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Mayoral Dropout Virg Bernero Has $73K Left In His Campaign Coffers. What Can He Do With The Money?

Former Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero appears in a file photo.
Courtesy of Virg Bernero for Lansing
Virg Bernero speaking in front of a screen that reads, "Lansing Strong!" with an outline of the Capitol building

The Democratic politician has several options available to him under Michigan law.

Virg Bernero dropped out of the race for Lansing mayor this spring after facing multiple sexual harassment allegations, but he still has more than $73,000 left in his campaign coffers.

Although Bernero did not respond to questions about his plans for the leftover cash, he has several options under Michigan law.

Donate, Return The Money Or Pay Down Debts

The 57-year-old politician could pay down outstanding campaign debts and then donate money to a nonprofit or nonprofits of his choice. Other options include giving money back to donors or contributing to other political candidates by purchasing fundraising tickets of up to $100, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said.

After zeroing out his balance, Bernero could dissolve the account, or the Lansing Democrat could keep the money sitting in the bank and use it to run again for mayor or for a higher political office.

Bernero was Lansing’s mayor from 2006 through 2017. He’s been using the “Virg Bernero for Lansing” fundraising account since May 2003, which was early in his first and only term as a state senator.

What Campaign Reports Say About His Fundraising And Spending

The committee took in $114,603 during 2020 and the start of 2021, according to its most recent campaign finance reports. That’s on top of the $18,468 balance the account had left over at the end of 2019.

Bernero spent all but $73,339 of that money on expenses like printing, advertising, research and consulting, according to the committee’s most recent quarterly report filed this summer.

He also used some of his campaign war chest to pay $902 in fines to the Ingham County clerk for filing campaign finance reports late, his latest report shows.

Bernero dropped out of the 2021 mayor’s race on April 18, the day before MLive published an article detailingon-the-record sexual harassment allegationsagainst him.

But before he withdrew, Bernero got an early start on fundraising. His campaign raked in $82,025 in between Oct. 20 and Dec. 31, 2020 — when Bernero was hinting at his candidacy, but before he officially announced his reelection campaign in early 2021.

The biggest contribution during that period was a $50,000 loan from Bernero and his wife. Bernero has used his campaign committee to pay back $40,000 from that loan. He has yet to pay himself back for a separate $1,500 loan to his own campaign. That means Bernero’s campaign has $11,500 in outstanding debts to Bernero himself, according to the latest report.

What's Left In The Campaign Coffers For Other Former Lansing Mayoral Candidates

Lansing’s current mayor Andy Schor and City Council Member Kathie Dunbar are competing in November for a four-year term as Lansing’s next mayor after winning the primary election in August.

Patricia Spitzley, another City Council member, came in third place and got knocked out of that primary. Prior to the election,she reported a balance of only $3,271 left in her account.

Fourth-place finisher Farhan Sheikh-Omar reported an ending balance of just $356 heading into the primary.

Candidates Larry Hutchinson, Jr. and Melissa Huber, who also lost the mayoral primary, did not file campaign finance reports because they said they took in less than $1,000 in donations.

Primary candidates have to file another report by Sept. 2 detailing post-election spending.

Sarah Lehr is a politics and civics reporter for WKAR News.
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