Party switch probe ends
LANSING (AP) – No one will be indicted for participating in a former state lawmaker’s scheme to switch parties at the last minute and pay a novice to run against him in a fake campaign, including the Republican House speaker, a judge ruled Friday.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, serving as a one-judge grand jury, said that an “exhaustive and diligent” probe uncovered no crime or wrongdoing and that charges were not warranted.
Ex-Rep. Roy Schmidt’s switch to the GOP in May 2012, just before the deadline for the August primary election, came under scrutiny when it came to light that he had his son offer a 22-year-old friend $450 – later $1,000 – to run as a Democrat against Schmidt of Grand Rapids. Matt Mozjak, who lied about his residency in filing to run, ultimately turned down the money and quickly dropped out of the race after the scheme became public.
Schmidt lost re-election in November. House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, barely survived the election because of his role in Schmidt’s switch to his party, but he was chosen again to lead the chamber in January.
Friday’s announcement cleared Bolger, his deputy chief of staff, Schmidt and others involved in the party switch.
“I want to thank all of those who stood by me during this time, which was particularly frustrating due to my inability to speak openly about details in this case due to the legal restrictions of a grand jury to conduct everything in secret,” Bolger said in a statement.
“I still stand behind the apology to voters I offered last year,” he said. “As promised in that apology, my focus has been and will continue to be on serving the hardworking men and women of our state to help solve the problems they face and help Michigan continue to grow for their success.”
In July 2012, following his own investigation, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth announced that Bolger and Schmidt broke no election laws but that their “shenanigans” embarrassed and offended him as a Republican. State police uncovered text messages between Bolger and Schmidt regarding the party switch, though Bolger says he did not know Schmidt was going to use money to find a fake Democrat to run.
Forsyth said Mozjak “arguably” committed perjury when filing his affidavit to run but declined to press charges, saying he had been duped and was the “least culpable of anyone involved in this fiasco.”
Unsatisfied with the Kent County probe, Democrats asked for a one-judge grand jury in Ingham County, which includes Lansing.
They wanted to know if Schmidt and Bolger knew Mojzak did not actually live in the district when he filed his candidacy. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and the Michigan Democratic Party alleged that Schmidt and Bolger may have conspired to aid perjury and obstructed justice.
Forsyth said there may have been potential violations of campaign finance laws and forwarded his report to Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who concluded no violations occurred because no money exchanged hands.
“It’s clear this incident is a breach of the public’s trust even though no charges will be filed,” House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said in a statement. “Recruiting a straw candidate to manufacture a one-sided race is not what state representatives, let alone the speaker of the House, are elected to do.”