty chunk of change.
But thats not the only problem. By failing to file financial reports for more than a year, Vision 05 effectively prevented the Secretary of State, the media and the public from finding out who was giving money to the PAC, and who was getting it. Michigans campaign finance disclosure laws are designed to show the flow of money from donors to candidates. Both candidates and PACs are required to file reports three times a year, showing details about donations, contributions and expenses. Regulatory oversight and public scrutiny are supposed to keep campaign finance on the up-and-up.
Examining Vision 05s finance reports makes it apparent why such matters should be public record.
The PAC is headed by recently promoted Detroit Police Cmdr. Todd Bettison, who filed the reports Sept. 1 about two weeks after Bettison learned Metro Times was working on a story about Vision 05.
The Secretary of States review of Bettisons initial reports wasnt good. Among the problems cited: Bettison accepted a total of $8,750 from four corporations. Corporate donations are a no-no. A fifth company, Pterodactyl, gave $8,500 to the PAC. Problem is, as far as we can tell, it isnt legally registered to do business in Michigan.
Vision 05 also failed to qualify as an independent PAC, which is allowed to donate up to $34,000 to a candidate; political PACs are limited to $3,400. (To qualify as an independent, a PAC must have 25 members and support three candidates in a calendar year.) On top of that, Vision 05 was operating as a PAC and took in $17,000 in donations last July before it registered with the state. That didnt happen until October.
Bettison filed amendments to his original finance reports on Friday. Secretary of State spokeswoman Kelly Chesney says theyre under review.
The question remains whether Kwame, whose fundraising efforts havent been up to snuff in this campaign, will be able to keep the $24,500 Vision 05 has given him or if Vision 05 will be able to keep donations it wasnt supposed to accept.
Its not looking good for either.
News Hits didnt see anything in the amended reports that would make that $8,750 in donations from four of the corporations acceptable. Nor is any information given about the mysterious Pterodactyl, whose registration to do business in Wayne County expired last year. News Hits was unsuccessful in tracking down anyone from Pterodactyl Co.
If its shown that the $8,500 from Pterodactyl represents a group donation, Chesney says those contributors would be required to organize as a political action committee itself, complete with campaign finance statements.
Vision 05s amended reports show the PAC donated $500 to City Council candidate Jai-Lee Dearings campaign. If thats true (Metro Times review of Dearings July 22 filing didnt show a Vision 05 donation), the PAC would still fall one candidate short of the three needed to qualify for independent status.
If the state rules that the PAC over-donated to the mayor, Kilpatrick will have to return some $20,000 to Vision 05. That could come in handy for the PAC if it has to return almost that much to corporate donors.
And then theres the matter of Bettison. Vision 05 is racking up fines and fees with the Secretary of State. Campaign finance watchdogs say some PACs consider fines (which max out at $1,000 for each violation) the cost of doing business. But when a PAC is losing water the way Vision 05 is, a half-dozen $1,000 fines may be the nail in the coffin.
That would be bad news for Bettison, who could be held liable for the fines.
Bettison told Metro Times he got involved because someone asked him to serve as the PACs treasurer, but he refused to say who.
In its original statement of organization, a second address was registered to a Cleansing Springs Missionary Baptist Church, whose pastor is Ralph Godbee. Godbee didnt return calls seeking more information about the PACs origins. An amended statement of organization, filed Aug. 24, removed the Cleansing Springs address.
Bettison, 34, was promoted to commander on Sept. 1. Its an appointed position, one made by the police chief, who is appointed by the mayor. Bettison is currently assigned to the citys Super Bowl Planning Office, but hes held a variety of jobs in the department, including head of the departments fleet (before the Navigator scandal) and, briefly, he was the top man at the 8th Precinct.
Bettison says he knows it looks bad that he was promoted soon after funneling a healthy infusion of cash into the mayors lagging campaign war chest, but the 12-year department veteran says he got his promotion on merit.
When I tested for sergeant, I wrote the highest test score, Bettison says. When I tested for lieutenant, I wrote the highest test score.
That doesnt explain how he dropped the ball on the Vision 05 PAC. He claims his mistakes come from ignorance, not malfeasance. He says he didnt realize he had to file triannual reports: I didnt read the fine print.
Now its being read for him.Send comments to NewsHits@metrotimes.com