Two local political candidates - Anne Bannister for Mayor of Ann Arbor and Stephen Ranzini for Washtenaw County Commissioner, District 2 - have together spent more than $17,000 on consulting services from one anonymous entity with no address and no paper trail, bearing the name "Household Words." This morning, community members, collaborating on the twitter hashtag #a2council, discovered that the likely recipient of these thousands of dollars in campaign funds is Patricia Lesko, who runs the Ann Arbor Independent.
The Ann Arbor Independent bills itself as "an award-winning digital newspaper committed to excellence in community journalism," and no disclosures of these direct payments by the campaigns were found on the site at the time of this article's publication.
A Trail of Half-Disclosures
|One of multiple payments from Stephen Ranzini's campaign to Household Words,
totaling more than $15,000
|Anne Bannister's disclosure, paying Household Words $2,125
This doesn't appear to satisfy the reporting requirements for campaign finance laws in Michigan, which states candidates must disclose "the full name and street address of each person to whom expenditures or other disbursements totaling more than $50.00 were made." Note, in this context "person" can mean a business, individual, proprietorship, LLC, firm, etc. Given this substandard finance reporting, we appear to be at a dead end, with no further clues for who is behind "Household Words," a lucrative local entity receiving thousands of dollars in campaign funds.
|Jack Eaton's 2018 Mayoral campaign, showing the P.O. Box of Household Words
|Ann Arbor Independent: PO Box 130117, shared with Household Words
When details of the "Household Words" expense came to light, Vivienne Armentrout, who served as Jack Eaton's campaign treasurer in 2018, had the following to say on Twitter, confirming the expenditures were indeed to a consulting firm owned by "local journalist" Patricia Lesko.
Mixing Journalism and Campaign Consulting?
|This piece promoting Anne Bannister appeared on the Ann Arbor Independent
one month after Bannister paid Household Words $2,125.