GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Although Rep. Roy Schmidt's party-switch to become a Republican was "clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a 'fraud' on the electorate," it was not illegal under Michigan law, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth ruled Tuesday.
Schmidt, who represents the 76th District on the west side of Grand Rapids, switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican just before the filing deadline on May 15. At about the same time, 22-year-old Matthew Mojzak, who'd never run for office, filed as a Democrat to run in that race.
The Kent County Prosecutor's Office received a complaint about Mojzak's candidacy and an investigation began.
Forsyth, in his conclusion, said:
"...After a review of the investigation conducted by the Michigan State Police as well as extensive research and consultation with the state Bureau of Elections, I can find no violation of the Michigan Election Law beyond Mr. Mojak's attesting to the accuracy of the information on his Affidavit of Identity. Although this scheme by Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a "fraud" on the electorate, it was nonetheless legal. Consequently, there is no reason for the State Police to continue their investigation. Whether anyone other then 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."
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer responded by saying in a statement that Speaker Jase Bolger "has been lying to the public and to the press since this scandal began" and said the speaker should :"step down immediately from leadership in the House."
Bolger, for his part, reiterated in a statement Monday that nothing illegal had taken place and though he had encouraged a Democrat be recruited to run, he was "still learning about all of the actions that took place surrounding that recruitment."
The investigation was conducted by the Michigan State Police.
MAY 3, 2012:
Rep. Roy Schmidt signs paperwork changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. The paperwork is notarized by Michelle McQuiston, secretary/receptionist for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger.
MAY 11, 2012:
Roy Schmidt holds a fundraiser as a Democrat, even though he's already had paperwork notarized switching his party affiliation.
SUNDAY, MAY 13, 2012:
Roy Schmidt's son Ryan contacted Mojzak, a friend of Ryan Schmidt's cousin, A.J. Schmidt.
Ryan Schmidt did this after his father asked him to find a Democratic opponent, but did not tell him why.
By text message, Ryan Schmidt asked Mojzak, "do you want to make some money?" ... .... "Its nothing illegal or anything u have to worry about getting in trouble for. I almost would like to meet in person, but for now the phone works. Needs to be done by Tuesday no later than 3pm."
Mojzak was offered $450 to run against Rep. Schmidt, and was told he would not need to raise money or actively campaign.
MONDAY, MAY 14, 2012:
The following text messages were exchanged between Rep. Schmidt and Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger:
8:30 a.m.: Speaker: "Any luck finding ur Dem in ur district? That's the last piece we need"
8:32 a.m.: Schmidt: "I believe we do. Wii know this afternoon."
8:50 a.m.: Speaker: "Can they get the paperwork to u and u get to me so we can get it in our hands, show the GOP we're all set... then we'll file tomorrow."
9:07 a.m.: Schmidt: "For the Dem candidate. Yes!"
Speaker: "Exactly, for the Dem candidate...we already have the paperwork for our R candidate!"
Schmidt: "I know. I am so nervous at this point- just want it to go perfect!"
Speaker: "Me too. I don't like leaving anything to chance, thus my anxiousness to get this last piece wrapped up. All will then b perfect! "
9:31 a.m.: Schmidt: "We have our man."
9:59 a.m.: Speaker: "Name?"
At 10:01 a.m., Bolger called Roy Schmidt and they spoke for nearly five minutes.
10:14 a.m.: Schmidt: "Matthew MojakInHe will be at the sec. Of state with a new address this afternoon."
10:18 a.m.: Speaker: "Have this completed, double checked, and notarized. Bring tomorrow and we'll 1) all set. This will block any games anyone could try to play and u will b.. clear"
Speaker: "Is Matthew the same as u had before? He has to b able to say he's been living at the address in the district for 30 days before filing deadline. "
Schmidt: "No- this new one- and he has!" [Rep. Schmidt's response to the question suggests that Mr. Mojak was not the only person he had attempted to recruit.]
Speaker: "Y does he need to change his address?"
10:26 a.m. Speaker: "Plz send me the new address ASAP."
Schmidt: "Ok. "
to Speaker Bolger a text message sent from Mr. Mojak to Ryan Schmidt at 10:44 AM in which Mr. Mojak has listed his old and new address]
Speaker: "Which address has he been living in for the last 30 days?"
Schmidt: "Logan street"
Speaker: "Sorry, I'm not familiar enough with the district. Does this mean he is ur guy, or not?"
Schmidt: "I am going to check his address in 20 minutes to make sure he is in my district- I will text you soon."
12:22 p.m. Schmidt: "Not good news dang it. 1351 Logan SE is just outside the district. Keep looking correct?"
1:08 p.m.: Speaker: "Yes, please."
Speaker: "Bcz he hasn't been living on Woodpath, right?"
1:31 p.m.: Speaker: "Can u talk?"
1:33 p.m.: Schmidt: "Yes I will call from home... "
1:34 p.m., Schmidt called Bolger and talked for nearly 2 minutes.
Other messages indicate Rep. Roy Schmidt drove to Marshall and met with Speaker Bolger on the night of May 14.
Once Mojzak agreed to run, Ryan Schmidt told him to meet at the Secretary of State office in the Centerpointe Mall on May 15 no later than 8:45 a.m. Mojzak needed to change his address to be inside the 76th District.
MAY 15, 2012:
Mojzak was met by Rep. Schmidt at the Secretary of State's office, and Ryan Schmidt arrived shortly.
More text messages and phone calls between Schmidt and Bolger took place:
Speaker: "Glad u made it home safe. Have a great morning. Plz txt me when u have Matthew's paperwork complete From our atty.. there is no requirement for a phone #or email on an affidavit of identity. So, leave those two blank on Matthew's form."
Schmidt: "Me also-slept great and ready to go. Yes I will call as soon as his form is notorized! "
Schmidt told Mojzak to go to the post office in the Centerpointe Mall and get a $100 money order to cover the cost of the filing fee -- with money given to Mojzak by Ryan Schmidt the night before. The Schmidts and Mojzak ended up at a Chase Bank near Breton and Burton streets, where Mojzak's signature on his filing affidavit was notarized.
Rep. Schmidt previously filled in the typed portion of the affidavit with information Mojzak provided.
Mojzak gave the affidavit and money order to Rep. Schmidt in order for someone else to file the paperwork. Schmidt took the paperwork to Lansing and gave them to Phil Browne, the Deputy Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House Jase Bolger.
At 9:14 a.m., Schmidt sent this text to Browne: "Phil it's Roy-please call me".
At 9:17a.m., Browne called Schmidt and spoke for 98 seconds.
Then, at 10:09 a.m.: Schmidt: "Done! Cand. Is signed-notorized-I will call Phil on the way end"
10:15Speaker: "Fantastic! Drive carefully."
At 11:26 a.m.,Browne called Schmidt and spoke for 87 seconds.
Then Bolger texted Schmidt at 2:12 p.m.
Speaker: "How u doing?"
2:27 p.m.: Speaker: "Phil is in the right building. All systems go!"
2:33 p.m.: Schmidt: "Super!"
One minute before the filing deadline of 4 p.m., Browne called Roy Schmidt and spoke for 39 seconds. Browne filed Mojzak's affidavit and paid the filing fee at the Kent County Clerk's office. About 10 minutes later, Browne submitted a letter to the Clerk's office that switched Roy Schmidt's party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
Almost immediately, Mojzak's entrance into the race simultaneous with Schmidt's party-switch attracted a great deal of media attention.
Mojzak quickly realized he made a mistake. He spoke with his parents and decided to withdraw his candidacy. However, before he officially withdrew, he spoke with both Ryan Schmidt and A.J. Schmidt. Rep. Schmidt told Ryan Schmidt to increase the offer to Mojzak from $450 to $1,000 if he'd stay on the ballot.
MAY 16, 2012
Ryan Schmidt offered Mojzak the extra money. Mojzak withdrew the next day and the money was never paid.
Ryan Schmidt indicated Roy Schmidt offered to pay him $1,000 as well. Text messages between Ryan Schmidt and Mojzak talk about a vacation to the Bahamas, Las Vegas or Mexico.
Rep. Schmidt's campaign treasurer, Harold Hamilton, said Rep. Schmidt told him to "cut" a $2,000 check to his son, Ryan Schmidt, from his campaign account.
Rep. Schmidt picked the check up in the afternoon of May 16. Mojzak said Schmidt went to the GNC store where Mojzak worked in the early evening. He told Mojzak he understood why he wanted to withdraw, but asked him to not say anything to the media.
Schmidt later told Hamilton to void the check.
Around 11 a.m. that day, Schmidt sat down for an extended interview with 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin and categorically denied any coordination with Mojzak:
Rick Albin: "How tough does this race become given that it is a different district and you now are running as a Republican. We know that there is a person that has filed as a Democrat. What do you know about him or his candidacy?"
Roy Schmidt: "I, I, I don't know anything. I've never met him. I don't know. Alls I can tell you is this is you know my, uh, seventh election and I've said this all along, this is a great democracy and anybody can run. I had no idea at the end of the day
who was going to be on either side and uh, uh, and I think I've got twenty years of pretty darn good will… of working with people in Grand Rapids and really working to what I think is best and that's why I've had a hard time with the Dems because at the end of the day uh, uh I couldn't I felt help send a negative or a message that I didn't think was positive. And I like these people. I openly say it.. and I think I've said it to you, Rick, may times. I love and like to work with people on both sides. I just don't have any enemies. I don't think you get anything done for the people of Grand Rapids by being negative and then going back and asking for help for your city. I want to focus on the people of Grand Rapids. I've been assured and I believe I will be able to … and I hope my friends and especially my colleagues will accept me and work with me on the other side now. But I have no plans but to get out there and walk door to door and tell the people what I've done"
Albin: "I don't want to dwell on this but it is curious. First of all, I am of the opinion that you don't keep secrets in Lansing yet you did. This is one of the best kept secret that's been going on. This has been a decision process over a period of time because I don't think anybody expected this. But equally curious to me is that this other person files as a democrat within minutes of all of this taking place and it obviously is going to raise the question – was this orchestrated with this other candidate that you were gonna switch parties at the very last minute in the filing timeline? It does appear a bit curious. Was there any coordination?
Schmidt: "Not at all. In fact… I mean I, maybe I don't understand the politics or there's something I'm missing, but it'd be nice if I didn't have anybody on the other side, so I don't really quite…. "
Albin: Well, I mean there's no way of you knowing and I'll ask him, but if you would have run as a Democrat is it your anticipation that this other person was going to file against you?
Schmidt: "I'm sure he is… or was… yeah."
MAY 17, 2012:
Mojzak sent this text to Ryan Schmidt: "If I go to court for this we are going to have some serious issues."
Ryan Schmidt replied: "I just spoke with my dad. You have nothing to worry about matt. You can't say anything, if aanybody threatens you, it's a false scam at getting u worried that ur gonna get in trouble. If you want to talk to my dad, shoot him a call..."
Mojzak withdrew later that day.
MAY 18, 2012:
A.J. Schmidt sent this text to Mojzak: "Ok so my uncle wanted me to reassure you that if you get called into county clerks then you have an attourny provided, and you made the mistake about 22" (22 is the number of years Mojzak said he lived in Kent County, which was not true.)
Mojzak replied: "I have my own attorney. I don't want anymore connections with your uncle."
A.J. Schmidt: "......., one of the best attornys in mi, all paid for The only investigation they have to go on is the fact that you put the 22 yr thing"
Mojzak: "Yea I talked to him. My parents neighbor and family friend is a criminal lawyer. I just don't want there to be any connections"
A.J. Schmidt: "otherwise u or your family will have to pay, which is uneeded"
Mojak: "It's a criminal investigation by the attorney generals office. I'm not chancing anything. And we don't have to pay for it."
The Kent County prosecutor decided not to press any charges against Mojzak. Forsyth wrote:
"...Unfortunately, Mr. Mojak appears to be the only person who may have committed a criminal violation of the Election Law in the course of this ill-conceived and poorly executed plan. By signing the affidavit and attesting that he had been a resident of Kent County for 22 years, he arguably committed perjury. At the time he signed the affidavit on May 15th, however, Mr. Mojak had changed his voter registration to the Woodpath address. As an aside, the affidavit does not ask whether he is a Democrat, it simply asks him to declare that he is, in this case, running as a Democrat; proving whether he is or is not a Democrat would be nearly impossible. Given Mr. Mojak's role, however, I do not intend to file criminal charges against him. While Mr. Mojak ill-advisedly agreed to participate in this misadventure, it is clear that he was duped into doing so and is the least culpable of anyone involved in this fiasco."
Forsyth also concludes Schmidt attempted to improperly use campaign contributions when he ordered his campaign treasurer to cut a check for $2,000 to his son, Ryan Schmidt.
"I think the evidence, while circumstantial, is nonetheless compelling that $1,000 was to go to Ryan for helping 'recruit' Matthew Mojak and the remaining $1,000 was to be paid to Mr. Mojak to entice him to stay on the ballot," Forsyth wrote.
Forsyth wrapped up his report this way:
"The Michigan Secretary of State, however, is the agency primarily responsible for enforcement of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. As such, I have forwarded the investigative
reports and my findings to the Secretary of State to determine what, if any, violations occurred and what, if any, sanctions should be imposed.
"In conclusion, I would strongly encourage the Michigan Legislature to address this type of situation. As a Republican elected official, I am embarrassed and offended by what transpired. At a minimum, the Legislature should put a time limit on when a candidate may "switch" parties prior to the filing deadline. Allowing a candidate to "recruit" a so-called opponent and to allow the last minute shenanigans that occurred in this case is a travesty and should not be permitted."
The Roy Schmidt Ruling (pdf)
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