FRIDAY, July 17 — Lansing Mayor Andy Schor must have been feeling generous last month.
Recently released tax records show that Schor quietly doled out nearly $25,000 from his mayoral nonprofit fundraising account to at least 50 charitable groups across the capital city in a single day.
“After COVID-19 hit, we gave to OneLansing, then looked at all nonprofits in Lansing and tried to give money to as many as possible,” Schor told City Pulse. “We also told those that had events that they should absolutely keep the contributions, even if their events were canceled.”
At the end of last year, Schor had stockpiled more than $114,000 into the “Schor Lansing Fund.” The nonprofit solicits donations outside the bounds of Michigan’s campaign finance laws and can be used broadly to cover Schor’s “expenses” as mayor.
Despite coronavirus-related financial struggles across the city, Schor’s nonprofit still managed to collect at least five donations of $1,000 and a dozen $500 checks earlier this year, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service, compiled and reported by Steve Harry Public Policy.
So, naturally, Schor kept the donations flowing over the last few months. Records show the Schor Lansing Fund collected about $44,000 and spent about $56,000 in the last two years. And expenses, especially in the last few weeks, are mostly donations to community groups.
This year, Schor has used the fund to cover the costs for his cell phone bill, holiday cards and consulting fees to Capitol Fundraising Associates, the professionals that manage his account. The vast majority of expenses, however, have been $500 donations to individual nonprofits.
And most of them were sent out on June 23, according to IRS records compiled by Harry.
“We will continue to give to Lansing charities and nonprofits,” Schor said, noting a fundraiser planned for earlier this year was canceled, but many still wanted to be able to make donations.
This year’s top donors to Schor so far include Accident Fund, Lansing Board of Water and Light General Manager Dick Peffley and developer Joel Ferguson, among other companies and labor unions — the same folks that have been donated to Schor’s nonprofit fund for the last few years.
Schor faced criticism last year for failing to report the Schor Lansing Fund to the IRS.
Until City Pulse reported on its existence and Schor started filing reports last year, the 527 nonprofit account had largely flown under the radar. Schor has since been open with financial records and provided them to multiple local media outlets after City Pulse first blew the whistle.
Those records have also since been made readily available on the IRS website.
“The Schor Lansing Fund is a fund that I can use to cover the many needs and requests associated with being the mayor of Lansing that are not paid for by the taxpayers,” Schor told City Pulse this year. “I am not independently wealthy, and this fund allows me to contribute and pay for the necessary expenses associated with being the mayor of Lansing.”
Funds like Schor’s — also known as 527 accounts — are widely used by politicians. Donations and expenditures there, unlike campaign donations, aren’t capped and don’t need to be reported as political contributions. Instead, they serve as discretionary funds for elected officials to spend as they see fit, including on personal expenses. Schor typically attracts the bulk of his donations from corporations, lobbyists, political action committees and employee labor unions.
An analysis of the Schor Lansing Fund showed that less than 15% of his total spending went toward donations, sponsorship and charitable giving in 2019. This year, almost every expense tracked so far has been earmarked as a donation or ticket to a charitable fundraising event.
Check out more reporting from Steve Harry to view a complete list of donations and expenses.