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Michigan Elections Bureau opens investigation into GOP's $200K payments to candidate

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 2/8/2021 Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
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LANSING – The state Bureau of Elections has opened an investigation into $200,000 in payments the Michigan Republican Party made to a candidate for secretary of state in 2018, allegedly to get him to drop out of the race, a spokesman said Monday.

Outgoing party chair Laura Cox sent a letter to the bureau Thursday reporting the payments made to Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot as a possible violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

Cox also went public about the payments to Grot, which she said were orchestrated by former party chair Ron Weiser. She disclosed what she described as a "sleazy payoff"  in an effort to persuade delegates to the state GOP convention Saturday to not elect Weiser to a new two-year stint as chairman. Instead, Cox urged delegates to reelect her on an interim basis until a new election for party chair could be held.

Ronald Weiser et al. looking at the camera: From left: Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox and Ron Weiser © Brian Vernellis / Holland Sentinel, Provided by Michigan Republican Party From left: Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox and Ron Weiser

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But on Saturday, delegates voted 66% for Weiser and his co-chair, Meshawn Maddock, in a rejection of Cox and her co-chair, Terry Bowman.

"The Bureau of Elections is investigating the reported possible violation of the campaign finance act, as it does with any written report that a violation of the campaign finance act may have occurred," spokesman Jake Rollow said Monday.

"Following the conclusion of the Bureau’s enforcement process, depending on the finding the bureau may refer the matter to the Attorney General’s Office."

The Bureau of Elections is overseen by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. Dana Nessel, another Democrat, is attorney general.

Cox alleged Weiser paid Grot $200,000 over seven months so he would drop out of the race for secretary of state shortly before the 2018 convention, clearing the field for Mary Treder Lang, who Benson defeated in the general election.

More: Michigan Republicans choose U-M Regent Ron Weiser as party chair after bitter fight

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Both Weiser and Grot have denied the allegations, saying Grot was hired to improve party fortunes in Macomb County.

An investigation by a law firm hired by Cox was inconclusive, partly because Weiser refused to cooperate with the investigation, according to the firm's preliminary report.

The report said the facts provide "some circumstantial evidence" that the payments to Grot may have been a quid pro quo for him dropping out of the race for secretary of state, and "the circumstances merit further investigation."

The party did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act can bring civil fines and criminal penalties.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan Elections Bureau opens investigation into GOP's $200K payments to candidate

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