Schor’s special fund nears $200,000

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The hubbub about Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s special pot of money he uses to dole out charitable gifts and other odds and ends looks like it can be put to rest for now.

The first-term mayor’s team recently filed with the Internal Revenue Service a complete accounting of the money going in and out of the Schor Lansing Fund, a “527” fund that had flown under the radar until earlier this year.

For the first half of 2019, the Schor Lansing Fund reported raising $23,224 from entities like the UAW, the carpenters’ union, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Miller Canfield PAC and public relations firm Martin Waymire.

The fund spent $12,320 on such things as the sister city program, the Refugee Development Center, Special Olympics and Lansing for Cesar Chavez. (“Schoring Up Lansing” would have been a been “punny” for the fund, but they went traditional with the name).

Anyway, the news here is that Schor’s team appears to have gotten in the habit of regularly filing these reports and listing out the expenditures for all to see, as former Mayor Virg Bernero had done previously.

Led by City Pulse, news outlets blew the whistle on the fund back in February when it was discovered the fund raised more than $170,000 in 2018 to cover inauguration expenses — among other things — but it wasn’t reported to the IRS.

Schor said he wasn’t trying to hide anything. When City Pulse and other media outlets asked about it, the mayor provided a full accounting of the spending and giving.

The issue is that federal rules require that 527s, which are not an uncommon for politicians, only be reported to the IRS when they raise $25,000 or more a year. A complete listing of contributors and expenditures is required when it raises $50,000 or more a year.

When Schor was a state representative and the fund only raised $6,000 or so, the fund’s leaders didn’t bother reporting. But when he became mayor, things changed. The level of interest in the fund skyrocketed and he should have reported (which he disputed).

The Schor Lansing Fund ended up filing organizational papers with the IRS in March 2019 and the required reports trickled in throughout the spring. Copies of those reports gradually began to appear on the IRS’ website.

The most recent report, for the first six months of 2019, shows the Schor Fund raising and spending under the $25,000 threshold, but Schor is filing and releasing details on the giving and receiving, anyway, in the spirit of transparency, he said.

As of this point, the IRS has not penalized the Schor Lansing Fund, and it’s not clear that it will.

“There was some confusion initially whether we had to file or not,” he said. “Ultimately, we decided we would file since we were releasing the details of it anyway.”

Schor said he’s not independently wealthy and he receives “a lot of requests” for charitable donations and the 527 is a way to stay engaged and help.

Among the other names of those listed as contributors for the first half of 2019 are former Lansing Mayor David Hollister ($100), Board of Water & Light General Manager Richard Peffley ($1,000), City attorney James Smiertka ($500) and former Republican state Rep. Mike Callton of Nashville, Mich.

Eight attorneys and their firms gave more than $3,500 combined. Seven listed lobbyists gave a little more than $2,500 combined.

“We’ve had citizens, labor, business, a variety of people contribute. Anyone who wants to give to the Schor Lansing Fund are welcome,” he said. “There’s nothing hidden about it. There are some people who want to contributed to my political campaign and there’s others who want to support me as mayor. I appreciate anyone who was willing to contribute, whether they are a citizen or a business entity.”

(Kyle Melinn, of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at melinnky@gmail.com.)

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