Donor says he skirted campaign laws by giving to nonprofit

Convicted felon Jon Rutherford testified he dodged campaign-finance laws by giving $84,000 to Kwame Kilpatrick’s nonprofit group and political action group to bankroll his 2001 mayoral run.

“Why not write (the checks) to his campaign?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“I couldn’t have written a $20,000 check to his campaign,” the homeless shelter operator said.

“Why not,” the prosecutor asked.

“At the time, it wasn’t in the rules — campaign laws,” Rutherford said.

Prosecutors allege Rutherford paid more than $500,000 in bribes to Kilpatrick and his father to win support for a casino proposal.

Mark Chutkow

Rutherford  donated money to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which prosecutors say was the mayor’s slush fund and the Next Generation Detroit political-action committee.

Chutkow asked about a $30,000 check Rutherford wrote to the Civic Fund in July 2001.

“Why did you write the check?” the prosecutor asked.

“Uh, Kwame Kilpatrick needed it,” Rutherford said.

The donations were revealed in a front-page Detroit Free Press story in 2001, causing a scandal, Rutherford said.

“Did you ever give to the Civic Fund after the article?” Chutkow asked.

“I don’t think so,” Rutherford said.

But he wrote a $3,000 check to the Kilpatrick for Mayor campaign in October 2001 and checks totaling $97,275 to the Community Coalition in the days ahead of the November 2001 mayoral election.

“It was to get Kwame Kilpatrick elected mayor of the city of Detroit,” Rutherford said.

He also said he gave a $20,000 check to Bernard Kilpatrick, which was cashed at a grocery store. The money was supposedly to pay poll workers and cover campaign expenses.

Rutherford said he helped get Kilpatrick elected in 2001.

“How?” Chutkow asked.

“All those checks you saw,” Rutherford said, chortling.

Robert Snell
Robert Snell is the Detroit News federal courts reporter. He can be reached at rsnell@detnews.com or (313) 222-2028.