Political Insider: Spartan-Wolverine prank war erupts on Capitol Hill

Two rival Michigan congresswomen engaged in a spirited Spartan-Wolverine prank war ahead of Saturday's game between University of Michigan and Michigan State University. 

It started when U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, whose district covers MSU, toilet-papered the parked car of U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, who represents UM. 

Wearing a green MSU face mask, Slotkin and her staff sneaked down to a Capitol Hill parking garage to "vandalize" Dingell's car with green balloons and toilet paper, spelling out "MSU" in Post-its on the hood and leaving a stuffed Spartan on the windshield.

A short time later, as Dingell was hanging a large UM flag outside Slotkin's office,  Slotkin emerged to ask if she'd seen her car yet. Dingell let out a groan at the sight.

"I regret nothing," Slotkin said. "Go green!" 

Dingell returned fire later with a recorded chorus of the Wolverine fight song, "Hail to the Victors," sung outside the House of Representatives by Dingell and Rep. Dan Kildee  (who attended and represents UM-Flint), staffers and interns, as well as some members of UM's Washington office. 

“We showed our Michigan strength loud and proud today on Capitol Hill," Dingell said. "There’s more to come — go blue!" 

Dingell later posted photos of UM Coach Jim Harbaugh on Slotkin's office door.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, pranked Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, by toilet-papering her car and decorating it with green balloons and MSU spelled out in Post-Its on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.

Thiel spots $20K to lawmaker's PAC

First-term Republican state Rep. Andrew Beeler received a hefty donation in late July from a Silicon Valley billionaire who served on President Donald Trump’s transition team, according to Beeler's most recent campaign finance report.

Peter Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and the co-founder of PayPal, contributed $20,000 to the Beeler Majority Fund Political Action Committee in one of the largest contributions to Beeler’s campaign finances. Thiel also co-founded data intelligence company Palantir.

The contribution appears to be Thiel’s first contribution to a Michigan lawmaker since he contributed $1,050 to Republican House candidate Chase Turner in 2018, who lost his Oakland County race to Democratic state Rep. Kelly Breen.

Beeler, of Port Huron, said the contribution was made possible through a mutual friend with Thiel.  

“They kind of brokered the introduction and he was somebody who was willing to make a contribution,” Beeler said. “He’s somebody who looks for folks throughout the country who are champions of the conservative cause.”

Cruz goes viral 

A hearing exchange last week featuring U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland went viral after he raised the example of a Michigan man who made a Nazi salute during an August meeting of the Birmingham Public Schools board.

The Texas Republican lawmaker was giving examples to make the point that non-violent incidents at school board meetings don't rise to the level of Justice Department intervention, following a memo from Garland in response to threats aimed at school officials. 

"My God! A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because they thought that the policies were oppressive," Cruz said. "General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute as an elected official — is that protected by the First Amendment?" 

Garland replied, "Yes, it is."

Cruz's remark was promptly criticized on social media by those who interpreted it as his condoning the Michigan man's use of the Nazi salute.

“Just Ted Cruz defending Nazis,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat.

Cruz responded to Swalwell on Twitter by saying he “was defending the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies.”

"In other words, to OPPOSE Nazis (or petty tyrants), not to support them," Cruz wrote.

Cruz further defended his remarks, tweeting that the "parent was doing the Nazi salute because he was calling the authoritarian school board Nazis—evil, bad & abusive. And yes, calling someone a Nazi is very much protected by the First Amendment."

The incident in Birmingham concluded with police removing the man giving the Nazi salute during the board meeting, where commenters sounded off on the district's mask mandate, according to news reports. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks during a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration joint hearing Wednesday, March 3, 2021, examining the January 6, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Esshaki to run again

Republican Eric Esshaki, a nurse turned lawyer, announced last week he's running again for the U.S. House. 

Esshaki of Birmingham lost to U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills, by 3 percentage points a year ago, a better than expected results despite being heavily outspent by the incumbent. 

Redistricting lines have not been set, so it's not known where Esshaki might run. He acknowledged that quirk in his announcement.

"By every measure, the crisis facing America is worse today under President Biden and Speaker Pelosi. They promised bipartisanship and a desire to solve problems. They have done neither," Esshaki said in a statement.

"While I await the district lines to be drawn by Michigan’s redistricting commission, it is imperative that we have conservative leaders who will hold the incumbent liberal Democrats like Haley Stevens accountable." 

Republican congressional candidate Eric Esshaki addresses the crowd before President Donald Trump arrives at the Oakland International Airport in Waterford on Oct. 30, 2020. Esshaki said he is going to run again for the U.S. House in Michigan.

Esshaki's campaign claimed it raised over $112,350 within 24 hours of announcing he was running in 2022.

Stevens raised $618,234 in the third quarter and had $1.5 million in cash reserves as of Sept. 30.

Kaptur: Great Lakes not part of talks

Ohio U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who is a Democrat, is pointing out that the Great Lakes and Midwest region are not represented among the leaders of her party who are negotiating the social policy and climate spending package on Capitol Hill. 

"I just wanted to point out to all those who hear my voice that there is no one from the Great Lakes party to those dialogues with a major position in either chamber," Kaptur said last week on the House floor. 

"And I think it's really important to sensitize those who are in the room that, whatever you do, don't forget the industrial heartland of America."

Kaptur said the negotiators are "fine" leaders but come from the coasts and other parts of the country. 

"But the industrial heartland is notable by its absence in those in the rooms who are doing the negotiation. I know if we alert them to the fact that we exist and that we have huge needs, ranging from rail freight to seaborne commerce, to industrial revitalization," Kaptur said. 

"The list is very long, but I just wanted to point that fact out and I know if my voice is heard by the administration, by those in the respective committees, they will respond accordingly." 

Kaptur is a co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force.

Intern to Oversight counsel

Michigan lawyer Daina Robinson has been hired as legal counsel for the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to help with policy investigations, according to the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School.

Robinson, who graduated from the law school last year, interned in 2019 for the Levin Center, which is named for former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and promotes bipartisan legislative oversight. 

“I am so grateful that the Levin Center not only equipped me for a career on the Hill, but it is the reason I have my current position as counsel for the House Committee on Oversight and Reform,” Robinson said in a statement. 

Daina Robinson

The Levin Center said since 2016 it has sponsored a summer program to place Wayne law students with congressional committees that conduct bipartisan investigations, having placed nearly two dozen students in summer legal internships in Washington.

Prior to her new job with the Oversight panel, Robinson had been working as a staff attorney for Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kameshia Gant and previously clerked for the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and for Legal Services of South Central Michigan.