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Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo held in contempt over party squabble

Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo
Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo is fighting court battles and internal dissension (Bridge file photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo held in contempt of court, ordered to pay $500 fine in Hillsdale County dispute
  • Separately, attorney for GOP trust argues the state party should face sanctions for ‘frivolous lawsuit’ over ownership of former headquarters
  • Legal woes come as Karamo battles critics within the Michigan GOP who are attempting to remove her from power

LANSING — A judge has held the Michigan Republican Party and its embattled chair, Kristina Karamo, in contempt and fined them for refusing to recognize the legal leaders of a county party, court records show.

In a late December opinion released Thursday, Hillsdale County Judge Michael Olsaver found the party and Karamo acted in "direct defiance" of his April order by refusing to remove a former county leader from the Michigan GOP website.


Karamo and the state party must each pay $500 fines, along with a share of plaintiff attorney fees related to the contempt proceedings, he ruled.

Michigan GOP official Lori Skibo told Bridge that the party's general counsel, Daniel Hartman, will be appealing the court's decision.



The development — as well as a new request for sanctions against the Michigan GOP in a separate lawsuit— comes as Karamo fights to retain control of the cash-strapped state party amid an attempt by grassroots leaders to oust her that could come to a head this weekend.

The Oak Park Republican, elected in February, is facing a possible removal vote on Saturday but argues her critics are “acting illegally” by calling a meeting that does not comply with party bylaws. 

“These people are evil and they just want the party back,” Karamo said Wednesday evening in a conservative media interview. “Their goal is to burn it down.”

Karamo's opponents within the Michigan GOP contend the meeting is legal. They’ve complained about her lackluster fundraising heading into an important election cycle, along with her handling of various local party disputes. 

The Hillsdale GOP lawsuit stems from a two-year court battle over party leadership in that conservative county. 

Olsaver, the judge, last year ruled that Brent Leininger is the rightful chair of the county party but wrote in the new contempt order that former executive committee leaders David Mosby, John Smith and Josh Gritzmaker posted materials to Facebook suggesting they still controlled the party. 

Karamo and the Michigan GOP violated the prior court order by continuing to list Mosby as county chair on the state party's website, which also includes a link to a separate site indicating Mosby continues to serve as chair, Oslaver found.

"There is clear and convincing evidence," he wrote. 

Leininger attorney Jonathan Lauderbach called the decision a "victory for the rule of law" and a reminder that there "are consequences" for failing to follow court orders. 

Smith, one of the defendants, criticized the decision and said will likely appeal. 

All he did was "share a Facebook post” someone else had created, Smith told Bridge, suggesting he won't pay his own $500 fine and is "not going to eat" if the judge jails him as a result.

Smith said he supports the effort to remove Karamo as state party chair. But as for the judicial contempt order and fine she now faces, "I think what they’re doing to her is wrong," Smith said.

Court action over Lansing building

Separately, an entity called the Michigan Republican Party Trust this week requested sanctions against the state party and its committee members for what the trust's attorney calls a "frivolous" lawsuit seeking control of the former state party headquarters in Lansing. 

The Michigan GOP, facing the prospect of a potential loan default, last month sued the trust and Comerica Bank in an attempt to gain control of the building and sell it to pay off debts. 

The suit contends the trust did not have legal authority to use the trademarked Michigan Republican Party name, among other things. 

But Karamo herself has acknowledged the Michigan GOP does not actually own the building in question, so the suit should be tossed and the state party should pay all attorney fees and costs "incurred in defending this meritless case," Lauderbach, who also represents the trust, wrote in his request for a dismissal and sanctions.


The building, first purchased in 2005, is technically owned by Seymour Street LLC, according to the court filings. The Michigan Republican Party Trust, which includes Bobby Schostak and other former state party chairs, is the "sole member" of that limited liability company.

The ownership arrangement was designed to "preserve" the property "during periods of leadership transition" within the Michigan GOP, according to a December affidavit signed by former state party general counsel Eric Doster.

Karamo has argued her administration inherited debt from the prior chair, justifying her attempt to sell the former headquarters.

The Michigan GOP and Karamo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit response. 


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