Oakland County GOP censures Senate Republicans behind election report

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Republican Party in Michigan's second largest county has censured three GOP state senators who wrote a report recommending Attorney General Dana Nessel investigate those who pushed false claims about the 2020 election to benefit themselves.

The Oakland County Republican Party's executive committee approved the censure measure Thursday night, according to the party's chairman, Rocky Raczkowski. The censure proposal focused on protecting people's First Amendment rights, he said.

“We support the freedom of speech of any Republican, Democrat and independent," Raczkowski said. "And that’s what this is about.”

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan

There has been a push among Michigan Republicans to publicly reprimand Sens. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, Lana Theis, R-Brighton, and John Bizon, R-Battle Creek, after their Senate Oversight Committee released a report in June, finding "no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud" in the 2020 election.

The symbolic campaign is a sign of tensions within the party about former President Donald Trump's loss and his ongoing assertions that the contest was "rigged." The GOP in Macomb County, Michigan's third-largest county, approved its own censure resolution last week.

Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points in Michigan. A series of court decisions, dozens of audits and bipartisan boards of canvassers have upheld the outcome.

The Senate Oversight Committee developed its report through 28 hours of committee testimony from about 90 people, a review of thousands of subpoenaed documents and hundreds of hours of Senate staff investigation.

Among the most controversial elements of the report was a recommendation that Nessel, a Democrat, investigate "those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends." It's a recommendation that Nessel has since agreed to follow.

Antrim County is where human errors led to jumbled initial results incorrectly showing Biden to be the conservative county's winner. Supporters of Trump have targeted the problems, claiming that the faulty initial results were because of software issues or hacking.

McBroom, chairman of the Oversight Committee, has said the suggestion Nessel investigate was focused on specific situations. The idea that the recommendation was about everyone who doubts the election's outcome is "another outright lie," McBroom has said.

The first-term senator from the Upper Peninsula has also said his panel had evidence of potential crimes and he had a legal and moral duty to refer the matters to Nessel.

“I don’t know what else to say, except people have to check the report and make a judgment call," he said last week.

But some Oakland County Republicans believe the recommendation that Nessel investigate was a "violation of First Amendment rights" and amounted to "weaponizing" the Democratic attorney general, according to a message sent to executive committee members before Thursday's meeting.

“We will always go against the cancel culture," Raczkowski said in a phone interview Friday morning.

The censure motion passed overwhelmingly, the chairman said.

In a tweet, Max Rohtbart, a member of the Oakland County GOP executive committee, said the censure was approved 40-7. Rohtbart said he was among the no votes.

"The First Amendment does not protect scammers who are scamming people out of their money and should be investigated to see if any of the money has been used improperly," Rohtbart said.

Oakland County is a key place in Michigan politics. It's also a county that's been trending in Democrats' favor. In 2020, Biden won Oakland County by 14 percentage points over Trump.

cmauger@detroitnews.com