While a fiery prosecutor's report condemns their actions and Democrats call for their resignations, it appears that, for the moment, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and state Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) will not be penalized in an alleged case of election tampering aimed at Schmidt's campaign in the November election.
According to Republican Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth, Schmidt, currently serving in the House, had his son Ryan Schmidt recruit a peer to run against him as a Democrat for $450. 22-year-old Matthew Mojak, who had not been registered to vote in the district, nor living within its borders for the required 22 years, would hardly campaign, giving little challenge to Schmidt. To complicate matters, minutes before the filing deadline on May 15, incumbent Schmidt, elected as Democrat, withdrew and reentered the race as a Republican. Both his and Mojzak's papers were filed by Bolger's deputy chief of staff Phil Browne. The candidate also went over the details of recruiting the bogus candidate and the logistics of filing with Bolger.
Across the aisle, Democrats are calling for a further investigation into the two politicians' violations of House rules.
"We must act to prevent further acts of corruption and abuses of power like this in the future," said House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (D-Mount Morris Township).
Groups such as the liberal Progress Michigan have gone further, calling for Bolger to step down, which he told the Detroit Free Press he would not do. He told the paper he and Schmidt acted as a response to "worries about what the Dems might do," and said their fear led them to "fall into the kind of political gamesmanship that we shouldn't have." He also denied knowing that money was promised to Mojzak.
A series of text messages obtained in Forsyth's report, however, lay out the connection between Bolger, Schmidt and Mojzak as the Speaker counseled the candidate through getting Mojzak on the ballot and went over details of his living situation:
Speaker: Any luck finding ur Dem in ur district? That's the last piece we need.
Schmidt: I believe we do. Wii know this afternoon.
Speaker: Can they get the paperwork to u and u get to me so we can get it in our hands, show the GOP we're all set...then we'll file tomorrow.
Schmidt: For the Dem candidate. Yes!
Speaker: Exactly, for the Dem candidate...we already have the paperwork for R candidate!
Schmidt: I know. I am so nervous at this point- just want it to go perfect!
Speaker: Me too. I don't like leaving anything to chance, thus my anxiousness to get this last piece wrapped up. All will then b perfect!"
Speaker: From our atty: there is no requirement for a phone # or email on an affidavit of identity. So, leave those two blank on Matthew's form.
Speaker: Phil is in the right building. All systems go!
The report states Schmidt offered Mojzak $450, bumping it up to $1,000 when he planned to withdraw, which he quickly did. Schmidt would also have paid his son $1,000. Reports says it's likely both amounts will be paid out of his campaign funds.
Forsyth concludes his report by calling off the investigation despite his condemnation of Schmidt and Bolger's behavior:
Incredibly, while it would be illegal to pay a boxer to take a "dive" or a basketball player to "point-shave", it is not currently a crime in Michigan to recruit someone to run for public office, place them on the ballot at the "eleventh hour and essentially pay them to make no effort to win.
He turned the investigation over to the Secretary of State office to pursue possible violations of Campaign Finance Reform law, and encouraged the legislature to reconsider the laws that allowed for Schmidt's actions. In an interview with MLive, Schmidt seemed to be doing some reconsidering of his own:
“I didn’t think this thing through at all and then I realized I’m in way over my head,” he said. "I knew this was wrong."
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