Opinion | Calley: Schuette’s land deals reveal his hypocrisy on transparency

Brian Calley is the Michigan Lt. Governor. He is running against Bill Schuette for the Republican nomination for governor.

August 2018 update: Bill Schuette wins Republican nod for Michigan governor

Bill Schuette claims to be for transparency. But his actions do not match his rhetoric. Part of his own plan calls for candidates to release tax returns and a personal financial disclosure as Congress does. The purpose of the personal financial disclosure is to expose potential conflicts of interest.

I proposed this same reform more than a year ago. The difference is that I have done it and Bill Schuette has not.

Why? Well, for years, including multiple times this month, Schuette said that he was unable to complete a personal financial statement because “all” his assets were in a blind trust. To be clear, I don’t care what assets he has or whether they are in a blind trust. What I do care about is the stunning level of hypocrisy he has displayed in calls for everyone else to provide a personal financial disclosure and then not following through himself.

What is worse is that it turns out that he has shell companies that hold millions of dollars in real estate holdings that he could have and should have disclosed long ago. When confronted about his ownership interest in businesses that control a $40 million real estate development in the Virgin Islands, his first instinct was to lie.  

Here’s a quote tweeted by Detroit News reporter Jonathan Oosting:

“When I asked him if he'd sold land in the Virgin Islands, Schuette told me he had no idea what Calley was talking about. Later that day, his campaign confirmed he and his sisters are selling land in the Virgin Islands.”

After being caught, he changed his story to say that he didn’t need to put all of his assets, including real estate business entities, into a trust because he felt they did not create a conflict of interest. That’s immaterial. Either assets are in the trust or he should have completed the personal financial disclosure.

He can’t have it both ways.

Of course, we can’t confirm whether or not conflicts of interest exist because the million-dollar-plus transactions discovered so far are cloaked behind mystery LLCs. For example, we don’t know who is behind the Pelican Reef LLC or Kestral Perch LLC that bought development parcels from Schuette. We do know, however, that the transactions were worth millions.

Shouldn’t we know if those who purchased the property had any dealings before state government?

So why didn’t he complete a personal financial disclosure for the assets not in trust? Maybe it’s because he has been using state employees, on state time, in state offices, to complete the real estate documents.

His excuse for doing this? His spokesperson says it’s not a big deal because it didn’t take the state employees very long. Regardless of how long it took, it’s still illegal. And this comes on the heels of an earlier discovery that he has been running political field operations with taxpayer funded civil servant positions.

But the first question still remains. Now that we know that all his assets are not in a trust, why does he still refuse to complete the personal financial disclosure form? Why not do what he has demanded of everyone else? Is Bill Schuette hiding anything else?

If he is serious about transparency, he will complete a personal financial disclosure, including all businesses entities he owns and release the related tax returns for any closely held businesses. And if he’s not willing to do so, perhaps he will spare us all the hypocrisy and remove the call to transparency from his website.

Bill Schuette's campaign provided documents to Bridge showing that he owns two properties on the Virgin Islands worth a total of $4 million. He inherited the property after the deaths of his mother and stepfather, who owned more property that was divided between Schuette and his sisters. Schuette does not personally own properties worth $40 million, and the real estate was not part of a blind trust set up by the attorney general.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:27pm

Considering the number of times you've mentioned "transparency", Lt. Gov. Calley, when will we see start seeing this coming from you?.

For someone who considers himself a "Republican", the people who won big in '16 largely due to the "promise" to repeal Obamacare, you have been really big on promoting government overreach into an area that it has no authority.

In all of the debates that I have watched, where was your resistance to Gov. Snyder's equivalent "Snydercaid"?

With Snydercaid, much like Obamacare, we were lied about the costs and benefits of this scheme to the point that the the legislature had to put the brakes on enrollment by mandating work/educational requirements.

Since I'm on the subject of government involving itself into health insurance (with no authority to do so), we can go to something a little more closer to you.

Why did you use your office to push for MANDATORY insurance coverage for autism here in Michigan? Did you honestly think that health insurance companies were just going to eat that cost and not pass it on to other Michiganians?

Sure, Reagan's bills may have been hard on the Calley family budget.

However, productive Michigan Families have had to adjust their own family budgets to pay for things when the government decided to become benevolent with other people's money.

I failed to see that from you, especially when you found the time (and money) at jet off to attend Harvard while you were working on your MPA.

I'm certain that those weekly plane tickets were just so hard on your family budget.

So, when can we expect to see that same "transparency" from Candidate Calley at the next Republican debate?

Or are you (more likely your handlers), deathly afraid that you will be metaphorically tarred and feathered by those watching the debate?

Kevin Grand
Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:56pm

Just for the record, that post above was from me.

Bob Balwinski
Wed, 05/16/2018 - 4:50pm

Why first post as "Anonymous"?

Kevin Grand
Thu, 05/17/2018 - 1:06pm

Because I was reading this article in-between doing e-mails and catching up on some work from home.

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 9:15pm

If you are referring to Medicaid expansion as Snydercare, you might want to check out the actual costs to our State and the financial benefits we have realized. It has been incredibly beneficial to our budget and our citizens. It is easy to research, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the facts.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/18/2018 - 1:07pm

Three problems with that position, TJH.

One, even from the onset we were told that the federal government would NOT be paying for 100% of the cost forever. This is a fact that the tone-deaf republican members of the Michigan legislature were made VERY WELL aware of prior to its passage. That amount was lowered from 100% to 90% and will soon go down to 65.15%. Guess who gets to pick up the tab for the remainder?


I'm not surprised by those facts, because I was one of the people writing and calling my non-representing "representatives" up in Lansing opposing Syndercaid.

Second, where did you think that the federal government got their money in the first place to "charitably" hand out to the states?

Hint: someone had to go out and earn it first.

Third, responsible adults pay their own bills. It takes a special kind of arrogant conceit to believe that other people should be responsible for your family's finances. MY health insurance rates and deductibles have gone up and Michigan republicans promote a program where people are encouraged to walk up, hat in hand, demanding that I pay for their health insurance on top of that?


So bottom line: yes, I have researched the Snydercaid's effects. And I'm not very impressed by them.

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 9:20pm

Mr. Schuette has always been a slick politician. That he preaches transparency while behaving with guile and deception is not much of revelation or surprise. Based upon his entire career in politics, it is more like a predictable example of business as usual.

Mary Fox
Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:56pm

All republicans supported the current mess of campaign finance which Citizens United caused. Under Snyder and Republican rule we have rated a continual F in ethics. Neither of these people is fit to govern.