Insider: Kilpatrick aide plays role in Senate race

The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ employment of a convicted felon has become an issue in the contentious U.S. Senate campaign.

The conservative Ending Spending Action Fund that backs Republican opponent Terri Lynn Land is running a television ad that highlights that two convicted felons contributed money to the congressional campaigns of the Bloomfield Township Democrat. It also notes Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s former chief of staff and deputy mayor, Kandia Milton, worked as a congressional aide for Peters after serving 14 months in prison.

Milton pleaded guilty in 2010 to taking a $20,000 bribe to help facilitate the 2007 approval of the $3.5 million sale of the city’s Camp Brighton by Detroit's City Council.

“Given all this, is it any surprise Peters hired Kwame Kilpatrick’s chief of staff to work for his congressional office, a man who was convicted of bribery in his last government job?” the ad’s narrator says. “Gary Peters. Can we really trust him?”

Peters told WXYZ-TV in December 2012 that he got to know Milton “on my campaign” as a volunteer. It also turns out the congressman’s 2012 campaign paid Milton more than $7,700 from July 2012 through the November 2012 election for a newly redistricted seat that had more Detroiters in it than his prior suburban one, according to filings made at the time with the Federal Election Commission.

FEC records show Milton was paid a modest salary as well as for constituency outreach and travel expenses.

“Gary got to know Mr. Milton when he first started as a volunteer on his campaign. Mr. Milton was later hired by the campaign and the congressional office,” Peters campaign spokeswoman Haley Morris said in a Wednesday statement. “That was public information and, as Gary said at the time, it was clear Mr. Milton had taken responsibility for his mistakes, paid his price, did his time and was working hard to earn a second chance.”

Milton worked as a $42,900-a-year congressional aide until December 2013.

The Land campaign takes a different view of the Milton-Peters’ paid campaign and congressional staff relationship.

“Congressman Peters put a felon, who was convicted of bribery while working for Kwame Kilpatrick, on his payroll,” according to a Land campaign statement. “Congressman Peters owes Michigan voters an explanation and an apology.”

But the Peters campaign accused opponents of engaging in desperate tactics.

Land and her allies “are now resorting to the ugliest and most desperate types of attacks in this race,” Morris said.

After-debate questions

Immediately following Sunday’s gubernatorial town hall-style debate at Wayne State University, both Gov. Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer had initially agreed to hold separate 10-minute press conferences.

Since Schauer won the pre-debate coin toss, he was slated to face reporters first.

But the former congressman from Battle Creek didn’t show up. Instead, he sent three Democratic surrogates to gloat about his debate performance — U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer and state Democratic Party chairman Lon Johnson.

“There was a question of whether Mark was going to be joining us and he’s not,” Whitmer said. “And where else would you learn a (Latin) phrase called ‘res ipsa loquitur’ and it means ‘the thing it speaks for itself.’”

Republicans immediately pounced on Twitter, creating a #NoShowSchauer hashtag and even a milk carton graphic with Schauer’s photo under a “MISSING” label.

“Wow, #NoShowSchauer is what happens when you know you lied and don’t want to answer questions,” Ronna Romney McDaniel, Michigan’s Republican National Committeewoman, wrote on Twitter.

“Confirmed: @markschauer getting media advice from University of Michigan athletic department,” GOP consultant Stu Sandler tweeted in reference to UM football’s recent public relations debacle.

Schauer said Monday there was no need to answer more questions.

“I felt I gave the message, I gave direct answers to direct questions there in the debate,” Schauer told reporters at a Monday event with retirees in Warren.

Schauer, who has had reporters ride along on the campaign trail in his car, added: “I’m not afraid to talk to the press.”

No end to email pleas

The continual political fundraising email appeals are exasperating the general public and even comedians.

The Comedy Channel’s Jon Stewart this week called the endless email appeals, especially from Democrats, “Democalypse 2014: Funding or Die” because their pleas often sound increasingly desperate if people don’t pony up money.

The Insider had a similar feeling when Michigan Democrats sent out Tuesday an email titled “bad news” with this pitch about the governor’s race:

“This is urgent. ... We’re scrambling here at the office because we heard Rick Snyder’s national allies are preparing to spend BIG money if our FEC report due tomorrow is weak. ... We can’t afford to fall behind — we need to have a strong report tomorrow.”

It was followed Wednesday by a “holy moly” email: “We can’t show any weakness — if we do, they’ll attack like never before.”

Then again, wouldn’t the Republican incumbent’s allies also be prepared to spend “BIG” money if the Democrats instead raise a lot of money?

Time running out to debate

The chances of voters seeing the candidates for U.S. Senate, attorney general or secretary of state debate each other before the Nov. 4 election are dwindling.

Senate candidates Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land have had a blow-up over a debate format after a lot of back-and-forth campaign posturing about debates.

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and his Democratic opponent Mark Totten can’t seem to find time in their busy campaign schedules to meet.

And this week, the campaigns of Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Democratic challenger Godfrey Dillard hit an impasse on a proposed debate Oct. 30 on public television’s “Off The Record” public affairs show with newsman Tim Skubick.

Dillard’s campaign apparently scoffed at Skubick’s proposal to have a free-flowing debate without rules.

“What was offered was a ‘conversation’ between attorney Dillard and his opponent without boundaries,” said Ken Coleman, spokesman for Dillard’s campaign.

Johnson’s campaign issued a statement Tuesday that it would keep the date open in case Dillard changes his mind.

Business enjoys Peters visit

Kate Voss, owner of Kate’s Downtown in Port Huron, was thrilled when U.S. Rep. Gary Peters lunched at her eatery and shook hands with customers during one of his U.S. Senate campaign stops.

“I thought it was just wonderful that he wants to come and support a local business,” said Voss, who respectfully gave Peters an earful about taxes. “When you make five-grand and they (governments) take five-grand, it’s heartbreaking.”

But Voss added that an improving Michigan business climate “is absolutely a trend that’s happening. It’s slow, but definitely getting better.”

She smiled when an observer said that sounded like an ad for Gov. Rick Snyder’s “Road to Recovery” re-election campaign. Snyder might want stop by. It’s an ideal setting for a TV commercial involving regular folks.

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Leonard N. Fleming, Richard Burr and Gary Heinlein