Courser: Investigation will prove I was blackmailed
A fellow tea party activist is calling for Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat to resign over their relationship, even as Courser said Tuesday he welcomes a state House investigation that he says will prove he is being blackmailed.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, released a statement Tuesday saying “the longer the scandal and ridicule continues, the more damage will be done to both their families and to that (tea party) cause.”
Courser, R-Lapeer, has admitted that he orchestrated a scandalous fake email sent to fellow Republicans in May to deflect attention from his relationship with Gamrat, a tea party colleague from Plainwell. Both are married. Neither has appeared publicly since The Detroit News revealed the scheme Friday, along with audio tapes made by a Courser aide.
“I'm hopeful that they will not force their families, constituents, or fellow legislators to endure weeks, months, or longer of allowing this damaging distraction to continue,” Glenn’s statement said. “It should end now.”
Meanwhile, Courser said in a Facebook post Tuesday evening that he will be exonerated by an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the phony email, which alleged he was caught having sex with a man behind a Lansing bar. Courser claimed he hatched the plan to smoke out a blackmailer; his aides say it was intended to draw attention away from the two lawmakers’ relationship.
In the post, Courser — writing in news-release style, in the third person — said he sent the “inexcusable” email out of desperation because he was being blackmailed. He wrote that an anonymous blackmailer ordered him to resign or that information about his “personal indiscretions” would be released.
Courser, in Tuesday’s Facebook post, said he has been in contact with authorities about harassing texts from a blackmailer. He added that a state House investigation into the matter will show he did not use state resources and staff improperly.
Rather, Courser wrote, he used his to staff “to try to pin down exactly who his blackmailer was.” He said he has concluded that his former staff members worked with a political consultant to concoct a plot to remove him from office.
The three, Keith Allard, Ben Graham and Joshua Cline, issued a joint statement Monday saying “there is absolutely no truth to the accusations against us by Mr. Courser” that they were part of an alleged blackmail ring.
Courser said the alleged blackmail texts “show a lot. They are very intimate. They were freakishly stalking. It was in this environment that I was acting to find out who was involved in the blackmailing. They involved access to conversations, texts, locations, and family info including private cell data. It was constant surveillance from January forward."
He provided some of the alleged blackmailer’s texts to the Lansing newsletter Michigan Information & Research Service on Tuesday.
In his Facebook post, Courser wrote that a blackmailer told him he was meeting with House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, on Aug. 3. Cotter’s press secretary told MIRS on Tuesday that Cotter was in his district that day and did not meet with anyone in Lansing.
Courser wrote that he “did not engage” the alleged blackmailer.
“In no way could I ever submit to that sort of pressure and so I simply refused and instead set out to do what I could to expose the person or persons involved,” he wrote.
Courser said the phony email was a “a low point in his life” and was “inexcusable.” It was the product of “an immense amount of stress” about his and his family’s personal safety, “combined with a lack of food and sleep,” he wrote.
Also Tuesday, Allegan County Republicans will decide next week on a resolution asking Gamrat to resign over allegations of an affair with Courser.
Steve McNeal, GOP chair in the conservative West Michigan county of Allegan, said he’s received “hundreds of phone calls, emails, texts, you name it” urging Gamrat to resign.
The News last week reported that the two tea party favorites — who battled mainstream Republicans to win their House seats and then formed a two-person legislative coalition — allegedly used their taxpayer-funded offices to maintain and cover up their relationship.
Over the weekend, the House Business Office seized records and computers from Courser’s and Gamrat’s offices after Cotter ordered an investigation to determine if the first-term lawmakers improperly used taxpayer-funded resources in their shared office operation.
House Business Office employees Tuesday combed through emails involving Courser and Gamrat, according to Cotter press secretary Gideon D’Assandro. He noted they are compiling a list of workers to be interviewed as part of the investigation, including two aides fired in the midst of the scandal.
“It will be anybody who might have been an eyewitness about taxpayers’ assets being misused,” D’Assandro said Tuesday. Gamrat and Courser had not responded to requests from the House Speaker speaker to discuss their situation, he added.
Allegan Republicans will vote Aug. 20 on a resolution calling for Gamrat’s resignation. A first draft of the document, written by McNeal, states that Gamrat “has clearly violated and betrayed the public trust by failing to maintain the character and integrity the Citizens of Allegan County deserve from their elected officials.”
McNeal, the county GOP chair, said the language will be fine-tuned by the 32-member executive committee prior to a vote. He believes most Republicans in the county support asking Gamrat to step down, including those aligned with the tea party movement.
“Most of the folks that would be considered a tea party have been accepting of … my decision,” McNeal said Thursday.