LANSING -- A watchdog group is questioning the practice of Michigan lawmakers raising campaign money despite being barred from seeking re-election by term limits.
Twenty-two lame-duck lawmakers raised $568,000 in 2011, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday. The lawmakers held 42 fund-raising events that year, according to the newspaper.
Rich Robinson, Michigan Campaign Finance Network executive director, said this kind of fund-raising "makes it a more direct connection between money and policy."
"You can't say, 'I'm supporting you because I know we see eye to eye on my issues, and I want to make sure you're re-elected,' " Mr. Robinson said. "That's over."
Mr. Robinson said he questions the propriety of lawmakers using the campaign accounts for their present offices as a way to raise money to run for other offices.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Kahn of Saginaw Township raised $176,700 and held five fund-raisers last year. He defended his fund-raising, saying he does so to aid other Republicans, cover miscellaneous office expenses, and save up for future campaigns for other offices.
Mr. Kahn was elected to a second term in 2010 and is prevented by the state's term-limits law from seeking re-election in 2014.
"I'm very comfortable with having to justify any expenditures made," Mr. Kahn said.
He said he is eligible to run for the state House and might seek another state office. He said he also is considering a 2014 challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.
State campaign funds can be used for other state races but not for a U.S. Senate race.
State House Appropriations Committee Chairman Chuck Moss (R., Birmingham) held five fund-raisers and raised $57,012 in 2011, according to the newspaper. He is term-limited but said he's eyeing another state government position. "I'm running for the Senate," Mr. Moss said.
He said he tells donors their money will support his bid for a state Senate seat. He said he has yet to form a committee for that office because he wants to time his announcement as a candidate.
Whatever political issues may arise from noncandidates seeking campaign money, the practice is not illegal, Gisgie Gendreau, a spokesman for the secretary of state, said. "There is no express prohibition against a term-limited official continuing to hold fund-raisers."