AP NEWS

Memo: Political donations at risk without action on erosion

February 7, 2020 GMT
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File- This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows Peter Secchia speaking at the dedication ceremony of Michigan State University's new Grand Rapids Medical Research Center. Secchia, a major figure in the Michigan Republican Party whose Lake Michigan property is eroding, suggested that political donations would fall unless GOP lawmakers do something to help, according to a memo. The Grand Rapids businessman, has been a Republican donor and activist for decades. His name is on the state party headquarters in Lansing, and he served as U.S. ambassador to Italy when George H.W. Bush was president. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)
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File- This Sept. 20, 2017, file photo shows Peter Secchia speaking at the dedication ceremony of Michigan State University's new Grand Rapids Medical Research Center. Secchia, a major figure in the Michigan Republican Party whose Lake Michigan property is eroding, suggested that political donations would fall unless GOP lawmakers do something to help, according to a memo. The Grand Rapids businessman, has been a Republican donor and activist for decades. His name is on the state party headquarters in Lansing, and he served as U.S. ambassador to Italy when George H.W. Bush was president. (Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A major figure in the Michigan Republican Party whose Lake Michigan property is eroding suggested that political donations would fall unless GOP lawmakers do something to help, according to a memo.

Peter Secchia, a Grand Rapids businessman, has been a Republican donor and activist for decades. His name is on the state party headquarters in Lansing, and he served as U.S. ambassador to Italy when George H.W. Bush was president.

Secchia sent a letter in November to Republican leaders in the Legislature, noting a $6 million property loss in Ottawa County due to extraordinarily high lake levels eroding the shore and threatening homes.

“There seems to be little interest in the Michigan House of Representatives or the Michigan Senate,” Secchia’s memo said. “This lack of concern mystifies me. Our property values will diminish greatly ... hence, our donations will also diminish.”

The memo was obtained and released by a liberal group, Progress Michigan.

Secchia told The Detroit News that he wasn’t directly tying political contributions to action on lakeshore erosion. He said he meant that donations could slide if property owners suffer financial losses and can’t afford to support politicians.

“I am not threatening anybody,” Secchia said. “I am just saying, ‘Hey guys, think about this.’”

He didn’t offer a specific remedy when asked by the News as to what Michigan lawmakers should do.

State lawmakers are pushing to expand the criteria for declaring emergencies that could trigger government assistance for people struggling to protect homes.

Homeowners are extending battered seawalls, constructing berms and piling stones and sandbags. Some are elevating houses or moving them farther inland. The Michigan environment department has issued more than 400 permits for such projects.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is proposing $40 million in grants to help communities confront record-high Great Lakes levels and other severe weather events.