House speaker, state rep cook up a stinker says Kent County prosecutor

Remember the so-called “back room deal” in which former Justice Elizabeth Weaver retired months before the 2010 election? According to accusations at the time, the “deal” was struck so that then-Governor Jennifer Granholm could appoint a Democrat supported replacement to be an “incumbent” on the November ballot. State Republicans were apoplectic about the deal at the time and, as you can see from the above line, rejoiced when the “coup” failed and Mary Beth Kelly was elected to Weaver’s seat that November.

Welp, such back room deals aren’t limited to Democrats, apparently.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth accused State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R – Marshall) of conspiring with Rep. Roy Schmidt to switch parties and rig Schmidt’s 2012 reelection campaign by handpicking a severely underqualified 22 year-old as his Democratic opposition.

The prosecutor didn’t charge Bolger or Schmidt, however, finding that they didn’t do anything illegal. He did forward his report to the Secretary of State to investigate Schmidt’s alleged misuse of campaign funds to pay the handpicked opponent to take a dive. He asked the Legislature to look into the situation, which he found embarrassing “as a Republican elected official.”

According to the report obtained from The Detroit News’s website, Bolger convinced Schmidt to jump from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. But the two agreed that in order to secure reelection, they needed to ensure that no established Democratic candidate opposed Schmidt this November. Schmidt offered $450 to his son’s friend, Matthew Mojzak, a 22 year-old clerk at a GNC store, to put his name on the ballot as a Democrat to run in the election.

Schmidt and his son met Mojzak at a Secretary of State office on May 15 to change Mojzak’s address to show he lived within Schmidt’s district. Then they went to two banks to find someone to notarize an affidavit of identity to be filed with paperwork to get Mojzak’s name on the ballot. Mojzak allegedly listed that he lived in the district for 22 years

The report says that Schmidt then took the affidavit and a money order Mojzak purchased to Bolger’s office and gave it to Bolger’s deputy chief of staff, Phil Browne. Browne filed the paperwork and paid the fee to get Mojzak’s name on the ballot.

Within minutes of Browne filing the papers, Schmidt withdrew his Democratic Affidavit of Identity that he had filed in February and filed the appropriate papers to have him placed on the the ballot as a Republican candidate.

Flabbergasted Democrats hustled to mount a write-in campaign to oppose Schmidt but soon learned that a 22-year-old fellow that no one in the party ever heard of was all set to go as a Democratic write-in candidate.

The report is supported by text message conversations involving Bolger, Schmidt and Browne that took place on May 14 and 15. The test messages appear in the report as follows:





After Schmidt’s switch, the media looked into Mojzak’s candidacy and found that he wasn’t a qualified elector and couldn’t run for office in Schmidt’s district because he hadn’t lived there for 30 days before the filing deadline.

He would withdraw his candidacy, but not before Schmidt allegedly offered him $1,000 to stay in the race. Schmidt also reportedly offered him free legal representation and “remind him that he … should claim the ‘22’ years on the affidavit was either a ‘mistake’ or ‘accidental’ on his part.”

In the end, Forsyth determined that Mojzak is the only person involved who actually committed a crime, but chose not to press charges against Mojzak, saying that he “ill-advisedly agreed to participate in this misadventure” and that “it is clear that he was duped into doing so and is the least culpable of anyone involved in this fiasco.”

But his words for Bolger and Schmidt were less than complimentary:

Whether anyone other than Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was involved in this plan is irrelevant in the context of a criminal investigation; it was not illegal. 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.

Schmidt isn’t talking. Bolger told the Detroit Free Press he didn’t know money was involved. He has no plans to resign.

Political people in and out of Lansing aren’t amused.

Dennis Lennox, a Republican political operative from Traverse City, called on Bolger to relinquish the leadership role.

“This is a distraction, it shouldn’t be a distraction and the speaker should do the right thing and resign as speaker,” Lennox said.

Bill Ballenger, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, said Bolger may be able to defend his actions when House Republicans meet today in Lansing, describing it as an attempt to bolster the GOP’s 64-46 majority.

“He was looking out for their best interest, he got a party convert, but he was inept and clumsy the way he went about it,” Ballenger said.

Landfills smell sweet compared to this.

NOTE: Ed Wesoloski and Brian Frasier collaborated on this report.