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Topic: AG Schuette and political patronage complaint

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

‘Political Patronage at Its Worst’: Hatch Act Complaint Filed Against Schuette
January 5, 2018
Progress Michigan

‘Political Patronage at Its Worst’: Hatch Act Complaint Filed Against Schuette
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Progress Michigan

January 5, 2018

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, sam@progressmichigan.org

‘Political Patronage at Its Worst’: Hatch Act Complaint Filed Against Schuette

Progress Michigan holding Schuette accountable for misusing public funds

MICHIGAN — Attorney General Schuette violated federal law when he hired current and former campaign staffers and political operatives to taxpayer-funded positions in his office, Progress Michigan said in a Hatch Act complaint mailed to the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C. on January 3rd.

The complaint centers around an investigative report by the Detroit Free Press showing Schuette stacking his public office with GOP campaign operatives who have been and/or are working on his Attorney General and gubernatorial campaigns.

“Schuette has clearly used and is using his official authority and influence as Attorney General to affect the result of his own nomination and election efforts by hiring and contracting with his own paid political campaign staff, providing them with public jobs from which they are to assist his nomination and election efforts. This is political patronage at its worst which the Hatch Act is intended to prevent,” the complaint states.

“Bill Schuette’s job as Attorney General is to protect the people of the State of Michigan from scam artists, shady businesses and greedy corporate CEO’s who take advantage of the citizens of our state. If he wants to run for governor, fine, but he can’t use public funds that are meant to protect the people of Michigan. He needs to keep his campaign work and his responsibilities as attorney general separate,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Schuette has been an elected official for nearly as long as I have been alive, and he should know better than to misuse his office, but we’re not surprised by this type of shady behavior from him anymore.”

The Hatch Act complaint is the latest attempt by Progress Michigan to hold Schuette accountable for playing fast and loose with public funds to advance his political ambitions. On Tuesday, the watchdog group announced it was filing a campaign finance violation complaint with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office against Schuette and is currently fighting the AG in court over his refusal to release public records as required by the Freedom of Act.

The complaint can be viewed here.

###

Progress Michigan
About Progress Michigan
Progress Michigan is a first-of-its-kind organization. Our mission is to provide a strong credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable, assists in the promotion of progressive ideas and uses state-of-the-art web based new media to creatively build grassroots support for progressive ideas.
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Post Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:35 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

December 15, 2017
Progress Michigan

Schuette Uses Public Funds to Stack Office with Political Allies
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from Shady Schuette

December 15, 2017

Contact: Sam Inglot, 616-916-0574, sam@progressmichigan.org

Schuette Uses Public Funds to Stack Office with Political Allies

AG is using his office for political gain, rather than protecting the people

MICHIGAN — Attorney General Bill Schuette is loading up his public office with political allies who are clearly on the public payroll to help his bid for governor. According to an in-depth Detroit Free Press story published today, Schuette has even awarded $130,000 in public money for no-bid contracts to Republican allies in an obvious effort to bolster his campaign heading into the GOP primary.

“We’ve always known that Bill Schuette was as shady as they come and we can clearly see that with how he handles his office,” said Sam Inglot, project director for ShadySchuette.com. “Schuette is using his public office and taxpayer funds — which are supposed to go to protecting the people of Michigan — to advance his own political career. The Office of Attorney General isn’t supposed to be used like a slush fund and Bill Schuette knows that, he just doesn’t care.”

When pointed out that Schuette was hiring Republican operatives and political allies to public positions, Schuette said, “They’d better be, or they’re not going to be working for me.” He later went on to say that he hires people who have a relationship with him.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Schuette began stacking his office with GOP political operatives just prior to his gubernatorial announcement in September. “Schuette also has used no-bid state contracts to pay more than $130,000 to two influential Republicans,” the Freep reports. The story even points out how Schuette’s driver — who is paid $82,000 a year — also doubles as his campaign treasurer.

“Schuette’s office has been caught using private email accounts for state business, and conducting questionable activities on the taxpayers’ time. Schuette isn’t interested in protecting the people of Michigan. His only concern is becoming the next governor of Michigan,” Inglot continued.
Post Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:41 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

MICHIGAN NEWS
Federal complaint filed over AG Bill Schuette hiring practices
Updated 12:18 PM; Posted 12:05 PM


By Emily Lawler elawler@mlive.com
LANSING, MI - Progressive advocacy group Progress Michigan on Friday announced it had filed a federal complaint against Attorney General Bill Schuette, alleging he had used public funds to hire state workers who were also working on his gubernatorial campaign.

This, the group argued, violated the Hatch Act, a federal law that limits political activities by federal and some state employees.

"Schuette has clearly used and is using his official authority and influence as Attorney General to affect the result of his own nomination and election efforts by hiring and contracting with his own paid political campaign staff, providing them with public jobs from which they are to assist his nomination and election efforts," read the complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C.

It attaches as an exhibit a story from the Detroit Free Press, which reported in December that Schuette's office had issued two no-bid contracts to influential Republicans are hired four "constituent relations representatives" with political ties.

"Bill Schuette's job as Attorney General is to protect the people of the State of Michigan from scam artists, shady businesses and greedy corporate CEO's who take advantage of the citizens of our state. If he wants to run for governor, fine, but he can't use public funds that are meant to protect the people of Michigan. He needs to keep his campaign work and his responsibilities as attorney general separate," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.


The Attorney General's office reacted to the news in a statement.

"It comes as no surprise that political opponents of Attorney General Schuette are attempting to play political games and force the state of Michigan to expend state resources to further their political agenda," said spokeswoman Andrea Bitely.

One of Schuette's Republican primary opponents, Brian Calley, sent out a statement calling for Schuette to remove campaign staff from state payroll.

"Forcing taxpayers to subsidize any officeholder's political ambition is a clear and disturbing breach of the public's trust," Calley said. "Attorney General Schuette should immediately move the gubernatorial campaign field staff exposed in the story off the government payroll and refund the state for all taxpayer funds that were misspent on political purposes."

Other candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary are Sen. Patrick Colbeck, Dr. Jim Hines, Earl Lackie, Joseph Derose, Evan Space and Mark McFarlin.
Post Fri Jan 05, 2018 2:46 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

Bill Schuette stocks AG staff with GOP operatives as he launches campaign for governor
Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press Published 6:44 a.m. ET Dec. 15, 2017 | Updated 5:17 p.m. ET Dec. 16, 2017

Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan asked Schuette about the AG's hiring of Republican activists and campaign experts to work in his taxpayer-funded office, in advance of his campaign for governor. Wochit

)


LANSING — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has loaded his taxpayer-funded office payroll with Republican campaign activists in the run-up to his 2018 campaign for governor, a Free Press investigation has found.

Schuette also has used no-bid state contracts to pay more than $130,000 to two influential Republicans — one of whom has been active in the tea party movement that is important in winning a Republican primary, records show.

The state constitution and civil service rules prohibit hiring or firing employees based on partisan considerations, enshrining the idea that a professional state workforce based solely on merit should remain in place, regardless of what party or leader is in power.

But this year, in advance of his September announcement that he is running for governor, Schuette hired as civil servants four "constituent relations representatives," also known as "executive office representatives," who are all Republican activists or experienced GOP campaign operatives, records obtained under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act show.



They joined other highly politicized appointees and civil servants on Schuette's executive staff, all paid for by taxpayers. They include Schuette's driver, a political appointee who is paid more than $82,000 a year as a "special assistant" but doubles as Schuette's campaign treasurer, and two others with civil servant posts — a self-described "tea party organizer" and another constituent relations representative who was political director for Schuette's 2014 attorney general campaign and recently took a leave of absence to work full-time on his campaign for governor.

Schuette's executive office representatives are responsible for public outreach, giving speeches to service clubs and community groups, educating people about the department's programs and trouble-shooting issues raised by constituents, according to Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely and department records.

Schuette's two predecessors — Republican Attorney General Mike Cox and Democratic Attorney General Jennifer Granholm — did not have these positions, though Cox had a director of constituent relations near the end of his eight years in office, state records show.



"That's a Bill Schuette thing ... making sure we have people out there who are listening," Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said.

"Receive rather than broadcast," she said.

"These people aren't hired because of their partisan politics. They're hired because they're the best and brightest."

More: Donors pay up to $100K a plate to hobnob with Gov. Rick Snyder at Little Caesars Arena

More: Top Michigan governor candidates have more than $10M to spend

Schuette's recently hired constituent relations representatives, positioned in attorney general offices around the state, are:

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Judi Schwalbach: Hired in May as a constituent relations representative at about $50,000 a year, the former Escanaba mayor is an influential Republican in the Upper Peninsula who was a delegate to last year's Republican National Convention and attended President Donald Trump's inauguration. A member of the Republican State Committee, she works out of the attorney general's Marquette office.
Luke Londo: Also hired in May, Londo, a $52,000-a-year constituent relations representative, was digital director for the 2014 campaign of U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, and a former regional press secretary for the Michigan Republican Party. He works in the attorney general's Detroit office.
Michael Sullivan: Hired in May as a $45,000-a-year constituent relations representative, Sullivan was coordinator of the 2014 state House campaign of Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and has worked for a political consulting firm owned by Scott Greenlee, a former Schuette aide and campaign worker. He works in Lansing.
Brandon Sinclair: Hired in March as a $35,000-a-year constituent relations representative, Sinclair is a former political coordinator for the Kent County Republican Party who managed the 2016 campaign of state Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming. He works in Grand Rapids.

A report filed in October shows Schwalbach, Sullivan and Sinclair were all paid expense reimbursements this year by Bill Schuette for Governor, meaning each has been working on his campaign.

Schuette was unapologetic Dec. 6, when a reporter pointed out that his executive office representatives were Republican activists and Schuette supporters.

"They'd better be, or they're not going to be working for me," he said.

Schuette, who took office in 2011, softened his answer when asked whether that wouldn't violate civil service rules.

"You don't have to be a Republican, but you'd better have a relationship with Bill Schuette, or I wouldn't hire those people," he said. "I need to trust them, and I do."

Bitely said nobody does campaign work on state time, which would violate state law.

"I can't speak to what people are doing in their spare time," Bitely said.

Carter Bundy, a former field director for Michigan native Mitt Romney's presidential bid, illustrates the sometimes fluid relationship between Schuette's campaign and his state-funded office.

Andrea BitelyBuy Photo
Andrea Bitely (Photo: Paul Egan/Detroit Free Press)

Bundy served as political director for Schuette's 2014 attorney general campaign -- receiving close to $62,000 in wages and expense reimbursements from Schuette's campaign fund — while taking unpaid leave from his then $40,000-a-year civil service job as a constituent relations representative for the attorney general's office. Bundy, who returned to his full-time job after the campaign, recently took a leave of absence from his now $74,000-a-year job so he can work full-time on Schuette's gubernatorial campaign.

J. Edward Kellough, a professor of public administration at the University of Georgia and an expert on civil service reform, said the situation in Schuette's office sounds unusual.

"There has been a trend in recent years to increasingly politicize the civil service," Kellough said in an e-mail Thursday. "I find that a very troubling trend that can undermine the integrity of the civil service."

Bitely said the job openings were posted on the state website and a committee of departmental officials followed civil service rules by not asking candidates about political affiliations during interviews.

While the vast majority of attorney general employees are supposed to be hired based solely on merit, without considering their partisan politics, Schuette is allowed up to five appointees who are not subject to civil service rules and serve at his pleasure. Duties of those officials also overlap with Schuette campaigns.

Dennis Starner, Schuette's driver and longtime friend and sounding board, is paid more than $82,000 a year as a "special assistant," but has another role that is arguably of equal or greater importance. Starner, a former chairman of the Midland County Republican Party, handles the accounting of millions in campaign donations and expenditures as Schuette's campaign treasurer.

Rusty Hills, left, senior advisor to Bill SchuetteBuy Photo
Rusty Hills, left, senior advisor to Bill Schuette and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette during an interview at the Free Press office in Detroit in June 2017. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)

Schuette's other appointees include Rusty Hills, and John Sellek. Hills, who earns more than $157,000 a year as Schuette's director of public affairs, was paid about $93,000 for his work on the 2010 campaign and has received more than $1,300 in campaign expense reimbursements since Schuette took office. Sellek, who is paid more than $153,000 as Schuette's director of public relations, took an unpaid leave during the 2014 campaign and has received about $95,000 in campaign consulting fees and expense reimbursements since 2013.

The four new constituent relations representatives joined civil servants already serving in Schuette's executive office in Lansing, who records show have worked on his attorney general or gubernatorial campaigns, including:

Wendy Anderson: The supervisor of Schuette's constituent relations representatives, Anderson, a frequent donor to Republican candidates and causes who has also listed her occupation as owner of a GOP campaign consulting firm called Election Resources, has worked for Schuette since he took office and is paid about $95,000 a year.
Sharon Lollio: Paid about $81,000 as Schuette's deputy director of legislative relations, Lollio's Facebook page describes her as a "tea party organizer." She joined Schuette's office in 2011.
In rejecting suggestions that Schuette's work is driven by partisan interests, Bitely noted Schuette has worked closely with Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton — a Democrat who ran against Schuette in 2010 — in prosecuting alleged crimes arising from the Flint water crisis.

Though having four constituent relations representatives in the attorney general's office is unique to Schuette, and the recently hired employees are new, the positions themselves are not. At least four GOP activists who worked for Schuette during his 2014 campaign for attorney general have since left their constituent relations positions. They are:

Scott Greenlee: The president of Greenlee Consulting and the Michigan director of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Greenlee, who left Schuette's office in 2016, was an $89,000-a-year constituent relations representative who received close to $7,400 in consulting fees and expense reimbursements from Schuette's campaign fund between 2010 and 2015. Greenlee stood out among Schuette insiders as an early supporter of Gov. Rick Snyder, who has frequently been at odds with Schuette and is not expected to endorse him for governor.
Matt Hall: Schuette's former constituent relations representative in Grand Rapids was paid about $77,000 a year when he left in 2016. He is a Republican State Committee member and was 3rd Congressional District chairman of the Trump presidential campaign. Records show he worked on Schuette's 2014 campaign.
Shannon Price: A former Republican Wayne County commissioner and Plymouth Township supervisor, Price was paid about $87,000 a year as a Schuette constituency relations representative in Lansing and Detroit until he left the office in 2015. He earlier served as a political appointee to both Schuette and his predecessor, Cox, before moving to the civil service late in 2011.
Stanley Grot: Now a Republican candidate for Secretary of State, Grot was an attorney general executive office representative under Schuette until February 2012, when he launched his successful campaign for Shelby Township clerk, records show. Grot, a GOP district chair, is a former Sterling Heights city councilman and Macomb County commissioner.
Records obtained under FOIA show that since 2011, Schuette has awarded a series of contracts to Glenn Clark, a former president of the Michigan Faith and Freedom Coalition, a former Michigan GOP district chair who was an Oakland County tea party activist.

The contracts, each worth between $25,000 and $50,000, are for making presentations related to Schuette's programs on Internet safety, protections for seniors, and the OK2SAY student safety initiative, records show.

Bitely said the total amount paid to Clark under the contracts was just under $117,000.

Though the contracts weren't awarded through competitive bidding, which Bitely said was not required, interested vendors had to submit a résumé and/or cover letter and be interviewed by Schuette's consumer protection team.

"We are interested in candidates who are comfortable with technology and speaking in front of an audience," as well as "diversity in terms of geographic location, race, and gender," she said. Most of the 36 current contractors are former educators, she said.

Clark, who is supporting Schuette for governor, said Schuette's office felt his experience organizing school fund-raising projects with Nestlé was a benefit in arranging appointments for presentations in schools.

Clark said Wednesday he left the Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2013 and doesn't currently have time for tea party activities because he is caring for his 99-year-old grandmother.

Schwalbach, the former Escanaba mayor, received just under $14,000 through similar contracts before Schuette hired her as a civil servant this year, Bitely said.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.
Post Fri Jan 05, 2018 3:46 pm 
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