It’s good to
be know the king…
Alan Gocha Jr., attorney for the maker of 5-Hour Energy drink got himself in trouble back in 2007 when he crossed the center line while driving drunk and landed in jail. He appealed the conviction but, after running out of appeals, decided to go for a gubernatorial pardon instead. This past week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gave Gocha that pardon, one of only 11 out around 750 requests he received. The pardon expunges the conviction from his record as if it never happened.
According to Russ Marlan, a deputy director at the Corrections Department who oversees the parole board, Snyder is focused on “potential pardons where the conviction was inhibiting them from advancing economically or was preventing them from getting a job or was preventing them from financial freedom — from moving past some obstacle in their life”. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, there were 16,470 DUI convictions in our state last year. That shows you just how rare this sort of thing is, particularly when you consider that all of those 16,470 convicted last year alone probably had their conviction inhibit them from advancing economically, prevented them from getting a job, or prevented them from “financial freedom” (whatever that is.)
So, why was Gocha singled out? Perhaps it was because of his employer:
The billionaire founder of the 5-hour Energy drink and his Michigan-based companies have given millions to candidates for state office and political groups across the country, but he remains little-known in his home state.
Manoj Bhargava has donated at least $5.3 million since 2009 through several of his more than 70 limited-liability companies, yet politicians who have benefited barely know him, according to a report published Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity, an investigative news outlet in Washington.
His investment firm ETC Capital gave $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association last year, joining conservative billionaires Sheldon Adelson and David Koch among the top five donors to the group that works to elect GOP governors such as Michigan’s Rick Snyder.
Gocha himself, who makes a quarter million dollars a year, gave $26,500 to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce political action committee from 2011 through 2013, a group that supports Gov. Snyder and his policies nearly down the line.
Filthy rich. Well-connected. Works for a big dollar Republican donor. Hmmm… I wonder…
Snyder denies that had anything to do with his decision, of course. Of course.
This isn’t the first time being cozy with Gov. Snyder has paid off for his friends. The Severstal Dearborn steel plant was issued a permit to pollute following Saikat Dey, CEO of Severstal International, giving $1,000 to Rick Snyder’s reelection campaign, his only political donation on record.
Then there was “Furnituregate” where Snyder’s cousin was awarded a hefty state contract for office furniture.
And CVS Caremark donated to Snyder’s now-defunct NERD Slush Fund and then scored a $60 million no-bid contract in Detroit to cover pharmacy benefits for city of Detroit employees.
It really, REALLY good to know the king.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson had this to say about the pardon:
By pardoning a politically-connected attorney convicted of drunk driving, this governor has reached a new low. I don’t know who is more shameless – the drunk driver asking for a pardon, or the governor who granted it.
Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan went further:
[Russ] Marlan’s comments and Governor Snyder’s actions prove that this administration is out of touch and out of control when it comes to protecting the wealthy in the State of Michigan. If the Governor cared about people who were economically impacted by the judicial system he would encourage the legislature to make significant changes to our sentencing guidelines and embrace programs like ‘ban the box’ which make it easier for former felons to get a job after paying their debt to society – not simply parole a lawyer who makes $250,000 a year. Clearly, this Governor is far more interested in protecting the wealthy than promoting real change.
Another day, another pay-to-play foray by Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration. You can’t say that voters weren’t warned, of course. Most of these scandals happened before he was reelected last year and made the headlines regularly. At some point, if we want to have a government run for the people – ALL of the people, not just the wealthy, the well-connected, and the corporations – we’re going to have to stop electing people who do corrupt things. I’d start by refusing to elect corporatists because there are few people more wealthy or well-connected than them.
And Rick Snyder is their poster child.
[Image credit: Progress Michigan, used with permission.]