Bieda Files Bingo License Complaint with Michigan Lottery Bureau Against Democratic Club

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The Philip A. Hart Democratic Club, which Is Affiliated with the Michigan Democratic Party, Has ‘Made a Mockery’ of the Traxler-McCauley-Law-Bowman Bingo Act

WARREN, MI — State Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren) today filed a complaint with the Michigan Lottery Bureau against the Mount Clemens-based Philip A. Hart Democratic Club, which is affiliated with the Michigan Democratic Party.

Bieda is a candidate for the open Macomb County Clerk and Register of Deeds position. The Philip A. Hart Democratic Club has been heavily involved in the race, paying for a two factually inaccurate hit pieces against Bieda, a fellow Democrat who has represented Macomb County for almost 14 years in the Michigan Legislature and was named “Michigan Democrat of the Year” in 2017 by MIRS News. The Philip A. Hart Club has paid for positive newspaper and mail advertising for another County Clerk candidate, Fred Miller.

The Philip A. Hart Democratic Club, which is a federal political action committee (PAC), has a state bingo license issued under the Traxler-McCauley-Law-Bowman Bingo Act.

The Michigan Lottery Bureau suspended the bingo license of the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club in 2016. The club was also placed on probation in 2014. Crain’s Detroit Business reported that “reasons for suspensions included shortages in proceeds, calculation errors, and incomplete worker pay records, among others.”

Bieda’s complaint states that the Act prescribes that licenses shall only be issued to a ‘qualified organization’, meaning, “a bona fide religious, educational, service, senior citizens, fraternal, or veterans' organization that operates without profit to its members and that either has been in existence continuously as an organization for a period of 5 years or is exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the internal revenue code of 1986, 26 USC 501.”

The Legislature intended to restrict the class of qualified organizations to those which promote the public welfare in some tangible manner. The Act also provides that a qualified organization may not be a ‘committee’ under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, illustrating the Legislature’s desire that proceeds from games regulated under the Act be used for charitable rather than political purposes.

The complaint asks the Bureau to “look beyond the legal façade that has been carefully crafted by the organization’s founders, and to carefully review the true activities of the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club to ascertain whether the committee is indeed a bona fide (in good faith) qualified organization whose activities truly reflect the spirit of the law.”

“The Philip A. Hart Democratic Club has made a mockery of the Act by using funds derived from bingo games to finance blatantly political advertising. The club has also made a mockery of the good name of Senator Philip Hart, who was a Michigan treasure and was considered the ‘conscience of the Senate.’ As the author of the only major piece of ethics legislation to be signed into Michigan law in the last decade, I am appalled by the Philip A. Hart Club’s tactics and had no choice but to ask the Michigan Lottery Bureau to review its bingo license,” said Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren).

Bieda, a longtime attorney with a specialty in tax law, won legislation in 2008 requiring politicians to disclose donors for their legal defense funds, following former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s corruption scandal. Bieda has also been a leader on campaign finance reform and has fought back against Republican legislation weakening the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and government transparency. He will be filing a campaign finance complaint with the Secretary of State.

“Michiganders do not want more money in politics, but the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club has taken advantage of Michigan’s lax campaign finance laws. As a result, the club’s advertising attacking me and supporting one of my opponents may not violate Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act on extremely narrow, technical grounds, but that will be up to the Secretary of State to decide. This only shows why we need comprehensive campaign finance reform in Michigan, something I will never stop fighting for,” said Bieda.  

In a news report on Friday, Michigan Democratic Party chairman Brandon Dillon told WDIV-TV that “he finds it bad form that some Democratic Party clubs in Macomb, specifically the Phil Hart Club are funding attack mailers against fellow Democrats.

“We need to be building Democrats up, not tearing each other down," Dillon told WDIV.

Steve Bieda