Speaker of the House Jase Bolger can sleep a little easier, and so can former Representative Roy Schmidt. After more than a year of investigating, Ingham County Circuit Judge Aquilina Rosemarie ruled neither committed any criminal acts surrounding an election scandal during the 2012 primary.
"Let's hope this is the end of it because it has cost the taxpayers a lot of money and wasted time and effort by public officials who frankly I think had better things to do," said Bill Ballenger from Inside Michigan Politics.
Just before the filing deadline Schmidt switched from running as a Democrat to a Republican and offered money to a 22-year-old to run against him as a Democrat.
Bolger describes his involvement as "political gamesmanship."
"What the Speaker of the House did was stupid, blundering, deceitful, incompetent. He apologized for it. His party paid a political price for it. He almost lost his seat as a result but probably that should have been the end of it," said Ballenger. "I think it makes the democrats look bad to the people who want democrats to look bad -- that's Republicans. They will say democrats took this too far. They wasted the taxpayers money."
In July 2012 WILX reported the Kent County prosecutor who originally investigated the scandal found no criminal conduct, only a clear attempt to perpetrate a fraud on voters. The prosecutor compared it to someone paying a boxer to take a dive -- except fixing a boxing match is a crime -- and this isn't. Now a year later, an Ingham County judge has concluded the same. The ruling is the final decision after a long drawn out process. Ballenger says what makes the judges decision even more concrete, is her democratic background.
"I think it actually is helpful to Jase Bolger and the Republicans to have Rosemarie Aquilina come out and say 'You know I don't find anything wrong here in terms of criminal activity'," said Ballenger.
Judge Aquilina was the only member of the grand jury and any findings she discovered are secret.
"Whatever Bolger did, stupidity isn't necessarily criminal," said Ballenger.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans were available for on camera interviews. Below are some statements they offered.
Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, issued the following statement. Due to the legal rules regarding the grand jury process, no further comments will be made by this office.
"I want to thank all of those who stood by me during this time, which was particularly frustrating due to my inability to speak openly about details in this case due to the legal restrictions of a grand jury to conduct everything in secret.
"Even now, after the finding has been issued, I still cannot comment further on the investigation. I repeatedly sought to follow the law with the original issue and will continue to follow the law with regard to this court proceeding.
"I still stand behind the apology to voters I offered last year: (http://www.freep.com/article/20120720/OPINION05/120720055/Speaker-Bolger-I-apologizes-to-voters-).
"As promised in that apology, my focus has been and will continue to be on serving the hardworking men and women of our state to help solve the problems they face and help Michigan continue to grow for their success." ###
Statement from House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel D-Auburn Hills on Judge Rosemary Aquilina's ruling in the Bolger-Schmidt case.
"It's clear this incident is a breach of the public's trust even though no charges will be filed. Recruiting a straw candidate to manufacture a one-sided race is not what state representatives, let alone the speaker of the House, are elected to do. As legislators, we must be held to a higher standard. It's terrible that some elected officials choose to act this way, putting their careers ahead of the people that put them in office. House Democrats have introduced a package of election reform and ethics bills that aim to prevent this sort of behavior, but unsurprisingly, the House Republicans has refused to take action on them. Regardless of Republican cooperation, or lack thereof, we will continue working to make state government accountable and transparent, as it should be." ###
Senator Gretchen Whitmer released the following statement.
"In calling for the grand jury investigation into last year's scandal involving former Representative Roy Schmidt's election, I simply wanted to ensure that a full and proper review took place on behalf of the people asking for one. Now that that investigation has been concluded, it's time for all of us to move forward and focus on the issues in front of the Legislature today." ###
Statement from State Representative Brandon Dillon D-Grand Rapids on Judge Rosemary Aquilina's ruling.
"I respect our system of justice. However, the fact that Speaker Bolger and Mr. Schmidt's half-baked election rigging caper apparently doesn't rise to the level of an indictable offense doesn't change the fact that what they did was wrong, unethical and morally reprehensible. Today's decision only demonstrates that our laws need to be strengthened so this kind of blatant disregard for democracy doesn't happen again." ###