Pagel returning controversial contributionsPublished 6:45pm Thursday, August 2, 2012
A “distraction” that is “not worth it” convinced Dave Pagel to return $10,000 in contributions to his 78th District state representative campaign and “clear the air.”
“As a result of these contributions, misunderstandings have grown among my supporters and among the membership of the unions,” Pagel, chairman of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners, said Thursday. “I have chosen to return these contributions to remove the appearance of any impropriety. None of my positions on issues have changed, and I remain true to the principles and ideals that have generated the broad base of support that I enjoy.”
Brian Savage of Baroda, one of Pagel’s two opponents for the Republican nomination Tuesday for the seat held by Sharon Tyler of Niles, who is running for Berrien County clerk, made an issue of the financial support earlier this week, saying $5,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 and $5,000 from the Michigan Council of Carpenters “directly conflict with the Berrien County GOP’s” agenda.
Pagel’s endorsements also come from traditional Republican supporters, such as Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Michigan Realtors Association, the Michigan Association of Retailers, Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan Townships Association.
“My campaign has received multiple endorsements and contributions,
for which I am extremely grateful,” said Pagel, of Berrien Springs. “These have come from individuals as well as political action committees representing business, agriculture, educational and family issue groups. Two unions also chose to support
my campaign, and sent generous contributions.”
“I did nothing wrong, and there wasn’t a big outcry,” Pagel said, “but I don’t want to start my career at this level under a cloud. This seemed the cleanest way.”
He said he decided to return the contributions and “be done with it” after consulting officials he respects, such as Tyler and Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski.
Pagel indicated he received a few calls from union officials they felt bad for causing him “bad press” and their members weren’t any happier with the contributions than Savage.
“It’s definitely a far cry from his previous response, so I’m surprised yet again,” said Savage, pointing out that voters are smart enough to know that $10,000 from philosophical opponents doesn’t make sense. He said he brought the issue to light because “we didn’t want unions to influence a Republican primary. This campaign is not about big donations. I’ve been out talking to voters. Voters will be our endorsement.”
The third Republican candidate is Niles Councilman David Mann.
The winner Nov. 6 faces Democrat Jack Arbanas of Buchanan or Gerry Welling of Niles.
The redrawn 78th District contains four Cass County townships, Milton, Howard and Ontwa in the Edwardsburg area and Silver Creek near Dowagiac, which shifts to the 59th District, where Republican incumbent Matt Lori of Constantine meets Mike Moroz of Dowagiac Nov. 6.