Bernero donors stand up for ‘America’s most excited mayor’

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KYLE KAMINSKI

A last page ad in City Pulse can cost over $ 1,400. It is no small feat to label former Lansing mayor Virg Bernero as “America’s most excited mayor” – especially in such a voluminous text. So who is funding the first mayoral campaign indecent assault announcement?

Michigan deserves better is. Lansing’s political consultant, Joe DiSano, owner of DiSano Strategies, is behind the fund. And he expects more such announcements to come.

“Nobody wants to go back to Virg Bernero’s years at Lansing,” said DiSano. “We just got rid of Trump. It’s just not at all what this city needs right now.

Bernero, who is running for an unprecedented fourth term, has announced he will take on Andy Schor, the incumbent who replaced him in 2018 after Bernero stepped out of the 2017 election. Lansing City Councilor Patricia Spitzley has also announced, as were four lesser-known candidates. , Arielle Padilla, Jeffery Handley, Larry Hutchinson Jr. and Melissa Huber.

The ad responds to two sexual harassment charges brought against Bernero two weeks ago. It also lists people and their business connections who donated to Bernero’s fledgling re-election campaign before the allegations surfaced.

Michigan Deserves Better – not to be confused with the Super PAC with an identical name – is a tax-exempt welfare agency registered with the IRS as a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit . DiSano said he was chairman, guided by a board of directors.

He declined to disclose funding amounts or name donors, but noted that “no money came from outside the region.” DiSano also said the group has no connection to Schor or his re-election campaign.

The IRS does not require that Michigan deserves better to free up its financial activity. And while the group may promote “social welfare,” as described in federal law, this does not allow for direct (or indirect) support or opposition to a candidate for public office. However, a 501 (c) (4) organization may engage in “certain” political activities, as long as that is not its “primary” activity.

“I was galvanized when I heard Virg was coming back to politics. The moment I got completely angry was when he tried to guess the accuser in a radio interview with Michael Patrick Shiels. It was the most blissful and misogynistic conversation, ”said DiSano.

Two women told City Pulse that Bernero sexually harassed them during their tenure. One of them said he “groped” her in downtown Lansing in 2010, while serving his second term as mayor. The other said Bernero made a series of unwanted and sexual phone calls to him in 2004 while he was a state senator.

Bernero initially called the behavior “unacceptable and wrong”, stressing that he did not remember either incident and apologized to the two women. But three days later, he categorically denied the survivors’ accounts in a radio interview. He also came up with an unfounded plot that Schor had somehow encouraged the two women to make up the stories and bring them to City Pulse.

Bernero agreed last week to work with the executive director of the Firecracker Foundation – which cares for survivors of sexual trauma – as he continues to face the public backlash on the accusations. Still, he continued to deny the accusations during a Black Lives Matter forum last week.

“I’m sorry for everyone I’ve hurt, and I mean it. I’m sure I’ve offended people with my words. I can’t really apologize for something I didn’t do. I believe in a culture of consequence – not a culture of cancellation, ”Bernero said, tripling his denial.

Some of those listed in the recent attack announcement include local and foreign business executives, Bernero’s neighbors on Cambridge Drive, lobbyists and more. And so far, none of them shy away from their continued support, even after the latest harassment allegations.

“My support is entirely based on what I know of Virg’s past and what I’ve seen him do for this city,” said real estate agent Paul Brown, who donated $ 2,100 as Bernero assembled his campaign last year. “Obviously, I do not tolerate any type of sexual harassment and I will not donate in the future if the truth comes out and these are the real facts. I would never have tolerated this.

He added: “I would have liked to see the current mayor a little more active in the city. There were times when I thought Governor Gretchen Whitmer was more of a mayor than Andy Schor. Virg has been active in our community and deserves a fair amount of response to these complaints. “

Quicken Loans executive Joe Manzella II said he had no regrets for his $ 1,000 donation to the Bernero campaign – even after his name was mentioned in DiSano’s recent announcement. He also said Bernero’s willingness to apologize and “own” his mistakes made him redeemable.

“When we spoke he told me he wanted to come back and do good things. He also said he was a different man than he was a few years ago so I felt very comfortable with this idea that people can be redeemed by humility, saying sorry and really mean it, ”Manzella said.

Asked about Bernero’s subsequent denial, Manzella replied, “Oh. Well, that’s a bummer.

Others on the donor list have been careful to part with their businesses. Elizabeth Jones, for example, has said that she is “basically an accountant” for DTN Student Rentals. The company donated $ 2,000, but that doesn’t reflect her personal beliefs, she added.

Edgar Harden, CEO of Capitol National Bank, said he donated $ 500 to Bernero and Schor’s campaigns last year. He was also undecided if he would keep them coming.

“These are still just allegations. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens, ”Harden said.

Messages left to other business managers at DTN Student Rentals were not returned for this story. Other Bernero donors on the announced list – including Paul Frick, William Demmer, Sagar Seth, Kevin Scott, Jane Hourani, Michael Marks, Eardment Mackenzie, Steve Calverley and Van Martin – did not return voicemails and emails. of City Pulse this week. Bernero also did not respond to a request for comment on the ad.

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