Of course, we have no guarantee life will be fair, but sometimes distinctions between illegal and merely bad public behavior are ludicrous.
It is illegal to let your pig run free in Detroit unless it has a ring in its nose. That outdated ordinance most likely was enacted because pigs unhampered by ring jobs harmed people other than their owners. In their ringless state, pigs greedily root around for food in gardens and lawns, causing considerable property damage—enough damage so early Detroiters decided the activity needed to be declared criminal.
In contrast, it is not illegal in Michigan to conspire to fix an election. One might think such activities do great damage to society, and thus would be unlawful. But Michigan politicians greedily pursuing electoral victories by fraudulent means are breaking no laws.
This sad situation came to light recently when news media publicized activities by Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and Representative Roy Schmidt. Both now are Republicans, but when their well-documented misdeeds began Schmidt was a Democrat and Bolger carried the GOP banner. This is what they did:
Bolger helped persuade Schmidt, a long-time Grand Rapids Democrat and a four-year member of the House, to change parties. No problem with that. It is perfectly legal and ethical.
However, the two conspired to withhold the announcement of Schmidt’s conversion until near the deadline for candidates to file for the November election. Then a fake candidate was recruited to file as Schmidt’s Democratic Party opponent.
Schmidt’s son offered to pay an acquaintance, Matt Mojzak, $450 to enter the race. They agreed that Mojzak would make no effort to campaign. His job was to merely fill a spot on the ballot, which would limit any competition from serious Democrats to write-in efforts. Mojzak withdrew, even though the fee offer had been increased to $1,000, when he learned state police were investigating the situation.
The investigation resulted in an eight-page report by Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth. Forsyth said, “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. This scheme by Rep. Schmidt and Speaker Bolger was clearly designed to undermine the election and to perpetrate a fraud.”
“As a Republican elected official, I am embarrassed and offended by what transpired,” Forsyth said.
Schmidt admits he did wrong and regrets his actions. Bolger doesn’t even do that. He admits only to “political gamesmanship” and losing sight of the need to focus on serving the people rather than manipulating elections.
What penalty will the two miscreants suffer? Probably, none. Although political opponents called for their immediate resignations, both men and their supporters said they will stay in office and urged voters to judge them on their total records.
In a display of journalistic cowardice, our local newspaper concluded editorially that the conspirators should be “judged by the voters.” That hardly is likely to result in any punishment at all.
As things stand, Schmidt is running unopposed in the November election. A quickly organized, heavily funded write-in campaign would be needed to defeat him, which probably will not be possible. Bolger represents a district so safe he would have to commit a really heinous crime to be defeated in future elections.
Couldn’t we at least require them to wear rings in their noses while we hold ours?