press releaseImage of Lee Chatfield in a suit testifying in front of a committee

Progress Michigan is issuing a correction for this report. Please see the statement below from Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott:

“It has come to our attention that we erred in our initial research and we’ve been informed that Rep. Joe Bellino, who has faced recent criticism over his own campaign finance issues, is the actual owner of the BABE PAC. We appreciate the Michigan Campaign Finance Network informing us of this error. We apologize for the error. However, many of the conclusions and questions in the reporting still stand. It appears that the BABE PAC was being used by Chatfield to skirt contribution limits as our reporting indicates. We will be updating the memo in the coming days.”


News from Progress Michigan

February 4, 2022

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574,

New Progress Michigan Research Memo: The BABE PAC

How a PAC with ties to Lee Chatfield funneled tens of thousands of dollars to the House Republican Campaign Committee

MICHIGAN – The Building Accountability Behind Experience Political Action Committee (BABE PAC) appears to have ties to former Michigan House Speaker, Lee Chatfield. Progress Michigan’s latest research memo outlines how Chatfield may have been working with Republican leadership to funnel money from the Republican State Leadership Committee to the House Republican Campaign Committee in an effort to get around the legal maximum contribution limits placed on caucus committees.

“With everything we’re learning about Lee Chatfield, it’s no surprise there’s more dirt to be dug up and no surprise he is associated with a PAC called ‘BABE’ PAC,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “This research memo only scratches the surface of what the Michigan people still deserve to know about what Chatfield, other Republican lawmakers, and the Michigan Republican establishment have been spending money on behind closed doors. It also raises serious questions about AG candidate and former Speaker Tom Leonard’s involvement since the PAC sent him a contribution 15 times larger than those to any other candidates. We have no doubt there is far more to learn about what Chatfield and his Republican colleagues have been up to.”

Progress Michigan’s entire research memo can be read in full here. Highlights include:

  • Chatfield PAC contributions accounted for 38 percent of BABE PACs incoming funds, contributing $45,000 of BABE’s total $117,994
  • BABE PAC has contributed $55,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee in 2020 and 2021
  • In 2020, the various Chatfield majority funds and the Republican State Leadership Committee had already contributed the maximum legal amount to the House Republican Campaign Committee
  • BABE PAC contributed $15,000 to Tom Leonard in 2021, nearly 15 times as much as they donated to the handful of other candidates they supported

Based on the initial research outlined in this memo, which has a limited scope, Progress Michigan is raising the following questions:

  • What other PACs exist that might have funneled money into the House Republican Campaign Committee to get around contribution limits?
  • What other PACs exist that might have funneled money into the Senate Republican Campaign Committee?
  • How much did lawmakers funnel through these PACs or nonprofits such as Chatfield’s Peninsula Fund for their own purposes or to line the pockets of themselves and their staffers?
  • How long have schemes such as this been standard operating procedure for the Michigan Republican Party?
  • How much did current and former lawmakers know about this scheme?
  • Why did BABE PAC contribute so much to Tom Leonard when the organization had little previous history of contributing directly to candidates? 
  • How large is the conflict of interest if Tom Leonard becomes the next attorney general and is put in a position of power over an investigation into a man responsible for donating thousands to his campaign?
  • Given the allegations against Chatfield, was “BABE” an intentional acronym as indicated on their original filing?