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Rep. Roy Schmidt, GOP leader, apologize for recruiting fake Democrat in party switch

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Rep. Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) pictured last summer when he was a Democrat, rallying against Gov. Rick Snyder's K-12 education budget.

The Kent County Prosecutor says a state representative who switched political parties minutes before an election filing deadline may have committed election fraud. But the review concludes Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt did not do anything criminal.

You can view the full report here.

The prosecutor’s investigation shows Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) worked with House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) to switch parties and run as a Republican.

At the same time, the prosecutor says the two men were looking for a decoy Democrat to run against Schmidt – and presumably lose. Schmidt’s son offered to pay his friend $450 to be the decoy.

Schmidt says he regrets recruiting someone to run against him. "It’s something that’s been digging in my mind and my heart for over two months," Schmidt said.

"I should’ve consulted. I should’ve said something. In hindsight, I think about it every day, about every hour – why I did this. It was a mistake. It was a poor political decision," Schmidt said.

He says he wished he would've just went public with the decision to switch parties when he first decided; not wait until the last minute before the filing deadline.  

Schmidt says he will “beg” voters to forgive him for that decision while he runs for re-election. He says he will not resign from office.

The prosecutor said campaign finance law may have been violated since Schmidt asked to issue a $2,000 check from his campaign and make payable to his son, Ryan, who helped recruit his friend Matthew Mojak to be the decoy Democrat. In texts Ryan offered Mojak $450 to be the decoy, although no money exchanged hands.

Schmidt says he voided the $2,000 check and never gave it to anyone.  He says he doesn't know what his son's intentions were by offering Mojak money.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth wrote that Schmidt may have violated campaign finance laws. That’s something the Secretary of State’s office would determine.

“By directing his campaign treasurer, Harold Hamilton, to write a $2,000 check on his campaign account, “Friends of Roy Schmidt”, payable to his son Ryan, it appears that Representative Schmidt attempted to improperly use campaign contributions. I think the evidence, while circumstantial, is nonetheless compelling that $1,000 was to go to Ryan for helping “recruit” Matthew Mojak and the remaining $1,000 was to be paid to Mr. Mojak to entice him to stay on the ballot.”
“As a Republican elected official, I am embarrassed and offended by what transpired. At 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.”

Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) issued this written statement:

"I've said all along that all laws should be followed. As the Kent County Prosecutor determined, nothing illegal took place. Political fights can be ugly but we should all seek to focus on people, not politics. Nothing about Roy Schmidt switching parties was illegal. Roy Schmidt switched out of motivation to work for the people of Grand Rapids. But some of the actions surrounding the recruitment of another candidate were politically motivated. I encouraged a Democrat to be recruited to run, but today even I am still learning about all of the actions that took place surrounding that recruitment. Roy Schmidt told me he wanted to switch parties because he was frustrated dealing with partisan politics instead of finding solutions for Michigan's people. Political gamesmanship by anyone is a mistake and the focus should be on people instead of politics."

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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