Corruption in the House of Bolger
A press release from Kent County Prosecuting Attorney William Forsyth (pdf) has revealed a jaw-dropping level of corruption and fraud on the part of Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and Democrat-turned-Republican Representative Roy Schmidt. You can read the back story on Schmidt’s last minute dick move switch from Democrat to Republican that effectively ruined any chance of Democrats having a viable candidate HERE and HERE.
Forsyth’s investigation reveals that Schmidt and Bolger conspired to hire the weightlifting buddy of Schmidt’s nephew, Matthew Mojak, to run as a Democrat but not actually campaign. This would have forced Democrats to run a REAL Democrat in the primary as a write-in candidate, virtually assuring they would lose and that Schmidt would essentially have no opponent in the November general election.
The level of corruption and fraud perpetrated by Representative Schmidt and House Speaker Bolger is beyond anything witnessed in this state in recent memory.
Prosecutor Forsyth, himself a Republican, is clearly repulsed by what he uncovered, a position made more galling by the fact that none of it was actually, in a technical sense, illegal. He wrote in his conclusion, “Although this scheme by Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a “fraud” on the electorate, it was nonetheless legal … 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 … As a Republican elected official, I am embarrassed and offeded by what transpired.
Forsyth went further when talking to MIRS news service, saying, “I’m offended by what they tried to do here. They tried to undermine the very fabric of our country, which is a free election.”
Before the entire thing played out, Mojak, an innocent victim in all of this, along with Schmidt’s son Ryan were both offered $1,000 bribes for their involvement, money that was never paid.
The following text communications are outlined in Prosecutor Forsyth’s press release. They took place on May 14th and 15th, and prove without any shadow of a doubt that the Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger was complicit in the entire scheme to defraud Michigan voters.
Speaker [Bolger]: “Any luck finding ur Dem in ur distict? 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 our 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!”
Schmidt: “We have our man.”
Phone call from Speaker to Representative Schmidt [4.9 minutes]
10:14 a.m.-10:18 a.m.
Schmidt: “Matthew MojaknHe will be at the sec. Of state with a new address this afternoon.”
Speaker: “Have this completed, double checked, and notarized. Bring tomorrow and we’ll b all set. This will block any games anyone could try to play and u will b. clear: http://Michigan.gov/documents/ED104_Aff_ID_Fil_Rec_Vendor_83725_7.pdf
[reference to Affidavit of Identity]
Speaker: Is Matthew the same as u had before? He has to b able to say he’s been living at the address for 30 days before the filing deadline.”
Schmidt: “No- this new one- and he has!” [Rep. Schmidt's response to the question suggests that Mr. Mojak was not the only person he had attempted to recruit.]
Speaker: “Y does he need to change his address?”
Speaker: “Pls send me the new address ASAP.”
11:02 a.m.-11:10 a.m.
Schmidt: “nJase he has not movednYet. Roynn FWD: My old address is 1352 Logan street SE. Grand Rapids, MI 49506nNew address is 2758 woodpath. Grand rapids, mi 49504.” [Rep. Schmidt forwarded to Speaker Bolger a text message sent from Mr. Mojak to Ryan Schmidt at 10:44 a.m. in which Mr. Mojak has list his old and new address]
Speaker: “Which address has been living in for the last 30 days?”
Schmidt: “Logan street”
Speaker: “Sorry, I’m not familiar enough with the district. Does this mean he is ur guy, or not?”
Schmidt: “I am going to check his address in 20 minutes to make sure he is in my district- I will text you soon.”
Schmidt: “Not good news dang it. 1351 Logan SE is just outside the district. Keep looking correct?”
Speaker: “Yes, please.”
Speaker: “Bcz he hasn’t been living on Woodpath, right?”
Speaker: “Can u talk?”
Schmidt: “Yes I will call from home…”
Phone call from Representative Schmidt to Speaker [1 minute 42 seconds]
Following the aforementioned exchanges, additional messages indicate that Representative Schmidt drove to Marshall and met with Speaker Bolger on the evening of May 14th.
The next day, May 15th, additional text messages and phone calls were exchanged:
Speaker: “Glad u made it home safe. Have a great morning. Plz text me when u have Matthew’s paperwork complete…..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.”
Schmidt: “Me also-slept great and ready to go!nYes I will call as soon as his form is notorized!”
Representative Schmidt sent the following text message to [Bolger's Deputy Chief of Staff] Phil Browne. “Phil it’s Roy- please call me”. at 9:17 a.m., Phil Browne called Representative Schmidt [the call lasted 98 seconds].
Schmidt: “Done! Cand. Is signed-notorized-I will call Phil on the way end”
Speaker: “Fantastic! Drive carefully.”
Phone call from Phil Browne to Representative Schmidt [87 seconds]
Speaker: “How u doing?”
Speaker: “Phil is in the right building. All systems go!”
3:59 p.m. [ 1 minute before filing deadline]
Phil Browne called Roy Schmidt [39 seconds]
This sordid tale of corruption and election fraud is resonating throughout the state. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer issued a statement calling for the resignation of Speaker Bolger.
It’s clear from today’s report by Prosecuting Attorney Forsyth that Speaker Bolger has been lying to the public and to the press since this scandal began. Based on the text messages and phone calls that Forsyth uncovered, Bolger and his top staff, including Chief of Staff Suzanne Miller Allen, Deputy Chief of Staff Phil Browne, spokesperson Ari Adler and their legal counsel were all involved in this scheme right from the beginning, despite their contemptuous protests to the contrary.
“Forsyth’s condemnation of Bolger and Schmidt — saying he was ‘embarrassed and offended’ as a fellow Republican — shows just how despicable their actions were. Given the fact that the people of Michigan can no longer rely on anything that comes out of his mouth, Speaker Bolger should step down immediately from leadership in the House.
Bolger laughed off this request saying, “I don’t take direction from union bosses and I certainly don’t take advice from Mark Brewer”.
Others are also calling for Bolger to step down, including some Republicans like Party operative Dennis Lennox who sent out this tweet yesterday:
— Dennis Lennox(@dennislennox) July 17, 2012
Rep. Brandon Dillon, a Grand Rapids Democrat, told MIRS “This was a coordinated effort to defraud voters in the 76th House District”. He is asking for Schmidt to resign as well:
This is a sad day for the Grand Rapids community and state government when leaders behave in this manner. Grand Rapids citizens value honesty and integrity and they deserve better from their elected officials. It is time for Mr. Schmidt to do the right thing and resign.
Schmidt appears to be taking one for the team on this, shielding Bolger from the backlash by taking all of the credit for the scam:
“I think I made a poor political decision, Rick. That might’ve been different if the results were different today. But I made a poor political decision,” he said at a law office in downtown Grand Rapids. “I’m serving my constituents, and I’m going to work my butt off to make it up to them, to go door-to-door, to explain to them. And, you know, I really have had, I believe, a good record of serving people in Grand Rapids and I hope they can understand I made a poor political decision. I’m more than willing to admit it. I couldn’t wait to admit it. And I want to move on.”
Schmidt seemed contrite when he spoke with 24 Hour News 8.
“I got in something that was over my head and reacted wrongly,” said Schmidt. “I sincerely want to apologize to the people of Grand Rapids. I’m going to work my butt off to make amends for it.”
He said he has been thinking about the situation since it happened.
“I thought for two months, being somewhat of a hermit, thinking and second-guessing myself,” he said. “What the heck did I do?”
“Every single day I’ve been second-guessing myself,” he added. “It was just something that I’ve never done. I didn’t realize all the ramifications. I handled it very, very poorly and made a poor political decision.”
Schmidt said he appreciates what Forsyth concluded in his report and said elected officials should be held to a higher standard.
“I’m taking full responsibility for this,” he said.
Schmidt told MIRS news service, “I really didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest.”
The hypocrisy of Bolger telling Schmidt “This will block any games anyone could try to play” is staggering. What’s clear is that the Michigan Speaker of the House is a corrupt politician. Despite the technical legality of this act of election fraud, what he did should offend and incense ANY Michigander, no matter what party they are from.
Both Bolger and Schmidt face reelection this November. Both should step down before then but, if they do not, they will face their constituents in November. If the voters in their districts do not send them packing, they owe the rest of Michigan an explanation as to why they returned two confirmed corrupt politicians to our state Capitol.
The bitter irony here is that the Michigan Republicans are dead-set on passing anti-democratic laws that will make it harder for people to vote (particularly those most likely to vote for Democrats) under the banner of PREVENTING ELECTION FRAUD!!!1!!11! Their legislation would, of course, do NOTHING to prevent this type of outright election fraud being perpetrated by none other than the head of their caucus in the House of Representatives.
UPDATE: Zack Pohl executive director of Progress Michigan issued this statement:
It’s pretty simple. Any politician who brazenly violates the public trust isn’t fit to serve as Speaker of the House. It’s time for Jase Bolger to step down as Speaker, and for Lansing Republicans to formally reprimand Bolger for his shameful attempt to commit election fraud on the taxpayer’s dime.
Progress Michigan has an online petition calling for Speaker Bolger to resign. You can sign it HERE. They’ve also released this video:
Speaking of petitions, today is the day, ironically, that members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America, along with Rep. Diane Byrum, are delivering over 115,000 petition signatures to House Speaker Bolger demanding a public apology to Representative Barb Byrum and Representative Lisa Brown for banning them from the House Floor. That happened this morning at 9:30 a.m.
Karla Swift from the Michigan AFL-CIO issued this statement:
As House Speaker, Bolger must take full responsibility for his actions, which smack of a larger culture of cronyism and corruption. Working families expect their elected officials to create jobs not scandals.
Todd Cook, director of We Are the People, Michigan issued this statement:
Michigan needs to be competing for jobs. Instead, we’re competing for which of our public officials can look most ridiculous. The best thing Jase Bolger can do for his constituents and for Michigan is to step aside so we can focus on the people’s business – not sneaky maneuvers intended to mislead voters.
Here’s the press release issued by the House Democratic Caucus:
House Democrats Call For Investigation of Election Rigging
Dems agree with prosecutor that House Speaker acted unethically
LANSING – House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (D-Mount Morris Township) and Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek) today called for an investigation by the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee into the election-rigging scam perpetrated by House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) and State Representative Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids).
“We agree with Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth that what Bolger and Schmidt did to the people of Grand Rapids and the integrity of the House was a travesty,” Hammel said. “What they did was unethical. There must be a full investigation into the collusion between Bolger and Schmidt to determine which House rules were broken, to uncover violations of ethics and misconduct and to determine whether taxpayer money was misused in this scheme. We must act to prevent further acts of corruption and abuses of power like this in the future.”
On May 15, 2012, minutes before the deadline to file for the upcoming elections, Schmidt withdrew his paperwork to run as a Democrat and refiled as a Republican. Minutes before, a family friend of Schmidt filed as a Democratic opponent to Schmidt, even though he had no intention of actually running a competitive race. A report released by Forsyth yesterday revealed what many had already suspected : that Bolger and Schmidt worked together to rig the election in Schmidt’s favor, and that Schmidt had offered a total of $2,000 to entice the fake Democratic candidate — from Schmidt’s own campaign fund — to ensure Schmidt would have an easy reelection.
Forsyth used scathing language to characterize the scam perpetrated by Bolger and Schmidt. He said the two worked together to “undermine the election and to perpetuate a ‘fraud’ on the electorate.” However, Forsyth concluded that no state law prohibited what they did — a loophole he urged the Legislature to address.
“The prosecutor’s report confirms what we have said all along,” Segal said. “Bolger and Schmidt clearly worked together to attempt to cheat the people of Grand Rapids out of a fair election. 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.”
House Democrats have introduced a number of proposals to improve governmental ethics, including “Reform Government Now,” a package of 16 bills and one joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to strengthen ethics in Michigan government. House Republicans have stonewalled the effort and refused to either take up consideration of the bills in committee or to debate them on the House Floor, even though Michigan received a failing grade on a corruption risk report card issued by State Integrity Investigation, a joint project between the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International.
The House Resolution introduced by Rep. Hammel reads as follows:
House Resolution No. ###
A resolution to call on the House Standing Committee on Oversight, Reform, and Ethics to conduct an investigation, with public hearings in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, of any ethics misconduct, violations of House Rules, or misuse of state resources by members and staff in the candidate filings for the 76th House District.
Whereas, The recent filings of candidates for the 76th House District have raised questions about the involvement and role played by members and staff of this legislative body. While the Kent County Prosecutor identified no illegal actions, his report clearly questioned the ethical conduct of members and staff; and
Whereas, A recent report by State Integrity Investigation ranked Michigan’s government 43rd in the country in terms of accountability and risk of corruption. The report card gave Michigan an “F” grade in areas like campaign finance and legislative accountability among other areas; and
Whereas, A thorough and transparent investigation is needed to restore the integrity and the public’s trust in this legislative body. Michigan’s citizens deserve to know what happened and if any misconduct, violations, or misuse occurred or the assurance that their representatives acted ethically and within the standards of conduct expected of public officials; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, That we call on the House Standing Committee on Oversight, Reform, and Ethics to conduct an investigation, with public hearings in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, of any ethics misconduct, violations of House Rules, or misuse of state resources by members and staff in the candidate filings for the 76th House District; and be it further
Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the Chair of the House Standing Committee on Oversight, Reform, and Ethics.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement:
They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and perhaps there is no better evidence of that than what we’ve seen happen right here in Lansing.
As many of you will have heard by now, the Republican Kent County Prosecutor released a damning 8 page report yesterday that shows deliberate fraud being committed by both Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger and State Representative Roy Schmidt designed to undermine the Democratic process and take the right of legitimate elected representation away from the people in his district.
As the report makes clear, both Bolger and Schmidt knowingly tried to defraud the public by paying off a friend of Schmidt’s son to run a fake campaign as Democrat candidate to facilitate Schmidt’s own 11th hour switch to become a Republican without having to face any real opposition in the upcoming election. They knew what they were doing. They knew it was wrong. They lied about it. And even now that it’s become public, they still refuse to accept the consequences.
For Speaker Bolger, this has become an all too common pattern of behavior in which he puts what’s best for himself and his party ahead of what’s best for Michigan and its people. He played an instrumental role in passing redistricting legislation that was designed specifically to help Republicans win a majority on the Oakland County Commission. He has spent eighteen months pushing bills through the Capitol that attack unions, teachers and middle class families while giving billions of tax dollars away to his corporate and special interest donors. Most recently, he talked about the urgency of passing voter ID laws that he claimed were critical to ensuring the integrity in our elections, only highlighting now the hypocrisy of his leadership.
The Republican prosecutor in this case says he’s offended by the actions of these two elected officials, and while Speaker Bolger continues to state he did no wrong, the prosecutor noted that, “They tried to undermine the very fabric of our country, which is a free election.”
Unfortunately, the prosecutor has also said that as despicable as the actions of Speaker Bolger and Representative Schmidt were, he could not find a section of Michigan’s election laws to charge them under. That does not, however, mean the two of them are off the hook. There remains a strong chance that their actions violated other sections of Michigan law, as well as the Oath of Office both of them took when they were elected.
The Prosecutor did, in fact, forward several potential violations of campaign finance law to Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson for her review. Since Johnson and Bolger most recently conspired on voter suppression legislation, however, there is some doubt that she will deliver justice. The integrity of our elections, the very fabric of our Democracy, should not be a mere talking point on the campaign trail. I hope Ruth Johnson understands that too and takes this process with the seriousness it deserves.
Leadership is about taking responsibility and being accountable when things under your control go awry. In this case, regardless of whether charges are ultimately filed, we know that one of Michigan’s highest ranking leaders engaged in unethical and fraudulent behavior, putting personal politics above the good of Michigan and then pathologically lying about it. There is simply too much at stake for our state, our families and our future for his actions to stand in the way of what truly needs to be done to get our state back on track. Therefore, I am calling on Speaker Bolger to immediately step down as Speaker of the House.
I feel strongly that we as elected officials should leave the state in a better place than when we found it when we first got elected. Some of us work hard every single day to make sure that’s true. It’s clear from the Prosecutor’s report that neither Speaker Bolger or Rep. Schmidt can say the same.
I overheard somebody say this morning “Jase Bolger didn’t just engage in fraud, he is the fraud.”
We deserve better, Michigan.
- Will the calls grow for Jase Bolger to accept responsibility and step down as Speaker of the House?
- What does Governor Snyder have to say about his allies engaging in unethical and fraudulent behavior?
- How does the Speaker’s unethical and fraudulent behavior affect our state’s recruitment efforts for out of state business investment?
Michigan Senate Democratic Leader