press release


News from Progress Michigan

February 16, 2022

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574,

Updated Progress Michigan Research Memo: The BABE PAC

How a PAC with ties to Joe Bellino worked with Republican leadership and Lee Chatfield to funnel tens of thousands of dollars to the House Republican Campaign Committee

MICHIGAN – The Building Accountability Behind Experience Political Action Committee (BABE PAC) is an independent PAC with ties to current State House Representative Joe Bellino. Progress Michigan’s latest research memo outlines how Bellino may have been working with Lee Chatfield and 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. Of note: Progress Michigan has previously filed a campaign finance complaint against Bellino for receiving gifts from DTE Energy, indicating a history of campaign finance troubles.

The BABE PAC also appears to have made an unusually large donation—10 times larger than they have given to any other candidate—to current Michigan attorney general candidate and former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard. And right around that time, the exact same amount of money made its way from Leonard’s various PACs to Joe Bellino’s campaign account.

“With everything we’re learning about how Lee Chatfield’s fundraising abilities are wrapped in scandal and how the Michigan Republican Party financial structure is covered in dirt, uncovering more is hardly a surprise,” 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 Bellino, Chatfield, other Republican lawmakers, and the Michigan Republican establishment have been spending money on behind closed doors. It also raises serious questions about any conversations that have been happening between Tom Leonard, Lee Chatfield, Joe Bellino, and Republican leadership. We have no doubt there is far more to learn about what Michigan Republicans and their donors 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 a total of $55,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee in 2020 and 2021
  • In 2020, the various Chatfield majority funds, the Republican State Leadership Committee, and Bellino’s candidate committee had already contributed the maximum legal amount to the House Republican Campaign Committee
  • BABE PAC contributed $15,000 to Tom Leonard in 2021, 10 times as much as they donated to the handful of other candidates they supported
  • Leonard’s PACs, the Michigan Values Leadership Fund and the MI Values Leadership Fund II, contributed a total of $15,000 to Bellino’s candidate committee in 2021

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 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?
  • And why were there corresponding contributions from Leonard’s PACs to Bellino’s campaign?

Note: A previous version of this report, released February 4, 2022, incorrectly referred to Lee Chatfield as the “owner” of BABE PAC, which is in fact linked to Joe Bellino. Progress Michigan apologizes for this error and thanks the Michigan Campaign Finance Network for calling our attention to it. The report has now been updated to reflect Progress Michigan’s latest research.