Bipartisanship wanes in Michigan delegation
There’s not a lot of bipartisanship going on now in the Michigan congressional delegation.
A scheduled meeting of the delegation in Washington last week was abruptly canceled. Delegation members from both parties had been meeting roughly every couple of months.
Members from Michigan introduced separate amendments to a House spending bill this week on a bipartisan issue – Asian carp.
Both amendments, one from by Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and the other by Democrat Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township, would have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release a long-stalled draft study on ways to keep the invasive species out of the Great Lakes.
The House Rules Committee ruled both amendments out of order, but it’s notable that Huizenga and Kildee didn’t team up. Kildee's amendment did include 13 bipartisan co-sponsors from Great Lakes states, indicating he reached out to other Michigan offices.
This month, the delegation’s Republicans signed a letter on another bipartisan issue – the effort to bring the F-35 Lightning II aircraft to Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township.
Democratic offices said they had not been contacted about the July 13 letter led by Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, whose district includes the base.
A spokeswoman for Mitchell said at the time it was important to demonstrate “unified support from the Republican delegation” for Selfridge in a timely manner, as the base had just been visited by U.S. Air Force representatives.
This week, another letter was sent to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson – this one signed by almost every member of the delegation – urging support for Selfridge to host the F-35 mission.
The bipartisan letter was released by the offices of Mitchell and Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, a Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We arrived at a bipartisan effort to depict overwhelming support for the F-35 in Selfridge,” Mitchell said Wednesday. “I think it’s important to not only talk bipartisan but to act bipartisan on the majority of issues we address.”
Delegation Republicans have expressed frustration with Peters and Michigan’s senior senator, Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, for holding up the nomination of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen to the federal appellate bench. The senators say they are reviewing Larsen’s record and met with her Wednesday.
The recent tensions are in contrast with the bipartisan Michigan “action plan” launched by the delegation two years ago, led by Stabenow and Michigan’s senior Republican, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph.
At the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference, the pair said they would boost the frequency of delegation meetings and tackle a common agenda centered on protecting the Great Lakes and preserving defense operations in the state.
Upton is now eyeing a potential run against Stabenow in 2018.
More mystery money for Calley petition drive
Curious who’s funding Lt. Gov. BrianCalley’s petition drive for a part-time Michigan Legislature? A new campaign finance report filed with the state on Tuesday shed little light on the matter, showing Calley’s Clean MI committee continues to benefit from a dark money fund that does not disclose donors.
The “Fund for Michigan” jobs has contributed $506,000 of the $517,899 the ballot committee has raised so far, according to the new filing. As The Detroit News recently reported, the fund is a tax-exempt nonprofit that can accept unlimited contributions and keep them anonymous.
The “social welfare” fund has supported Calley initiatives in the past and is run by former banking and retail industry lobbyists who have declined to disclose donors, which they are not required to do by law. The fund donated $306,000 during the latest reporting period.
The other $8,933 raised for the petition drive between June 10 and July 20 came from 13 individual contributors, including $5,000 from Harold Blumenstein, general partner of Paragon Properties in Bingham Farms.
Thanedar criticizes Whitmer, Schuette
Entrepreneur Shri Thanedar shocked political observers this week by reporting he has pumped nearly $3.3 million of his own money into his long-shot campaign for governor. The Ann Arbor Democrat also is stepping up his rhetoric in a bid to gain traction.
Thanedar, in a Tuesday interview with The Detroit News, took aim at presumed Democratic front runner Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, who along with Calley is considered a favorite for the GOP nomination if he gets in the race.
Whitmer is “the status quo,” said Thanedar, noting her legislative experience that included a four-year run as Democratic minority leader in the state Senate. “She’s been there for 14 years. We’ve got to go beyond somebody making speeches. I’ve been a problem solver all my life.”
While Whitmer has been working to consolidate support for the 2018 Democratic primary, and Abdul El-Sayed of Detroit has also been running an aggressive campaign, Thanedar dismissed calls to “unite behind our front-runner.”
The scientist and businessman argued Schuette would “take us toward the Kansas model, which is a complete disaster,” referencing a state where Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s dramatic tax cuts produced a major budget hole legislators were left scrambling to fill.
“The next four years under a Republican governor would be worse than the four years we have now because we would get somebody with right wing ideology without any kind of business skills,” Thanedar said.
Ex-Kildee staffer implicated in scheme
A former information technology staffer for congressional Democrats was arrested by federal authorities this week and charged with bank fraud, according to the Associated Press.
Imran Awan of Lorton, Virginia, was arrested at an Washington-area airport, where he was attempting to fly to Pakistan. Awan had worked as an IT employee shared by Democratic members including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, who has now fired him.
The AP reported that Awan pleaded not guilty when arraigned Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on one count of bank fraud. His attorney told Fox News Wednesday that the accusation is false.
An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint alleges that Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, perpetrated a scheme to defraud Congressional Federal Credit Union based on misrepresentations they made to get a loan.
Alvi also had worked as a shared employee for House members, including Rep. Dan Kildee. She lost her position with Kildee Feb. 3 after House administrators blocked her from accessing the House server network in connection with an investigation.
“Upon being notified that House officials had determined Ms. Alvi violated a number of House policies and procedures, her employment with our office was immediately terminated,” Kildee spokesman Mitchell Rivard said.
According to the affidavit, Alvi left the country with her children for Pakistan in March and has not returned. Before she left, customs officials found $12,400 cash in her bags.
Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Jonathan Oosting