Request for action follows prosecutor's report alleging fraud in Grand Rapids election
By Caitlin Ginley
Michigan House Democrats have cited the state’s failing grade from the State Integrity Investigation in a resolution calling for investigation of alleged election irregularities.
“A recent report by the State Integrity Investigation ranked Michigan’s government 43rd in the country in terms of accountability and risk of corruption,” stated the resolution, issued earlier this week. “The report card gave Michigan an ‘F’ grade in areas like campaign finance and legislative accountability among other areas.”
Michigan also received F’s in the categories of executive accountability, judicial accountability, civil service management, lobbying disclosure, pension fund management, ethics enforcement, insurance commission, and redistricting. It received a single A grade for internal auditing.
Overall, Michigan received an F and a score of 58 percent on the State Integrity Investigation.
The resolution came about as the result of an alarming report just issued by Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth. The report alleged that state Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) and House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) schemed to find a non-viable candidate to run against Schmidt in the 2012 election. Originally elected in 2008 as a Democrat, Rep. Schmidt switched parties just before the May filing deadline, citing “extreme Democrat political bosses” who were unwilling to listen to his ideas.
Forsyth, a Republican, detailed collusion between Schmidt and Bolger to “undermine the election and to perpetrate a ‘fraud’ on the electorate,” by convincing a family friend of the Schmidt family – with an original offer of $450 - to run as the Democratic opponent.
The family friend, 22-year-old Matthew Mojak, soon withdrew from the race after facing intense media scrutiny on the merits of his candidacy. According to Forsyth’s report, Schmidt then offered a total of $2,000 from his campaign funds to Mojak, as a means of enticing him to remain on the ballot, and Schmidt’s son, Ryan, for helping recruit Mojak. No money was exchanged. The report concluded that Schmidt and Bolger’s actions were completely legal; there is no state law prohibiting such actions. However, Forsyth did suggest that Schmidt “attempted to improperly use campaign contributions” for the $2,000 offer.
The Secretary of State’s office is charged with enforcing campaign finance laws. Gisgie Gendreau, communications director for the Michigan Department of State, said the department has not yet received any information from the prosecutor’s office; if it does, officials there will decide whether to pursue an investigation.
“The report shows that the law was followed,” said Ari Adler, press secretary for House Speaker Bolger. Adler said that the Speaker does “regret that he and some others got pulled into political gamesmanship.”
The resolution, offered by House Democratic Leader Richard Hammel, requests that the GOP-controlled House Standing Committee on Oversight, Reform, and Ethics conduct an investigation of any ethics misconduct, violation, or misuse of resources by members and staff in the filing for Schmidt’s 76th House District.
“Bolger and Schmidt clearly worked together to attempt to cheat the people of Grand Rapids out of a fair election,” Hammel stated in a press release. “What they did constituted an all-out assault on the sanctity of democracy, and we can’t allow them to just get away with their schemes.”
Schmidt has since acknowledged that his actions were inappropriate. “It was a dumb political decision and from day one, it started to unravel,” he told MLive.com. “I knew it was wrong.” Schmidt did not respond to an inquiry by the Center.