More Culpable than the Perjurer
July 20, 2012
I know politics isn’t beanbag, but Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth’s report on the state police investigation into Rep. Roy Schmidt’s last minute party switch at the candidate filing deadline is a pretty shocking look behind the curtain of silence that normally conceals the story behind a political story. It proves a political truism first revealed by Kwame Kilpatrick: The window on a politician’s soul is his text-messaging archive.
It was obvious even to casual observers that Schmidt’s switch of party allegiance was designed to give him an easy path to election. It was not quite so obvious until Forsyth’s report that it was Schmidt who had orchestrated the recruitment of a patsy Democratic opponent to thwart authentic opposition to his candidacy as a Republican. Forsyth said the scheme “was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a ‘fraud’ on the electorate.”
Schmidt’s game was to occupy the Democratic slot that he was abandoning on the primary ballot with an unknown person who would agree not to campaign. With that slot occupied, it would be very difficult for a legitimate Democrat to mount a successful primary campaign as a write-in and advance to challenge Schmidt in November.
Schmidt’s maneuvering to deprive voters of an honest choice in the election was an act of cowardice on par with a tin-pot dictator who feels compelled to rig things to win 99 percent of the vote. In a text message to Speaker of the House Jase Bolger about recruiting a ringer, Schmidt said, “I am so nervous at this point – just want it to go perfect.”
Schmidt enlisted his son and his nephew as accomplices to his fraud. They were the recruiting team responsible for lining up a patsy. Unfortunately for the perfect plan, they didn’t line up a qualified candidate. Their recruit hadn’t resided in the district long enough to be a qualified elector and he filed a false affidavit indicating that he had.
Forsyth’s report says that the faux candidate, Matthew Mojzak, was induced to file his candidacy with a promise of $450. When the wheels came off the plan under scrutiny by the press and the Democratic Party, the offer was increased to $1,000, in hope of keeping Mr. Mojzak on the ballot and salvaging the perfect plan. But Mojzak had had enough of being Rep. Schmidt’s helper/foil and he withdrew from the race.
At the time of the unfolding fiasco, Roy Schmidt said he had nothing to do with Mojzak’s candidacy. Schmidt was lying.
Time will tell how Roy Schmidt’s karma will come home to roost. Maybe the good citizens of Grand Rapids don’t want someone capable of such deviousness and dishonesty to represent them in the House. Maybe they like a redemption story. We’ll see.
As to Schmidt’s co-conspirator in the switcheroo, Speaker Jase Bolger: We have his word that he didn’t lie about his role in the debacle, and Mr. Forsyth says that Bolger broke no law. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Bolger’s ethics, but the Speaker says it’s time to move on.
As I write this, I don’t know how this story will end. Maybe this was pure success for Mr. Bolger because he put another body on the Republican side of the aisle. Maybe his actions pass for leadership in his caucus. Maybe he and his communications team will win an award for highly effective dissembling.
Prosecutor Forsyth’s conclusion is that it is illegal to pay a boxer to take a dive, or a basketball player to shave points, but it’s not illegal in Michigan for a politician to pay a ringer to file to be an opposing candidate. Forsyth said the only crime in this sordid mess was that Mojzak arguably committed perjury by filing a false affidavit. But Forsyth said he won’t press those charges against Mojzak because “he was duped into doing so and is the least culpable of anyone involved in this fiasco.”
One thing is certain: There are darn good reasons people hate contemporary politics.
Thank you, Mr. Schmidt. Thank you, Mr. Bolger.