The then-Chief of Detroit Police James Craig speaks with the press about the protests taking place in Detroit, Michigan, June 3, 2020. Photo by Seth Herald via Getty.
The then-Chief of Detroit Police James Craig speaks with the press about the protests taking place in Detroit, Michigan, June 3, 2020. Photo by Seth Herald via Getty.

James Craig’s campaign has focused heavily on reducing crime, but new reports show he may already have illegally used taxpayer funds.

DETROIT, Mich.—Former Detroit police chief James Craig formally announced his campaign for Governor Sept. 14 and the tone of the first two weeks of his campaign’s official operations was set that day: protesters gathered against Craig. 

Meanwhile, a recently released report has only made the launch of the gubernatorial all the rockier.

In August, Craig founded a panel he called the Law Enforcement Action Task Force, or LEAT. The task force assembled elected leaders chosen by Craig, with both legislators and law enforcement officials at the state and county levels. However, on the day of Craig’s contentious announcement on Belle Isle, the function of this task force was called into question for misuse of funds. 

Watchdog and analytics group Progress Michigan found, through several Freedom of Information Act requests, evidence that the task force was a means of using taxpayer dollars to support Craig’s campaign. 

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How Chief Craig May Be Breaking the Law

The task force is plainly an arm of Craig’s campaign. It’s announcement came from his campaign website and signing the task force’s petition supporting local law enforcement redirects Michiganders to Craig’s campaign fundraising page. That may be a huge problem for Craig. 

The extent to which the task force has tied elected officials and government employees to the campaign is explored by Progress Michigan’s investigation. The organization is exploring the possibility that Craig’s campaign, largely focused on law enforcement, may have violated legal prohibitions on government employees or resources being enlisted in political activity.

“Craig is pulling elected officials into his campaign and the public has a right to know if our tax dollars are going to help further Craig’s political career,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “This law enforcement task force seems to be a publicity stunt at best and an illegal use of public resources at worst. If our sheriffs, prosecutors, and other elected officials are going to be involved, there need to be clear lines between their public office and their personal political activity.”

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So far, Progress Michigan’s investigation found several red flags and at least one allegation that, if true, would put some government employees in hot water legally. Documents show Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy enlisted county employees to review a draft of the task force’s announcement. Because that was a campaign announcement, there is a strong chance that this would have violated state and federal laws.

Craig contended in August, before his formal campaign announcement but after his clear moves toward running for governor, that the task force’s purpose was to address crime in Michigan.

“I’ve reached out to a few select folks from around the state. Law enforcement professionals who want to get involved, who want to address this issue—not superficially,” Craig told WWJ.

Progress Michigan is continuing its investigation, focusing on how other members of the task force might have spent taxpayer dollars on the political campaign to elect Craig as governor in 2022.