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Wed December 16, 2009
Cox: Kipatrick campaign funds can't pay for assault defense
By Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network
LANSING, MI – Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox says former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick broke the law if he used campaign funds to pay attorneys defending him against assault charges. Cox says that's because the charges were unrelated to Kilpatrick's office.
Cox charged Kilpatrick with assault for shoving a police officer trying to serve a summons. Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to the charge as part of a larger deal with prosecutors that also forced him to step down. Kilpatrick was also charged with lying during a deposition.
Cox's formal legal opinion says public officials can't tap campaign funds to pay legal costs unrelated to holding office.
John Sellek is the attorney general's spokesman.
"If campaign dollars were used to pay for lawyers in that assault case -- that would be an improper use under state law," Sellek says.
Cox's opinion says it's up to Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, Michigan's top elections official, to determine if Kilpatrick improperly used campaign funds. Kilpatrick's campaign paid defense lawyers about $900,000.