Former Michigan House Speaker And Wife Charged With Misusing Political Funds

( – In a press conference on Wednesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that the former Republican speaker of the state House and his wife had been charged with financial crimes for allegedly embezzling from political accounts for personal use, the Associated Press reported.

Former Speaker Lee Chatfield used various funds, including his “unregulated slush fund” the Peninsula Fund, which did not have to report the names of its donors, Nessel said.

According to the attorney general, Chatfield’s wife Stephanie paid off her husband’s credit card balance using cash from the Peninsula Fund, paying $132,000 over the course of 14 months.

Chatfield’s brother also benefited from the political funds.

According to Nessel, in 2020, the former speaker’s brother cashed a check for $5,000 written from the fund. From that, he paid Lee Chatfield $3,500 shortly before a vacation.

An April 16 press release from the attorney general’s office said Chatfield was charged with 13 counts, including embezzlement by a public officer, conducting a criminal enterprise, and conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

Stephanie Chatfield was also charged with embezzlement and conspiracy to commit embezzlement.

The former speaker’s attorney Mary Chartier told the Associated Press that she planned to vigorously fight the charges. She noted that it took Nessel’s office nearly two and a half years to “come up with charges” against her client.

In her press conference, Nessel decried the proliferation of “dark money” in politics and said the state’s Campaign Finance Act was “effectively toothless” in deterring these types of crimes.

Nessel said misuse of tax-exempt social welfare organizations like Chatfield’s Peninsula Fund was not new in Lansing and had been “perverted or abused” by politicians from both political parties.

The investigation into the Chatfields began in 2022 after his sister-in-law accused the former speaker of assaulting her.

Chatfield denied the allegations, saying the two had engaged in a consensual affair.

Investigators eventually expanded their probe beyond the sister-in-law’s allegations, uncovering the alleged misuse of funds.

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