Michigan state rep sought bribe for vote through text messages, feds allege

State Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, concluded his text message to a representative of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights with: “We never had this discussion.”

Update: Michigan lawmaker denies bribery: ‘Do you think I would stoop that low?’

A Republican state representative is facing calls to resign after he was indicted Wednesday on allegations he solicited a bribe in exchange for a vote against the controversial prevailing wage repeal package passed last year.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield's staff confirmed Wednesday he has stripped Rep. Larry Inman, R-Williamsburg, of committee assignments and wants him to step down. The request comes as Inman faces charges alleging he asked the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union for more than a $5,000 campaign contribution to vote against a proposal to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law.

“I am innocent of these charges,” Inman said in a statement Wednesday. “I have always represented my constituency honestly and legally. I intend on vigorously fighting these charges and defending my reputation.”

The prevailing wage law, which is a favorite of unions and opposed by Republicans, required state construction projects pay laborers union-scale wages and benefits. Inman eventually voted for the repeal, but not before prosecutors accuse him of seeking donations for himself and others in exchange for votes.

My suggestion is you need to get people maxed out,” on campaign contributions, Inman wrote in a text to a representative for the union a few days before the prevailing wage repeal vote in June, according to the indictment.

He concluded, “We never had this discussion.”

Prosecutors allege he followed up the request with two more texts seeking donations. The union had donated $6,000 to his campaign in the year leading up to the text messages, but it didn’t donate any more following the texts.

The texts go into great detail about how much Inman and unnamed other lawmakers would need for their support, the indictment alleges.

"Carpenters have been good to me, where are the rest of the trades on checks?" Inman allegedly wrote, apparently referring to trade unions. "We only have 12, people to block it. You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote."
 
Inman allegedly wrote that $5,000 donations weren't enough for Republicans.
 
"Its not worth losing assignments and staff for $5,000, in the end. They will give you the check back," a text reads. "I am not sure you can hold 12 people for the only help of $5,000."

An FBI agent later asked Inman about the text messages and the state representative falsely denied them, the grand jury alleges.

Inman’s arraignment date has not yet been set. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent.

“Everyone in the House is surprised and disappointed by this news,” Chatfield said in a statement Wednesday. “The indictment just came to my attention this morning, and I am still gathering more information.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Wednesday the charges underscore that Michigan needs more stringent financial disclosure requirements for elected officials.

“We are one of two states that doesn't require our representatives to disclose their personal finances, leading questions of conflicts of interest,” Benson said.

“It's important that when there are conflicts of interest or even going so far as bribes ... that we that we investigate and hold those accountable.”

While it’s unclear whether better reporting laws would have prevented the allegations, Michigan has repeatedly been in the bottom nationwide in integrity rankings.

A Bridge and Michigan Campaign Finance Network investigation in 2016 found multiple Michigan lawmakers have voted on legislation despite having a financial or personal conflict of interest with it.

The Center for Public Integrity had similar findings in a 2018 investigation, and gave the state an ‘F’ for integrity in 2015. As recently as the lame duck session late last year, state legislators pushed legislation that would help their business or those of former colleagues.

Another group, Voters Not Politicians, also called for Inman's resignation. The group is behind last year's successful ballot measure to allow a citizen panel, rather than lawmakers, draw legislative districts following the 2020 Census.

"Every voter in Michigan – whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent – knows money in politics is, like gerrymandering, is a fundamental reason our government is broken," the group's executive director, Nancy Wang, wrote in a statement.

"The next step to fix our broken government is for state Rep. Larry Inman to resign immediately, with a thorough investigation to follow to uncover how far this scheme has spread into our legislature."

Inman is a third-term lawmaker who, until he was stripped of his assignments, chaired the Military and Veterans Affairs and State Police Subcommittee and the Joint Capitol Outlay Committee. He also served on the Health and Human Services Subcommittee, School Aid and Department of Education Subcommittee and the Appropriations Committee.

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Comments

David Richards
Wed, 05/15/2019 - 5:47pm

Someone should have explained to Rep. Inman how "nudge, nudge, wink, wink," works. The line between a bribe and a contribution can be a grey one, but this one might be black and white.

Al Pedwaydon
Sun, 05/19/2019 - 11:31am

Sounds like you condone this crime as long as it’s done on the QT.

Fred J
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 6:47am

Drain the swamp!

***
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 7:13am

In the 1970s a local representative in the Lansing area supposedly took a bribe, I can't remember the details but I don't believe it involved a vote on an issue. He was an up and coming state senator that looked promising for some higher office but the case ruined his political career and he was finished in politics.

Jeffrey Kless
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 8:55am

Let the courts decide but let me make it clear that I in now way support "bribery" in or political system which Republicans need to survive.

Bernadette
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 10:09am

This is no surprise. I attended a community meeting with Bridge several years ago and integrity and transparency was the most important issue to citizens. This one statement in the article says it all:

"The Center for Public Integrity had similar findings in a 2018 investigation, and gave the state an ‘F’ for integrity in 2015. As recently as the lame duck session late last year, state legislators pushed legislation that would help their business or those of former colleagues."

Our legislators have been on a slippery slope for years and voters need to wake up to this. Gerrymandering is just the first reform.

Casey
Thu, 05/16/2019 - 2:06pm

I'm from Traverse City and I've read extensively on this issue since it came out yesterday.

First off, it's kind of funny that he's been indicted when his campaign consultant was arrested and fired from his campaign last year.

Second, I know that he is refusing to resign, but he's been neutered as a politician already and the damage is done. If he has no committee assignments, then all he'll be doing is voting. Not that our state legislators are super in depth on their policy knowledge, but he can't even do constituent relations since the House Business Office is handling all his phone calls. If he really cared about his district, he'd resign and have a new person working for Grand Traverse County. He's term limited anyway and he won't be exonerated before he's forced out of office.

I'm biased, but he released a statement that he would work for all of his constituents, not just Republicans. I respect that, but this whole thing brings it into question. They have text messages from him, how is this case not open and shut?

Excalibur
Fri, 05/17/2019 - 11:55pm

The max, 35 years in prison sounds just about right for this piece of whatever.

Al Pedwaydon
Sun, 05/19/2019 - 11:26am

This is the era we are living in. The lack of integrity that goes all the way to the federal level to the highest office in country. Its true that one is innocent until proven guilty, it is also true that the feds do not indict unless they have indisputable evidence. If he is found guilty he should return all his pay from the date this illegal act was discovered as well as be disqualified from all lifetime benefits, pension and healthcare.

Frank Benson
Mon, 05/20/2019 - 8:35am

Sounds like when he said the Carpenters have been good to me that they have been paying him for years. Both parties are guilty of collusion and corruption.