Thad McCotter ought to pay for his electoral mess

Guest Editorial
In this year of political disaster for him, Thad McCotter ought to do one thing right — use his leftover campaign money to help pay for the special election he’s caused by abdicating his congressional seat.

According to the latest Federal Election Commission reports, McCotter’s congressional campaign account had $121,152.66 cash on hand. McCotter has said he intends to donate whatever remains at year’s end to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. That’s an excellent institution that would surely make good use of the money. But McCotter ought to first consider the people he represented in Washington for 10 years and the taxpayers he’s saddled with a $650,000 bill for a special election.

His old campaign account would cover at least some of the costs local governments face for the Sept. 5 primary in the current 11th Congressional District (which includes the northwest section of north Dearborn Heights) — likely to be confused with the new one that was used for the Aug. 7 primary — and in these days of tight government budgets, every dollar helps.

Federal election regulations do not allow McCotter to directly donate the money to local clerks. He could, however, give it to the state Republican Party with directions to distribute it among the affected cities and townships. This would be permissible, assuming the state GOP was willing to follow his request. That may be an iffy assumption, considering that McCotter has probably burned his bridges to the Republican establishment by screwing up what should have been a shoo-in re-election.

The special election was called because McCotter, R-Livonia, resigned his seat July 6 after briefly promising to wage a write-in campaign to keep it. McCotter failed to qualify for the Aug. 6 primary ballot because his office filed a stack of obviously fraudulent nominating petitions, the origins of which are now the subject of a criminal investigation with which the former congressman is cooperating.

McCotter could have finished his term, or quit sooner so the special primary could have been held along with the Aug. 6 election. Either way, he’s let down a lot of people and will cost taxpayers a lot of money — something they ought to remember if McCotter ever tries to make a political comeback. In the meantime, he should do what he can to minimize the expense of his departure.

While still in Congress, McCotter was a presidential candidate for a short time. That run led nowhere, and campaign records show he has $615.10 remaining in the account from it. But he also has debts of about $106,000 from that race. Federal regulations, however, would not allow him to use money raised for one campaign to retire debt from another race for a different job.

In any case, that’s not an issue for taxpayers. The special primary, however, is.