Leaders of two of three demolition companies who were reportedly afforded "uncommon accommodations" as they secured most of the work early into Detroit's blight-busting initiative donated thousands of dollars to Mayor Mike Duggan, campaign finance records show.
The companies— Adamo, MCM Management and Homrich— were among four that attended an invitation-only pre-bid meeting in 2014, as the city was beginning its ambitious effort to demolish thousands of blighted homes with federal Hardest Hit funding. That program is now the subject of a federal investigation, with the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and FBI looking into bidding practices and the rising cost of demolitions under Duggan. Recently-released subpoenas issued by SIGTARP to the Detroit Land Bank and Detroit Building Authority requested communications pertaining to the three companies and others.
The bulk of those campaign contributions came before Duggan was elected mayor, but the final, $3,400 contribution from an MCM executive came in December of 2014 — the same day the city announced the second round of federal money for blight elimination, according to Land Bank spokesman Craig Fahle. The city had by then ended its work with MCM due to performance problems.
The now-deceased head of Detroit-based Adamo, meanwhile, donated more than $5,600 to Duggan’s campaign committee between June of 2013 and April of 2015. Duggan was the only Detroit mayoral candidate to which campaign finance records show the Bloomfield Hills resident ever contributed.
Only one of the other eight companies the city worked with early on gave such sums to the mayor. Four people who work for Jenkins Construction had, as of October of 2015, donated approximately $8,000 to the mayor's campaign committee. Jenkins received little demolition work when compared with Adamo, Homrich and MCM — which together received three-quarters of more than $50-million in contracts covered by the first round of HHF money. Jenkins told the Free Press in 2015 that it focuses on general contracting and was not at the time working on demolitions.
Executives from Homrich and a fourth, mid-Michigan company that was also invited to the pre-bid meeting never contributed to Duggan. The city says the four contractors were selected because they had the capacity to handle a large number of demolitions in a short amount of time.
Still, the donations from MCM and Adamo give campaign finance watchdogs pause.
"I don't think donors give money for selfless reasons," said Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) board member Rich Robinson. “You have to ask what the real interest is. They're not constituents, they're business constituents and ... citizens and voters ought to be wondering what kind of consideration is given for contributions like that.”
Duggan Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley says none, pointing to the fact that companies that never donated to the mayor were invited to the pre-bid meeting. She also notes that MCM demolished its last house for the city in October of 2014, two months before it gave the mayor an additional $3,400.
But at the very least, MCFN Executive Director Craig Mauger says the donations "point to the greater problem that we have in Michigan, of entities and executives in corporations that are seeking contracts being able to give campaign money to people who can potentially influence who gets contracts."
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