Investigation into former House speaker digs into finances
Explosive allegations about excessive political spending were revealed this week in the ongoing investigation into former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield.
- Court records describing the new accusations were obtained by the Detroit News.
Catch up fast: The state investigation began in January after Chatfield's sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, accused him of sexually abusing her beginning when she was 15 years old, the News reports.
- Nobody has been charged in the investigation and Chatfield has denied wrongdoing.
- Through an attorney, he said he and his sister-in-law had a consensual affair.
Why it matters: Speaker of the House is among the state's most powerful positions. Chatfield, a northern Michigan Republican who became the youngest speaker in more than 100 years in 2019, was known as a prolific fundraiser.
- The court documents uniquely reveal the investigation is also looking at his finances and conduct as speaker, Gongwer reports.
Driving the news: The court records — affidavits from two state agents seeking authorization for search warrants — allege that Chatfield and others "engaged in a criminal enterprise" involving embezzlement, campaign finance violations, bribery and other crimes.
- According to interviews that informed the affidavits, a system was in place for Chatfield to receive cash from checks provided by the political consultant who oversaw Chatfield's fundraising accounts.
- The same political consultant suspected Chatfield of Adderall abuse because he would work or drink late and then come to the office at 7am full of energy.
The intrigue: The court records have been difficult for media outlets to obtain.
- A judge told the News that the records' release was erroneous.
- A Gongwer reporter was told at the 54-A District Court on Tuesday that the records were sealed and not publicly available. The news organization's attempts to reach the judge were unsuccessful.
- "It is extremely damaging for unsupported rumors to be reported in the news," Chatfield's attorney, who also denied the allegations, told Gongwer.
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