Whitmer gives donations from Nassar’s boss to charity

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gretchen Whitmer has donated political contributions from former Michigan State University Dean William Strampel to charity, her campaign said Tuesday as Strampel was arraigned on criminal charges.

State records show Strampel, a DeWitt resident with a history of giving to Democrats, contributed $2,300 to Whitmer’s campaign for governor last year prior to taking a leave of absence from MSU.

Strampel was the boss of disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was arrested Monday and arraigned Tuesday on four criminal charges stemming from an attorney general’s office investigation of how MSU handled the Nassar sexual assault scandal.

Whitmer’s campaign said she donated Strampel’s contributions on Monday, sending money to End Violent Encounters (EVE), the Firecracker Foundation and MSU Safe Place — charities that provide services to survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

“I will always put justice for survivors ahead of politics,” Whitmer said in a statement after The Detroit News asked about the contributions. “MSU failed hundreds of women who were abused by Larry Nassar, and I’m going to do everything in my power to help these brave survivors heal.”

Whitmer is leading early polls of the Democratic primary. The former state Senate minority leader from East Lansing has said she was sexually assaulted on campus when she attended MSU, and she was among those who called on former President Lou Anna K. Simon to resign over the Nassar scandal.

Interim MSU President John Engler in February began the process of trying to revoke Strampel’s tenure to fire him.

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette, also running for governor and leading initial GOP primary polls, appointed Special Prosecutor William Forsyth to investigate the university after Nassar was sent to prison on sexual assault and child pornography charges.

Forsyth on Tuesday announced charges against Strampel, including misconduct by a public official, a five-year felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He is accused of failing to properly monitor Nassar and personally harassing and propositioning female students.

Strampel’s attorney has denied the allegations.

Whitmer’s political donor list includes fellow Democrat, MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson, who came under fire in January for making dismissive comments about “this Nassar thing.” Her campaign did not respond to earlier inquiries about Ferguson’s $6,800 contribution.

Whitmer served as interim Ingham County prosecutor for six months in 2016, when her office authorized search warrants that helped lead to federal child pornography charges against Nassar. She did not prosecute Nassar over sexual assault accusations in Ingham, which were instead handled by Schuette’s office, along with Eaton County cases.

MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap has said Whitmer initially hesitated to charge Nassar in the sexual assault cases, a claim she and her office have denied, arguing the cases ended up with the attorney general’s office because of its multijurisdictional reach.