Gilbert execs flooded Detroit City Council with cash ahead of key vote

May 30, 2020, 1:35 PM by  Violet Ikonomova


Dan Gilbert executives and affliates flooded Detroit city councilmembers' campaign coffers with donations ahead of a vote to approve $250 million in incentives for a number of downtown projects several years ago.

One contribution, to Council President Brenda Jones, was brought to light this week by left-leaning online news outlet the Intercept, which has been digging into Jones as she tries to knock progressive darling Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib from her congressional seat.

The $8,000 in reported contributions to Jones, made by current and former Gilbert executives and their spouses, were part of a larger pattern. In the approximately two months ahead of the November 2017 vote on the breaks for the Hudson's project and other Gilbert developments, executives and employees with Quicken Loans donated tens of thousands of dollars across the nine-member body. It was also an election season.

The donations are as follows:

  • Councilmember Jenee Ayers received $9,000 in late August 

  • Councilmember Andre Spivey received $6,500, primarily that September

  • Councilmember Gabe Leland received $6,000 that September

  • Councilmemer James Tate received $5,500 that October

  • Councilmember George Cushingberry, who did not win re-election, received $2,000

  • Councilmember Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, who voted no, received $1,500 that October

  • Councilmember Scott Benson received $1,000 that September

Councilmember Mary Sheffield, who was running for re-election against a challenger backed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, was the only councilmember to receive no money from Quicken executives at the time. She wound up being absent for the incentive vote. 

The donations may be an undercount, because they do not include donations from spouses, as Jones' did.

Gilbert executives also gave big to state lawmakers earlier that year as they considered creating the "transformational brownfield" tax subsidies that made ground-up development projects like the Hudsons' possible. The project is behind schedule with completion targeted for 2023.

The Intercept used the contributions in an effort to draw a distinction between Jones and Tlaib, who has publicly criticized Gilbert over his use of opportunity zones. A representative with Jones did not reply to a request for comment.

The outlet posted another story critical of Jones last month, writing that she appeared to violate pay-to-play rules by accepting contributions from bank officers doing business with a pension fund whose board she sits on.

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