Ex-Rep. Courser doesn’t go quietly into the night

Detroit News staff

Former state Rep. Todd Courser picked up Monday where he left off early Friday morning when he resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace to avoid an expulsion vote over misconduct in office related to his bungled cover-up of an affair with former Rep. Cindy Gamrat.

Courser, R-Lapeer, took to the airwaves in multiple radio and television interviews to complain about how he was treated.

In an interview on “Michigan’s Big Show,” Courser said he was unfairly forced to resign over “scant evidence of misuse” of taxpayer resources.

“There really wasn’t evidence to expel,” Courser said five days after admitting under oath to misusing taxpayer resources.

Courser resigned at 3:12 a.m. Friday morning just as House Republican leaders appeared to have the votes from Democrats to boot him from office following five weeks of a raging scandal over his combined office and extramarital liaisons with Gamrat.

Courser doubts his colleagues read all 833 pages of the House Business Office’s report on his misconduct and voluminous emails and transcripts that were publicly released two days before the vote.

“I dare say that only a handful of the representatives on the floor had actually read the underlining evidence,” Courser told syndicated radio host Michael Patrick Shiels.

The Michigan State Police and Attorney General’s office are now conducting investigations into whether Courser and Gamrat broke any laws in using a combined office to maintain and cover up their affair.

“Did you do something wrong?” radio host Steve Gruberasked Courser Monday.

“Well, I think that’s already been well documented,” Courser replied. “I already admitted to the underlining allegations.”

Courser, an attorney, acknowledged some guilt in his effort to get a House employee to send fellow Republicans a lewd email to divert attention from his relationship with Gamrat.

“There might be a misdemeanor,” Courser said of his conduct. “There’s some regulatory fines that might be imposed from the Secretary of State ... but as far as the idea there’s some criminal activity happening, most of this revolves around conversations that are personal and political, and that’s what they’re saying the misuse of taxpayer funds comes in.”

Courser sounded relieved not to be sitting on the House floor anymore, ostracized by fellow Republicans for his antics.

“There’s a huge weight lifted off of me when I left,” Courser told Gruber. “I mean it’s a pretty repressive place – Lansing is.”

Whigs possible minor party

Forget about relaxing term limits or creating a part-time Legislature. Perhaps the cure for what ails Michigan politics is the revival of the anti-monarchist Whig Party.

The Board of State Canvassers is preparing Thursday to consider approving a new political party petition submitted by the Modern Whig Party of Michigan. The party is seeking permission to try to qualify for the ballot as a minor party – like the Green and Libertarian parties – by gathering enough qualifying signatures in the future, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The petition doesn’t shed much light on the group, so the Insider will provide background.

In the 19th century, the Whigs formed to counter the policies of Democratic President Andrew Jackson. They abhorred Jackson’s attacks on the Second Bank of the United States and his tendency to ignore U.S. Supreme Court decisions and federal treaties with Indian tribes.

The party was attacked by Democrats as sops for the wealthy – sound familiar? – but History.com says modern scholarship has debunked this notion and finds that the party “managed to win support from diverse economic groups in all sections.”

The Whigs – named after the anti-monarchist English political party – won the White House twice, electing Presidents William Henry Harrison and Millard Fillmore in the 1840s. The party faded after 1852 with the rise of the anti-slavery Republican Party.

By contrast, the Modern Whig Party of Michigan contends on its website: “We are not left. We are not right. We are politically centered.”

The party says it opposes allowing corporations or interest groups to “have a right to vote either directly or indirectly through campaign contributions.” Or what a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has called the exercise of free speech and free association.

It also proclaims that “We do not believe in anarcho capitalism. We do not believe in centralized state controlled economies.”

The Insider will see what kind of political firestorm that gets lit by a party that spends more time defining what it is against than what it its “politically centered” philosophy really stands for.

Fracking proposal updates

There were updates this week on two measures percolating toward the Legislature and likely the November 2016 general election ballot.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has collected 100,000 (40 percent) of the 252,523 signatures needed to bring its initiated law proposal to the Legislature, campaign director LuAnne Kozma said. Two prior efforts have fallen short.

Their proposal would prohibit use of the technology by which water and chemicals are pumped into shale formations under intense pressure to unlock deposits of oil and natural gas.

Fracking opponents say it is risky and an environmental hazard. Oil and gas companies say it’s a proven method of safely claiming vast deposits and making the state energy independent.

Fracking ban backers have two more months to collect the rest of the signatures. If they succeed, it comes to the Legislature, which would have 40 days to adopt the ban or allow it to go to the 2016 ballot.

Meanwhile, the Time to Care Coalition announced Wednesday the launch of signature collecting for its sick leave proposal.

“Having the ability to earn paid sick time would ensure that working people are able to balance work and time caring for their families and themselves, which are critical to building strong, thriving communities” said coalition field director RolandLeggett.

The group says 1.5 million workers, or 46 percent of the state’s private sector workforce, don’t have such coverage. Opponents say costly benefits should be decided by companies and their workers, not imposed by the state.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Richard Burr, Gary Heinlein