A politically connected lawyer’s drunk driving conviction is now gone, thanks to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R).
An investigation by the Associated Press published Friday revealed that high-powered attorney Alan Gocha Jr. was one of the recipients of the governor's rare pardons. Gocha, a member of Michigan's economic board, pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in 2008.
Snyder has issued only 11 pardons during his more than four years in office.
Gocha's connections within the Michigan Republican Party run deep. He's a top adviser to 5-Hour Energy founder Manoj Bhargava, who has given millions to political groups supporting Snyder and other Michigan Republicans.
Gocha also received some high-powered help on his pardon application. According to the AP, one of Gocha’s references was Republican strategist Bob LaBrant, whom Snyder appointed to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in 2012.
Between 2011 and 2013, Gocha contributed over $26,000 to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee. The Chamber endorsed Snyder in 2014.
Though Snyder admitted that he had met Gocha on several occasions -- even correcting an AP reporter’s pronunciation of his last name -- the governor defended the pardon, arguing he made the decision only after vetting by the parole board, which interviews applicants.
“He never contributed to my campaign, not had any financial connection at all,” Snyder said, according to the AP. “I didn’t meet with him about this issue.”
On Friday, critics asserted that Gocha's pardons were the direct result of his political connections.
"By pardoning a politically-connected attorney convicted of drunk driving, this governor has reached a new low," Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair said in a press release. "I don't know who is more shameless 00 the drunk driver asking for a pardon, or the governor who granted it."
“Clearly, this Governor is far more interested in protecting the wealthy than promoting real change,” Lonnie Scott, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy group Progress Michigan said in a press release.