Ex-Michigan House Leader Chatfiel & Wife Arrested For Funds Misuse

Michigan’s former leader of the state House as well as his wife have been charged by prosecutors with various financial crimes.

On Tuesday, prosecutors handed down the charges, which alleged that they milked some political accounts for personal benefits, including housing and travel. While all this was going on, Republican Lee Catfield raised millions of dollars in his powerful position.

Dana Nessel, MIchigan’s Attorney General, said this week that Chatfield misused political funds, including what was known as the Peninsula Fund. That fund wasn’t required to report any of the names of its donors and, according to Nessel, essentially served as his “unregulated slush fund.”

In addition, Nessel said that the money stealing operation was a full family affair. Chatfield’s wife Stephanie is alleged to have monitored the balance on her husband’s credit card and then paid it off. Over 14 months, Nessel said Stephanie took $132,000 from the Peninsula Fund to cover that credit card.

Nessel also said that Chatfield involved his brother, who cashed a check worth $5,000 in 2020 from one political fund, and then returned $3,500 to his brother before they went on vacation.

In all, Nessel said that Chatfield’s different political funds raked in more than $5 million in a six-year period. That includes more than $2 million during 2020, which was the last year that he served as speaker of the state House.

As Nessel explained:

“To call him, as many have, a prodigious fundraiser would not be an exaggeration.”

Chatfield is facing 13 total criminal charges, which include embezzlement and conducting a criminal enterprise. That latter charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.

Mary Chartier, who’s serving as the attorney for Chatfield, said her client will fight each of these charges “each and every step of the way.” She said:

“It took almost two-and-a-half years for the AG’s office to come up with charges. It’s going to be pretty flimsy if it took that long.”

For her part in the scheme, Stephanie Chatfield has been charged with embezzlement. Her attorney, Matt Newburg, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment from various news sources.

According to Nessel, there have been many “dark money” political funds that have made their way into Michigan. The Peninsula Fund, for instance, was organized according to a federal law that made it a “social welfare organization” and therefore exempt from taxes.

As the attorney general said:

“The Michigan Campaign Finance Act is effectively toothless, useless and utterly worthless as a deterrent to these crimes. The misuse of social welfare funds is not a new practice in Lansing.

“And while Lee Chatfield may have exploited the system a little bit more than others, no one political party alone has perverted or abused it.”

In the wake of these charges, many politicians in Michigan have also called for financial disclosure laws in the state to be expanded.

The investigation into these charges started in 2022 after Chatfield’s sister-in-law publicly accused him of assault. The former state House speaker denied those allegations, saying instead that the couple had a consensual affair.

Eventually, investigators expanded their case beyond just those claims.