Democratic incumbent Schmidt bolted from the Dems to the GOP in May, just before the filing period to run for the office ended. MLive reported at the time that Rep. Schmidt took roughly $100,000 in campaign funds and $10,000 in PAC funds with him when he jumped to the GOP. The Dems were furious, but politics, as they say, ain’t beanbag.
Far more disturbing, however, is that an investigation by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office confirms that Schmidt colluded with Bolger on a scheme to block the Dems from running a viable candidate against him. Schmidt enlisted his son Ryan to find a foil, and Ryan recruited his 22-year-old friend Matthew Mozjak to run as a sham candidate whose mere presence on the ballot would make it virtually impossible for the Dems to mount a successful write-in campaign.
I found myself wincing at the text messages between Schmidt and Bolger included in the report:
May 14 – 8:30 – 8:32 a.m.
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.”
The prosecutor’s office, which clearly suffers an “addiction” to putting “word” in “quotes,” seems outraged that there are no criminal laws on the books that would apply:
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 office, place them on the ballot at the “eleventh hour” and essentially pay them to make no effort to win.”
Ironically, the only person at risk of doing time in the pokey for violating election law is Mozjak. When he filed papers to run, he signed an affidavit that he had lived in the area for 22 years, when he had not. The Detroit News quotes Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth saying about Mozjak, “He pretty much got duped into this to make a few bucks.”
The article goes on to say that Schmidt’s son Ryan and his friend Mojak were to split $2,000 from Schmidt’s campaign fund, but no money actually changed hands.All of this might seem surprising to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who us serving a 14-year sentence in a federal pen for mere (wiretapped) conversation.
For those of you who may have only vague memories of the case, Blago was taped trying to chisel money or favors in exchange for throwing his support to the highest bidder for President Barack Obama’s newly vacated Senate seat. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is currently receiving treatment for a “mood disorder,” has been under an ethics investigation for his role in the scandal. The taped calls confirmed that Blago solicited a $1.5 million bribe to pick Mr. Jackson instead of Obama advisor Valeria Jarrett (whose supporters were told Blago wanted a cabinet position to choose her).
I am not suggesting that our Michigan miscreants should face the prospect of time behind bars – indeed, I think Blago got a raw deal. But I am not sure I see a 14-year distinction between the two situations. Blago’s lawyers famously argued that he might have been corrupt, but no one was hurt. Reuters quotes U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel arguing that, “The harm is the erosion of public trust in government.”
If that’s the standard . . ..