Thorough investigation needed to determine if Gamrat, Courser used state resources to facilitate extramarital affair

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The moral high ground is hard to hold. The latest to learn that lesson are two Republican lawmakers who came into office in January on a platform of family values, and are now embroiled in a sex scandal that they foolishly allowed to involve their legislative staff.

Reps. Todd Courser of Lapeer and Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell in Allegan County are perhaps the most socially conservative members of the Legislature. They are vocal opponents of abortion and gay rights, and even before being sworn in attempted to leverage their votes to block the election of any House leader who supported an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for gays and lesbians.

Courser’s regular missives to constituents often read like sermons, laced with scripture and referencing his divine calling to uphold Christian values. Gamrat’s communications are similarly faith focused. She signed off on her most recent communique this way: “With Firm Reliance on his Most Divine Providence.”

It is fine for politicians to wear their religion on their sleeves, as long as their voters don’t object, but it works better if they live by its principles. While vigorously upholding for traditional marriage, Courser and Gamrat were apparently neglecting their own marriages, carrying on an affair that they used their offices to facilitate. Both are married to other people, and have children.

Moral lapses, even amongst politicians, don’t scandalize nearly as much as they once did. Even hypocrisy isn’t so startling anymore. We’ve come to expect our elected officials to stand on clay feet.

But as is often the case with political missteps, the real offense is in the cover-up.

The Detroit News has learned that Courser, panicked by the prospect of the illicit romance becoming public, concocted a bizarre plot to mute its impact.

The lawmaker convinced himself that if he invented an even more salacious scandal — that he was caught having sex with another man in public — it would appear that he was a target of a smear campaign and cast doubt on the validity of allegations of his affair with Gamrat. That relationship was already the subject of capitol gossip, and both representatives were fearful the rumors would be confirmed as fact.

Courser wanted to distribute his fake gay sex story in a mass e-mail to Michigan Republicans, but he needed help. He pressured an aide to do the dirty work.

The staffer refused, and was later fired, but not before he had gathered considerable evidence of both the affair and the boneheaded cover-up. One of Gamrat’s aides was also fired at about the same time. Both had recently received hefty raises that suggested their official performances were laudable.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter Friday called for a thorough internal investigation to determine whether Courser and Gamrat abused their offices and wrongly dismissed their staffers.

The two lawmakers had also taken the unusual step of combining much of their office functions, even though their districts are 130 miles apart. There are indications the arrangement was used to abet the affair, with meetings and travel schedules arranged to allow the two lawmakers personal time together.

Cotter, who earlier booted Gamrat from the Republican caucus for undermining its work, is taking the right approach. He should also demand that the pair immediately separate their offices.

And if the speaker suspects the two may have misused state resources to aid their laisons, he should ask the attorney general’s office to assist in the investigation.

Voters may no longer expect personal perfection from their leaders. But neither do they expect to foot the bill for their dalliances.

As for Gamrat and Courser, the exposure of their private immorality should put an end to their public moralizing.

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