By J. Patrick Pepper
DEARBORN — Campaign finance reporting laws were instituted to add transparency to the political fundraising process, but local elective office candidates often are exempt from disclosing their financial backers because they accumulate less than $1,000 – the amount at which reporting becomes mandatory.
That’s not the case here, however, said Dale Thomson, director of the Institute for Local Government at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
“Places like Dearborn where races have been more contentious are exceptions to the rule when it comes to local candidate finance reports,” he said.
As for what makes the city different or its political races more contested, it isn’t certain. One thing that Thomson mentioned as a likely contributor to the phenomena is its relatively large size – a common thread shared with the other Wayne County communities that frequently have candidates who raise more than $1,000.
And true to form, 13 of the candidates running for a City Council seat in November’s general election were required to file post-primary finance statements at the beginning of September. The only candidate who wasn’t — incumbent Douglas Thomas — filed a report anyway.
But as of Sept. 8, five days after the filing deadline, the Wayne County Clerk’s Office still was waiting on statements from five candidates. Incumbents Robert Abraham and Mark Shooshanian and challengers David Bazzy, Ali Sayed and Patrick D’Ambroisio had not filed finance reports or requested waivers indicating they had not accumulated over $1,000.
But for the statements that are on file, the discrepancy in funding levels varies widely.
According to a preprimary filing, at a little less than $10,000, Shooshanian has the largest war chest of any candidate right now. His statement indicated that he has conducted no fundraising activities for the upcoming election. The statement also shows that the only thing he has spent any campaign money on was $880 for tickets to four charitable events.
Joining Shooshanian as big money holders are, perhaps not surprisingly, some of his fellow council members. As of Sept. 8, Councilwomen Suzanne Sareini and Nancy Hubbard had $8,058 and $6,705, respectively. Council President Thomas Tafelski had $7,845, according to his statement, and Councilman George Darany had a balance of $3,695.
On the other end of the spectrum is Thomas. He has not raised or spent any money on this election so far.
Also carrying little cash is newcomer Ali Sayed, who spent all but $78 of the $9,686 he raised to help advance him past the primary. Former Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education member Sharon Dulmage was positioned similarly, with only $70 in reserve cash, according to her statement.