Michigan House approves new incentive programs amid business warnings

Michigan Attorney General Nessel to investigate false claims about election

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office has agreed to investigate individuals who've pushed false claims about the 2020 election to raise money or publicity for themselves.

The GOP-controlled state Senate Oversight Committee recommended the probe as part of its wide-ranging report on the election, which debuted in June. The Republican lawmakers behind the document, including Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, found no evidence to prove "significant acts of fraud" in the vote and suggested Nessel, a Democrat, look into those spreading false assertions.

"After reviewing the report in full, the department has accepted Sen. McBroom and the committee’s request to investigate," said Lynsey Mukomel, Nessel's press secretary.

The Michigan State Police are assisting with the investigation, Mukomel said.

Sandra Ragan, 58, of Riverside, Illinois, holds a pro-Trump sign during a protest rally outside TCF center in downtown Detroit, Friday morning.

In an interview last month, McBroom, chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee, said his panel found what appeared to be "potentially fraudulent activity" among some individuals who have been making false claims about the election.

"If you are profiting by making false claims, that's pretty much the definition of fraud," McBroom said.

The Republican lawmaker declined to identify the individuals to whom he was specifically referring.

President Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes, or 3 percentage points. A series of court decisions, reviews by bipartisan boards of state canvassers and reviews by election officials have reinforced the outcome. However, former President Donald Trump and his supporters have levied unsubstantiated claims that fraud cost the GOP incumbent the race.

In Michigan, two of the most vocal critics of the election have been former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Republican from Canton Township, and attorney Matthew DePerno, who has challenged the results in northern Michigan's Antrim County.

In Antrim County, a GOP stronghold, the initial results indicated Biden won, but canvassing led to the correction of the results and showed Trump overwhelmingly won there. The incorrect initial tallies were due to human errors but spurred an array of theories about Dominion Voting Systems.

DePerno and others have insisted Dominion machines in Antrim could have been "hacked" because they had modems or wireless chips installed, the Senate Oversight Committee report said. However, that claim is "indisputably false," the Senate committee found.

The Senate committee labeled DePerno's claims "demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions."

DePerno's website links to a "Election Fraud Defense Fund" fundraising page that says it's collected more than $384,000.

The attorney has accused Senate Republicans of "using the mantle of government to proactively intimidate anyone from speaking out about election fraud."

"These attempts to silence citizens are a clear attempt to criminalize political speech and a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, freedom to assemble and right to petition the government for a redress of grievances," DePerno has added.

In April, lawyers working on behalf of Dominion Voting Systems said Colbeck had raised money from audiences while "knowingly sowing discord in our democracy."

Colbeck has called for the Republican members of the Senate Oversight Committee to be censured by the Michigan GOP.

"They are asserting that anyone who disagrees with their flawed assessment of the election particularly in matters regarding Antrim County should be investigated by the attorney general," Colbeck said. "They have in fact weaponized the state against citizens who disagree with them."

cmauger@detroitnews.com