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Rich Robinson

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.”

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.

Rich Robinson is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The opinions expressed here are his own, not necessarily those of his employer.

July 19, 2012 · Filed under Robinson Tags: , , ,

42 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Friday briefing and open thread « Blogging for Michigan // Jul 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

    [...] More Culpable than the Perjurer 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. [...]

  • 2 Grace // Jul 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Are you living in the same world as me? Did Mr. Bolger pay you to write this article. HIS culpability and clear hand in orchestrating all of this was admitted even at the beginning. It was clearly admitted that the GOP had recruited Mr. Schmidt what part of this does the writer not get? For the shame and embarassment that Mr. Bolger and his team have inflicted on the House Republicans he ought to resign. However we’ve seen all too often how politician wrongdoers cling to their posts even in the strongest hurricane of disapproval. This is a sad comment on how far we have sunk in this state when it comes to respecting the democratic process.

  • 3 Steve Harry // Jul 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

    I’d like to see a whole lot of Republican legislators call for Bolger’s resignation. What he did is a crime against democracy. He should never hold public office again.

  • 4 RJ // Jul 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    It seems that the recruitment of Schmidt to cross the aisle is not the problem. A politician can side with whomever he wants – but if you lie down with dogs, then you wake up with fleas.

    The real issue here is the fraudulent deal in the Democratic primary. This really is dishonest – and should be criminal, just like point shaving.

    Where is the Michigan Democratic Party on this? How is it they were not involved with vetting primary candidates?

    The best advice for voters in that district –

    THROW THE BUM OUT!!

    Schmidt clearly does not have the integrity to represent his constituents.

  • 5 js121 // Jul 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    This is NOT going to end for either of them. We will pursue the immediate removal. Do you have ANY idea just how many boilerplated ALEC laws we have had shoved down our throat “immediately”? If our state doesn’t do something…we will go higher – to the Feds.

  • 6 Amy Buttery // Jul 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    RJ writes: “Where is the Michigan Democratic Party on this? How is it they were not involved with vetting primary candidates?” First of all, the MDP works on recruiting and vetting candidates in targeted districts, where they think they can pick up a seat. With Rep. Schmidt, a democratic incumbent at the time, there would be NO point in vetting his challengers or even looking for someone to run in the race against him (because he was thought to be a DEM). That’s part of the deception. Nothing wrong with switching party allegiance, but to let everyone assume you were running for re-election as a Dem, THEN find a ringer and promise to pay him, THEN within minutes of the closing bell, to file as a Republican (with the ringer in place, gravely weakening the chance of a write-in Dem opponent)–that is blatantly devious and disrespectful of the democratic process.

    Deciding whether Schmidt or Bolger is more at fault seems like a waste of time–both are reprehensible. (And the MDP has said as much and called for the resignation of both.) But to suggest that the dems should have been more careful–that is preposterous. (Any idea how many challengers to incumbents file in House races? Tons, hundreds, and most evaporate after the primary.)

  • 7 RJ // Jul 21, 2012 at 1:41 am

    OK – so the MDP didn’t bother to check out a candidate in the primary running as a Democratic candidate – mkay.

    But how is it the MDP did not know that Schmidt was getting ready to switch sides? Aren’t there, like, caucusus and meetings and strategy briefings and such?

    What Schmidt and the rest did was dishonest, unpatriotic, undermining of the foundation of democracy – but the MDP seems to be in serious need of knowing better who is running or holding office as a (D).

  • 8 goods // Jul 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

    While the obvously fraudulent and unethical actions of Schmidt and Bolger are bad enough, what about their stupidity? They botched the whole thing horribly. If they are this incompetent at being fraudulent and unethical, how can anyone trust them to be competent about anything? What idiot leaves such a complete electronic trail, recruits someone to run on the Democratic ticket that is not even eligible to run, leaves the whole cherade to obvious question like filing immediately before the deadline with the same person filing for Schmidt and the Democratic plant and then blatantly lies to the press? So, not only do we have corrupt and dishonest people running our State, we also have incompetent idiots. The Republicans sure do not have a very high bar for their leadership.

  • 9 rar // Jul 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

    The other question to ask is how far up this goes in the GOP. After text messages have been revealed, Bolger indicated that he wanted all documentation in his state office so that the GOP knows everything is set. Somebody else clearly was involved beyond Schmidt and Bolger.

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