More on the Michigan Republican Party’s harassment of elderly woman under hospice care


My reporting on the Michigan Republican Party’s odious mailer encouraging people to call the phone of the ailing mother of Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 61st House district John Fisher has gotten LOTS of attention. It’s had thousands and thousands of views and the cross-posted version at Daily Kos has given it national exposure. It’s been picked up by other sites, as well, including Raw Story, Wonkette, and others.

Fisher’s opponent, Republican Kalamazoo County Commissioner Brandt Iden, issued a statement that stops very short of repudiating or condemning the mailer, saying, “Obviously, as you know, it was not sent out by our campaign. I don’t condone negative campaign tactics and it’s not something my campaign has done or anticipates doing. I hope Mr. Fisher would do the same.”

Why he would suggest that Mr. Fisher, a pastor, “would do the same” is perplexing. There’s been nothing like this coming from the Michigan Democratic Party or Fisher’s campaign.

At first blush, it seems unlikely that the MRP would have intentionally blown their own political foot off with this offensive move. But then, when you look at the flyer again, you can’t help but notice the very blatant use of the word “bedridden” in the text:

Considering that Fisher’s mother is, in fact, “bedridden”, it seems a very far stretch to call this coincidence. Perhaps it is, but I’m not buying it.

One question that comes to mind is how the MRP got the phone number in the first place. How is it that they got access to the number that MLive reports is for a phone at the bedside of Fisher’s mother in Tendercare Portage, a Portage, Michigan nursing home? Although the number is registered in John Fisher’s name, it’s certainly not a number that Fisher himself would have publicized in any way. Who helped them find this number? How did they get it?

Mark Miller, the Michigan Democratic Party District Chair for the Congressional District that includes Portage, posted this insightful comment on my original post:

I am MDP District Chair for the Congressional District which includes the House District John Fisher is running in. I also have known John for over ten years. Here are some facts.

His mother is receiving hospice care in Tendercare nursing home. John pays for her to have a private phone so she can receive calls from family and friends. So the phone account is in his name.

However, the Republican operatives obviously did not call the number to verify that it was actually his number, or else (presumably) they would not have used it. That would seem to be negligence, to say the least.

Moreover, they had ALREADY listed his cell phone number on a previous negative campaign mailer put out last week. He received a number of calls from that (ironically enough, all but one supporting him)! So they could have used that number again, but chose to use another number without knowing, or caring, apparently, where it rang.

And why list candidates’ private phone numbers, anyhow? Everyone in the know, on our side and theirs, realizes that a (so far) unelected state House candidate has absolutely zero to do with the (Federal) ACA. The only folks who don’t are the presumed targets for this ad, the mouth-breathing morons who make up a substantial part of the Republican base.

So what possible purpose do calls to a state legislature candidate about the ACA serve, other than harassment? That is the point of it — the only possible point.

This is malice, compounded by incompetence and negligence.

Mark nails it. If, in fact, the MRP didn’t intend people to call the bedridden woman under hospice care through a mailer that says, “Obamacare and John Fisher could leave us bedridden”, they still went out of their way to disseminate a number that they had not bothered to confirm was accurate by simply placing a test call before sending the mailer to the printer.

The odious invasion of privacy that this approach is based on is standard operating procedure for the Michigan Republican Party under the “leadership” of its unethical Chair Bobby Schostak. Schostak has shown time and again that he’s willing to do ANYTHING to win and, more often than not, resorts to indefensible tactics like this one.

It goes without saying that this smacks of pure desperation.

Schostak’s counterpart, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson, in contrast, is focused on holding Republican elected officials and candidates accountable for their actions and words while simultaneously building an unprecedented grassroots ground game to get out the vote. THAT’S leadership. THAT’S democracy in action. THAT’S how you win elections without going to the gutter like Schostak who uses tactics like this one and sending hapless young interns into private events with super-secret spy glasses in hopes that he’ll find some dirt to use for further smear campaigns.

I’d hope that Schostak would be ashamed of his actions but what is increasingly clear is that he is shameless. No tactic is too slimey or too unethical for the Michigan Republican Party and every one of their candidates owns a piece of that.

It will be enjoyable to watch Democrats win on November 4th by using an approach that focuses on transparency, the strength of our candidates and message, and on the fundamental principle of democracy. We’ll face some losses, no doubt, and Republican gerrymandering plays a role in that. However, I feel very confident that Republican “dirty tricks” and underhanded tactics aren’t going to allow them to have the widespread victories they seem to believe they will get.

At the end of the day, it’s so much more satisfying to win the Democratic way than it is to win by being unethical, immoral, and dishonorable.

That’s, however, is clearly not something that Bobby Schostak and his crew believe.