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Questions swirl over how ex-Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield used PAC funds

'There's real room for reform here.'
Posted at 2:55 PM, Jan 31, 2022

(WXYZ) — Legislative leaders are watching all of the allegations swirling around former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

"It's difficult I think to necessarily isolate what part of this sordid saga is the most troubling," said Senate Oversight Committee Chairman Ed McBroom, (R-Vulcan).

That’s because there’s so much.

It started with allegations from Rebekah Chatfield that she was sexually assaulted over a decade, starting when she was 15 or 16 and a student at the Northern Michigan Christian Aacademy, where Lee Chatfield was a teacher and his father is the pastor.

Related: Several layers of possible trouble for former House Speaker Lee Chatfield

"Appalling you know, on the ... moral side of things and what it means to families," said Sen. McBroom.

Rebekah married Lee’s younger brother Aaron. Lee, through his attorney, acknowledged an affair with Rebekah, but said it was consensual and started when they were adults. The attorney's full statement can be read at the bottom of this article.

Since that broke about a month ago, new evidence has surfaced that Lee Chatfield raised more than $5 million through Political Action Committees, and $2.1 million of that in his final year in office in 2020.

"Things seem not necessarily as heart wrenching as the other ones do, but it's, it's all bad, and it's all shocking," said McBroom.

The allegations include Lee Chatfield putting members of his family on the payroll of the PACs, staffers who worked for the Michigan House also double dipped, and ran their own political business.

And the worst of the allegations come from Aaron Chatfield, the younger brother, that he drove Lee Chatfield to Detroit to a strip club and hotel for hookups with women, including one staffer.

Chatfield’s attorney says Lee has not broken any laws. The attorney's full statement can be read at the bottom of this article.

In Michigan, so-called dark money, who contributes and how it’s spent is not transparent.

"There's real room for reform here. And I've begun working on that with a few other legislators and we can't avoid this issue. We need to take it on head on," said Sen. McBroom.

Sen. McBroom has been through legal and ethical issues in his years in Lansing.

In 2015, he was chairman of a special committee that looked into House members Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat who had an affair and used their office resources for unofficial business. And last year, he chaired the Senate Oversight Committee, looking into allegations of fraud in the Presidental election.

As a Republican, he took heat.

Former President Donald Trump called him a "rino," a Republican in name only, when the committee found no widespread election fraud.

Sen. McBroom says now, the criminal investigation underway with Chatfield is better than what legislators can do themselves on the criminal side.

"All of the eyes that are already on this from the, from the law enforcement side of things. It's been referred to the state police. They can refer things onto the Attorney General to local prosecutors to the FBI, to the Department of Justice, to the IRS, to the Michigan Treasury," he said.

In Detroit, we just watched as Andre Spivey resigned from the Detroit City Council and pleaded guilty to bribery. He took $35,000 cash from a towing contractor over 5 years. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

"Wherever the money gets placed, I mean, city council members have campaign accounts too," said Sen. McBroom. "It doesn’t look like the former speaker’s going to get away with anything either."

Lee Chatfield's attorney released the following statement to 7 Action News:

"It’s troubling that Senator McBroom does not care to follow constitutional principles, such as the presumption of innocence. I encourage the senator to review the list of those falsely accused, wrongfully convicted, and then exonerated on the National Registry of Exonerations website. He should also remember that the mere fact that a claim is made is evidence of absolutely nothing.

As to Rebekah Chatfield’s claim, her stated goals for 2022 include to become a millionaire, write a book, and host a podcast. She has visions of herself on a stage, and she has even created a hashtag to promote herself and her self-described “brand.”

But the facts show that she had an affair with Mr. Chatfield for 7 years that began when she was an adult and ended when she was an adult. She admits that she repeatedly contacted him to engage in sexual relations. The notion that she was raped during this affair defies logic, common sense, and critical thinking."

The attorney for Rebekah Chatfield was set for an interview for this report, but it was canceled as he is set to meet with criminal investigators this week.