Thursday, March 17, 2011

2 ex-Dem leaders charged in fake tea party scheme...

Mike Martindale

Pontiac— Two former high-ranking members of the Oakland County Democratic Party are facing various election corruption charges in a bogus tea party scheme, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and County Sheriff Michael Bouchard announced Wednesday.

Former Democratic Party Chairman Michael McGuinness and ex-operations director Jason Bauer, both of Waterford Township, were arraigned Wednesday before Oakland Circuit Judge James Alexander.

They face charges related to Independent Tea Party filings, false affidavits and forged documents that occurred between July 23 and July 26 last year.

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Both stood mute to the charges and were released on $25,000 personal bond each, pending an April 13 hearing before Alexander.

The charges include felonies that carry up to 14 years in prison. Neither could be reached for comment.

Cooper and Bouchard announced the charges during a joint press conference conducted to discuss the findings of a one-person grand jury seated by Oakland Circuit Judge Edward Sosnick.

"The election process is sacred … this is not a partisan statement," Cooper said, noting her Democratic affiliation and that of Bouchard, a Republican. Bouchard said 23 questionable election filings across Michigan — eight of them in Oakland County — involved an effort to create the illusion of an Independent Tea Party and its candidates on November's ballot.

The goal was to woo away voters in local elections who might otherwise vote for other candidates, presumably Republicans, authorities allege.

While creating such a party in itself is not illegal, Bouchard noted that the alleged forging of documents and putting people up for political office without their involvement — including at least one "candidate" who told investigators he had no knowledge that he was on the ballot until notified — is criminal.

The scheme included bogus candidates for two County Commission seats and a state Senate race, according to a copy of a grand jury warrant released Wednesday. None of the candidates won.

"The presumed intent was to get people drawn to tea party politics and siphon votes off (from other candidates)," Bouchard said.

Bouchard said the investigation of possible election corruption is continuing and included an unnamed "party leader in Lansing." The sheriff did not elaborate.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson petitioned for a grand jury inquiry into possible election corruption in August following complaints received by then-County Clerk Ruth Johnson and an investigation initiated by Bouchard's office at the request of Cooper.

Both McGuinness and Bauer are charged with three counts of forged records, uttering and publishing, a 14-year felony; three counts of election law, false swearing, a felony punishable by five years in prison; and one count of election law, false swearing-perjury, also a five-year felony.

Bauer is also charged with three counts of notary public violation, a one-year misdemeanor.

Both resigned their party posts following allegations in August that suspicious filings were notarized by Bauer.

Several months ago, Bauer was suspended from the Oakland Democratic Party after it surfaced that he encouraged interns to write bogus "help me" letters from nonexistent residents in support of a medical program backed by a Democratic commissioner.