MICHIGAN TRUTH SQUAD ANALYSIS:
What: Public statements concerning state Representative Roy Schmidt’s political party switch.
Who: Schmidt (a Grand Rapids Republican) and House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
Truth Squad Call: Flagrant foul against Schmidt; foul against Bolger.
In May, at the filing deadline for this year’s state House of Representatives elections, Schmidt switched parties, from Democrat to Republican. Schmidt also worked to hamstring Democratic Party efforts to put forward a credible challenger to him this fall. Schmidt consulted with Bolger in developing and executing the plan. A Bolger staffer filed re-election and party-switching papers for Schmidt 10 minutes before the May 15 deadline. This was minutes after the same Bolger staffer submitted papers for 22-year-old mall worker and part-time student Matt Mojzak to run as a Democrat.
Mozjak was offered money to run. That offer came in a text message to Mojzak from Schmidt's son, Ryan: "Do you want to make some money?" Mojzak later withdrew as questions grew about the propriety of his candidacy.
Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth investigated the matter, concluded Schmidt and Bolger did not violate state election law, and referred the incident on to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office for continued investigation of whether the Michigan Campaign Finance Act was violated.
Veteran political observers in Lansing can point to many past tales of attempted election manipulation by candidates and parties of all stripes. Efforts to use the ballot to get a leg up in campaign season have ranged from last-minute party switching to crowding primaries with numerous candidates, to trying to induce mistaken identity in the ballot box by running inexperienced or even uninterested candidates with popular last names against more experienced candidates.
Rarely, though, has such ballot mischief been so thoroughly documented for all to see so clearly.
In his report, Forsyth said, “Although the 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. The prosecutor concluded his report by adding, “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.”
This Truth Squad analysis examines the political statements made by Schmidt and Bolger as the controversy unfolded.
“I never met Matt Mojzak. Don’t know who he is” -- Roy Schmidt in an on-camera television news interview during the daytime hours of Wednesday, May 16.
In fact, Schmidt and his associates had numerous encounters with Mojzak May 13-16, according to Forsyth’s investigative report, including:
- Sunday, May 13, Schmidt’s son contacted Mojzak and asked “do you want to make some money?” Schmidt’s son did so after Schmidt told him that finding an opponent would help him get re-elected.
- On Tuesday, May 15, Rep. Schmidt personally met with Mojzak at the Centrepointe Mall in Grand Rapids to work on candidate filings and change of address forms to be turned in that day.
- On Wednesday, May 16, the same evening Rep. Schmidt said in a televised interview that he’d “never met” Mojzak, Schmidt met with Mozjak. “At that time,” the prosecutor’s report details, “Mr. Mojzak claims that Rep. Schmidt told him that, because the media had made such a big deal of his candidacy, he understood why (Mojzak) wanted to withdraw. Rep. Schmidt further said that he was surprised by the media reaction but, because he had already told the media he didn’t know Mojzak, he asked him not to say anything.”
"Not at all." -- Schmidt in an interview with WOOD-TVpublished May 17 when asked if his party switch and Mojzak's May 15 filing were coordinated.
The Forsyth concluded just the opposite. Forsyth details extensive text messaging between Schmidt and Bolger and others to coordinate the party switch and Mojak candidate filing. Forsyth went so far as to say, "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."
Speaker: “Any luck finding ur Dem in ur district? That’s the last piece we need.”
Schmidt: “I believe we do. Wii know this afternoon.”
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.”
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!”
Schmidt: “We have our man.”
Phone call from Speaker to Representative Schmidt [4.9 minutes]
Schmidt: “Matthew Mojak\He will be at the sec. Of state with a new address this afternoon.”
Speaker: “Have this completed, double checked, and notarized. Bring tomorrow and we’ll b all set. This will block any games anyone could try to play and u will b..clear:”
"I don't know much about (Mojzak) except what I'm reading. My conversations have been focused on Roy Schmidt and the people of Grand Rapids" -- Bolger to reporters the day after Schmidt's party switch.
In the wake of Forsyth’s report, Speaker Bolger offered additional explanation in an interview with the Kalamazoo Gazette. Bolger was specifically asked in May if he was involved in helping to coordinate Mojzak’s candidacy. In last week’s Gazette interview, Bolger said: “I did not lie. I’m saying I did not answer the question. I was evasive.”
Flagrant foul on Schmidt for falsely claiming in media interviews in May that he’d never met Mojzak. Those misrepresentations vastly understated Schmidt’s role as a leader of the party-switching/fake Democrat filing scheme.
Foul on Speaker Bolger for what he now acknowledges were his own “evasive” answers in May that understated his role in conferring with Schmidt on the party-switching/fake Democrat filing scheme.