Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel declined to pursue criminal action against Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser related to payments Weiser allegedly made to a former GOP secretary of state candidate to drop out of the race in 2018.
An investigation conducted by the Secretary of State’s Office earlier this year found evidence of an improper agreement in which Weiser agreed to pay former Shelby Township clerk Stan Grot $200,000 to drop out of the secretary of state’s race before the party’s 2018 convention.
Weiser agreed to pay $200,000 to resolve a campaign finance complaint following the review. Nessel’s office determined that the alleged campaign finance violation isn’t criminal and didn’t warrant additional action on the matter.
“Paying a candidate for office to withdraw from a statewide election is no doubt insidious behavior that diminishes and undermines our democracy,” Nessel said. “However, under the circumstances presented, Mr. Weiser’s use of political party funds to manipulate the nomination for the office of Secretary of State for the 2018 Michigan Republican Convention did not allow for criminal charges to be generated,” she added.
The payments to Grot violated Michigan campaign finance law, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Weiser called the accusation “baseless” but said that he agreed to the conciliation payment “to close this unfortunate chapter, and continue our focus where it needs to be — the 2022 election.”
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In an Aug. 16 memo from Criminal Division Chief Danielle Hagaman Clark to Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud following a request regarding whether a criminal investigation might warrant charges, Clark recommended against further action.
The analysis// found that conciliation agreement between the Michigan GOP and the Secretary of State’s office “acts as a complete bar to any criminal action related to this behavior.” Criminal statutes outside campaign finance violations don’t apply, the memo reads, because Weiser is not a public officer.
John Inhulsen, General Counsel for the Michigan GOP agreed with the determination of Nessel’s office but characterized it as superfluous.
“The Attorney General is correct that hiring Stan Grot to successfully build the grassroots of the party and win Macomb County was legal,” Inhulsen said in a statement, referring to Grot’s role to help improve the party’s fortunes in Macomb County after he dropped out of the race. “It shouldn’t have taken an investigation and waste of taxpayer dollars to figure that out,” Inhulsen added.
Former Michigan GOP Chairwoman Laura Cox filed the complaint against Wesier in February alleging improper payments to Grot during Weiser’s previous tenure as the party’s chair. She accused Weiser directing a “sleazy payoff” to Grot in order to clear the field for Mary Treder Lang in the 2018 secretary of state’s race. Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson defeated Lang that year.
The allegation served as a flashpoint during a bitter contest between Cox and Weiser to lead the Michigan Republican Party following former President Donald Trump’s loss in the state.
Clara Hendrickson fact-checks Michigan issues and politics as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-296-5743. Follow her on Twitter @clarajanehen.
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