Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently issued a formal opinion regarding the statute of limitations for the collection of late filing fees and fines assessed under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act (MCFA). The opinion also addressed the treatment of unpaid fees and fines when determining a candidate’s eligibility for the ballot and the status of a committee’s record.
The opinion was issued in response to a request from Senator Paul Wojno, who sought clarification on how county clerks should handle outstanding campaign finance fees and fines. Four specific questions were put forth in the request:
1. Is there a statute of limitations applicable to the collection of late filing fees and fines assessed under the MCFA?
2. If so, what is the limitation period?
3. Should the filing official only consider late fees that are not barred by the statute of limitations when determining a candidate’s eligibility for the ballot?
4. Should fines beyond the limitation period be removed from the committee’s record?
Regarding the statute of limitations, the Attorney General concluded that neither the MCFA nor the Revised Judicature Act (RJA) contains a specific limitation period for the collection of late fees and fines under the MCFA. However, in the absence of a directly applicable statutory period, the six-year “catch-all” limitation period in the RJA should apply based on case law.
The opinion further delves into the distinction between collecting late fees and fines and how they should be considered under the MCFA. The intent behind the affidavit of identity requirement is to ensure candidates’ full compliance with the MCFA, including the filing of statements and reports and the payment of late fees and fines. Therefore, a candidate who has failed to pay all late fees imposed under the MCFA is not regarded as being in full compliance, regardless of the collectability of those fees.
Additionally, the opinion highlights non-collection-related purposes for maintaining a record of a committee’s unpaid fines. Administrative rules set by the Secretary of State state that a committee cannot dissolve if it has outstanding debts, which include unpaid fines, regardless of their collectability. Therefore, fines outside the statute of limitations should not be removed from a committee’s record.
The full opinion can be accessed on the Michigan Attorney General’s website for those seeking a more detailed understanding of the conclusions reached.
In conclusion, the Attorney General’s opinion provides clarity on the statute of limitations applicable to late filing fees and fines assessed under the MCFA. It emphasizes that unpaid fees and fines should still be considered when determining a candidate’s eligibility for the ballot and should not be removed from a committee’s record, even if they are uncollectable. By issuing this opinion, the Michigan Attorney General aims to support county clerks in properly handling outstanding campaign finance fees and fines.