Bingo Remains Potent Dem Fundraising Tool

After word was released that the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) would be paying the Federal Election Commission (FED) a $500,000 fine for shoddy bingo fundraising bookkeeping practices, the party asserted that the fundraising was a practice of former chair MarkBREWER, and was stopped once new leadership -- namely, LonJOHNSON-- began running the party (See"Bungled Bingo Bookkeeping Practices New Dems A $500,000 Fine,"6/9/17).

But that may not be exactly true.

Instead, an investigation byMIRSindicates that the bingo games have been instead spun off to political organizations closely linked to MDP and headed by prominent Democratic officials.

And the organizations, including the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club, Oakland County Democratic Party, and the Macomb County Democratic Committee, have racked up numerous state charitable gaming violations in recent years, while continuing to feed money to MDP from the events in the form of rent and supplies.

The organizations received license suspensions and probationary periods for the violations, which were made under the watch of a future state representative, municipal officials, county party chairs and a member of the Board of State Canvassers.

Because while bingo games held under MDP may have ended -- it appears they or another Democratic organization may still own the hall it held them in.

Johnson assumed leadership of the party in February 2013, but until at least July of that year, JimKADJANwas listed on the party's website as "manager of our two bingo halls." Those are the Green Acres Bingo Hall in Warren and the Metro Garfield Bingo Hall in Clinton Township. Kadjan has worked as the executive director of the 12th Congressional District Democrats and on multiple campaigns. He's been with the party since 1989.

The Metro Garfield hall has since closed, but Green Acres remains open and active. This month, the hall has held 12 sessions a week between the Democratic Executive Committee of Oakland County, Philip A. Hart Democratic Club and the Macomb County Democratic Committee, according to the monthly publicationBingo Bugle. Those are the only organizations the hall hosts.

Kadjan is still manager of Green Acres as of November 2016, according to state filings. He, the Hart club and the Macomb County Democratic Committee, all share the same mailing address in Mt. Clemens.

Between 2004 and 2015, MDP received payments to its accounts under variations of "bingo hall rent" on a weekly basis, totaling about $1.67 million. About $380,000 came from the Hart club, $468,000 from Macomb and about $608,000 from Oakland.

After September 2014, MDP stopped receiving rental payments. Now rent is paid to the Oakland County Democratic Party and Green Acres itself. The county organization has received about $100,000 in rent this past election cycle, while the hall itself has been paid about $150,000 since the end of 2015. Green Acres never received any payments before this time, according to FEC data.

MIRScould not verify who owns Green Acres now. An employee at the hall hung up onMIRSwhen asking for information for this story.

The Philip A. Hart Democratic Club was founded in 2010. It now possesses six large bingo licenses from the state's Charitable Gaming Division and has a checkered history. JulieMATUZAK, the former Democratic chair of the Board of State Canvassers, now heads the organization. Under her watch in 2016, the club received a three-week suspension and two years of probation on four of its licenses.

"The errors indicated that the chairperson and the principal officer of the organization didn't maintain full responsibility and to ensure full accountability for the licensed event and the funds derived from it," said JeffHOLYFIELD, spokesperson for the Michigan Lottery. "In an agreement with the Charitable Gaming Division, the licensee acknowledged the violations and provided information about the circumstances involved with them. The licensee also agreed to the three-week suspensions, the probationary period, to accurately complete and submit all forms, and other measures."

The Lottery said worker pay records were incomplete, as were electronic forms and the chairperson had failed to sign worker service records "on more than 20 occasions."

In September 2014, under the leadership of former Rep. FredMILLER, the club had violations that resulted in a year's probation. In that notice, there were improperly calculated forms, checks without descriptions, incorrectly calculated jackpots and exceeded prize limits, among other issues. On the next disclosure, now-Rep. BillSOWERBY(D-Clinton Twp.) was listed as the club's principal officer.

The Macomb County Democratic Committee also had a one-week suspension and a year's probation for similar violations in September 2016.

When asked to comment onMIRS' findings, a spokesperson representing MDP said, "we're not going to have anyone available to comment on this, but feel free to refer to the previous statement from MDP." The party's chair, BrandonDILLON, and numerous other Democratic Party officials also did not return a call requesting comment.

The statement released by MDP maintains their previous account (See"Bungled Bingo Bookkeeping Practices Net Dems A 500,000 Fine,"6/9/17).

"We take our reporting requirements very seriously, and we promptly stopped all bingo fundraising activity over three years ago," the statement reads, in part. "As our agreement with the FEC states, the previous party leadership voluntarily brought this issue to the FEC's attention, and we have cooperated fully with the Commission at each step of this process."

Now it seems local organizations are reaping the winnings instead.