Democrats urge House probe of GOP lawmaker's role in election tabulator 'conspiracy'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Democrats are asking Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth to authorize an investigation into whether a GOP lawmaker "misused" government resources as part of an alleged "conspiracy" to obtain voting machines in the battleground state.

On Tuesday, a group of House Democrats revealed a letter to Wentworth that argued a probe into the actions of state Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, "must begin urgently." Allegations against Rendon demonstrated “a betrayal of public trust," said Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Pontiac.

MI Rep. Daire Rendon, R, Dist-103, Wednesday afternoon, June 8, 2022.

"We need an investigation now, no matter how much the Republican majority doesn’t want to draw attention to these alleged crimes," Carter said. "The people deserve to know the degree to which their government was implicated in this conspiracy."

Tuesday's press conference in Lansing came 25 days after Attorney General Dana Nessel's office sought the appointment of a special prosecutor to consider an array of potential criminal charges against nine individuals, including Rendon and Republican attorney general candidate Matt DePerno.

Rendon, DePerno and seven others allegedly engaged in a "conspiracy" to gain improper access to voting machines as part of a campaign to explore unproven claims of fraud in the 2020 election. The Attorney General's office said Rendon, DePerno and lawyer Stefanie Lambert "orchestrated a coordinated plan."

On Tuesday, Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for Wentworth, said the House speaker will "let the legal process play out and review any developments as the information comes out."

Rendon, who's in her third term in the state House, allegedly called multiple clerks in her state House district, seeking access to voting equipment.

She told Roscommon County Clerk Michelle Stevenson that "'representatives' were doing an investigation into election fraud and needed her voting machine," wrote Christina Grossi, chief deputy attorney general, in a letter to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, referring to those allegedly involved in the plot.

While her tabulator was gone, Stevenson questioned Rendon about where it was.

"The representative told her not to worry about the tabulators, as she was doing the right thing and they had her back," the letter to Benson said. "She further advised the clerk that her name would never come up."

There is no known House investigation into the 2020 election that involved Rendon.

In a Monday letter to Wentworth, House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, said Rendon's actions constituted "a gross misrepresentation of her activities and the Legislature's involvement with the illegal investigation Rep. Rendon allegedly aided with these calls to her constituents."

"It is incumbent upon you to authorize an investigation to answer this question: What actions, if any, did Rep. Daire Rendon take to misrepresent that this activity was on behalf of the House of Representatives?" Lasinski wrote.

Citing a House rule against using state resources for personal or campaign matters, Lasinski called for a review of phone lines serving the House, Rendon's state-issued email account, state-issued computers and employees of her office.

Rendon, whose term concludes at the end of the year, remains the chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee.

She has been among the most vocal critics of the 2020 election in the state Legislature, attempting to help escort a group of pro-Trump presidential electors into the Capitol building while the state's true electors convened in December 2020.

Rendon hasn't responded to requests for comment from The Detroit News about her involvement in the alleged effort to obtain tabulators in recent weeks, including on Tuesday. The News first reported Rendon's ties to the tabulator investigation in May.

Carol Asher, the longtime clerk in Denton Township, said Rendon had contacted her in the weeks after the November 2020 election, asking to get access to the township's tabulator.

"She called me on my cellphone on a Saturday," Asher said.

Asked at the time whether she had any knowledge of the tabulator probe outside of press releases, Rendon told The News, "I do not."

cmauger@detroitnews.com