Why won’t Democrats stand up against sexual violence?

Greg McNeilly

This election season will go down in the books as one of the most scandal-plagued in Lansing history. A politician arrested for assault and another for soliciting prostitutes hundreds of times. The same elected official convicted of forcing a young mother into prostitution.

Not a banner year for the Michigan Democratic Party. Compounding the party’s criminal, civil and ethical infractions over the last calendar year is the fact that its leaders and candidates just don’t seem to care.

For Michigan families who expect their elected officials to embrace concepts like consent, respect and the law when it comes to their sexual behavior, that’s incredibly disappointing, and it’s only getting worse.

This week the Michigan Freedom Fund is unveiling the results of a months-long outreach project to determine where each of the state’s Democratic state House candidates stands when it comes to sexual harassment and lawbreaking in Lansing, and the fitness of politicians — Republicans and Democrats — caught sexually harassing staff members or otherwise breaking the law to continue serving in high office.

The Fund contacted Democratic state House candidates with background information about the criminal and alleged civil infractions by just one of their potential colleagues — state Rep. Brian Banks — including an accusation he sexually harassed a former state worker, then fired him for refusing his sexual advances.

Banks is the chairman of the Detroit Caucus, one of the state’s most powerful Democratic leaders.

We contacted every other Democrat running for the Michigan state House and asked them to denounce Banks’ alleged behavior and to join us in rallying around the kind of simple principles decent people everywhere embrace.

“If elected to the state House of Representatives,” the pledge read in part, “I pledge to stand up to and speak out against any elected official caught sexually harassing others, regardless of the lawmaker’s political party, and will demand the resignation of any elected official caught sexually harassing others.

“I pledge to take a stand against criminal wrongdoing by legislators, and will demand the resignation of any lawmaker, Republican or Democrat, convicted of a felony.”

Of the 109 House Democrats asked to stand up against sexual harassment and to stand up to Banks, and any other Republican or Democrat caught sexually harassing others, only one agreed — Bonnie Johnson from Jackson.

Turns out party politics is more important than protecting victims of sexual misconduct.

Democrats’ sexual misconduct extends beyond Detroit, too. Just months ago in Lansing, Stuart Dunnings, the disgraced former Ingham County prosecutor, was forced out of office after being caught using his elected position to induce a woman into prostitution, and soliciting prostitutes hundreds of times.

Instead of speaking out to defend Banks’ alleged victim, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon and many other prominent Democrats simply wrote Banks campaign checks. And his prospective colleagues have patently refused to speak about his behavior.

As Bonnie Johnson, the Jackson-area Democrat wrote when she pledged to stand up against sexual harassment, Banks “never should have had any support” to begin with.

Greg McNeilly is chairman of the Michigan Freedom Fund.