Investigation to Allegations for the former Campaign to Recall Rick Snyder
Author-Monica Ross-Williams-Owner/Executive Producer/Podcast Host of ROJS News & ROJS Radio
January 23, 2011
From the beginning stages of the campaign to “Recall Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder”, our news blog ‘ROJS News’ and Podcast arm ‘ROJS Radio’ was interested in the effort. As acknowledged in many public statements, personally I didn’t support Rick Snyder election into our highest state Executive Branch position as Governor. My reasoning on this was rooted in a news story reported on a local station in early 2000’s. Workers at a former Gateway Retail Store location on Cherry Hill and Ford Road in Canton, Michigan, the story told, were locked out from entering their work location due to a massive shutdown of business operations. Instead of going into work, workers were greeted with a sign at the locked front door, noting what number to call for their last check. A part of Gateway’s Corporate Leadership who made this decision at the time included Chairman, Rick Snyder. February 2010, I watched as millions of Americans did, a commercial aired announcing Rick Snyder’s candidacy as the “One Tough Nerd” seeking election into Michigan’s Governor’s office. I thought about how cruelty the employees at the former Gateway Retail Store in Canton were treated nearly ten years prior. My decision was made. Candidate Snyder would not gain my vote for Governor of this great state of Michigan. Flashing forward a year and four months, our blogging arm ROJS News received notification about beginning stages of a possible recall campaign against now Gov. Snyder. As a writer, radio host and Michigan voter, I was interested in the story, along with ways our small media resource could assist with this effort. We were the first media resource, statewide, to publish that the Washtenaw County Board of Elections Commissioners approved Clarity Language for then named Michigan Citizens United –later the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder (CTRRS)- petition drive to recall Gov. Snyder on April 29, 2011.
ROJS News covered CTRRS Petition Kick Off Rally event at in Lansing, Michigan on May 21, 2011. Though our social network contacts, we began developing a reporting relationship with Marion Townsend, Chairperson of CTRRS.
Ms. Townsend gave ROJS News two exclusive articles on CTRRS campaign and made an interview appearance on ROJS Radio during the months of July-October 2011. We initially supported CTRRS efforts by encouraging our readers and listeners to donate, for the effort to recall Gov. Snyder. Late September 2011, ROJS News along with other Michigan citizens whom supported CTRRS campaign, learned the effort failed to 806,000 signatures –the minimum number required- to have a recall referendum vote for Gov. Snyder. A Facebook webpage that organized CTRRS efforts named “Recall Governor Rick Snyder” was shut down for public posts, on or about September 30, 2011, on the last day of the recall effort. Ms. Townsend last exclusive interview with ROJS News was September 28, 2011, when she noted CTRRS would renew their efforts in the future. She didn’t detail total number of signatures the petition drive -which was extended in July 2011- gained during the campaign. In late October 2011, we read the story published at the Detroit Free Press that nearly 500K Michiganders signed petitions to recall Gov. Snyder. During the next couple of months, we focused our reporting and podcast efforts towards other Michigan Political discussions across the state. Though a variety of resources, we heard about grievances from volunteers that worked inside CTRRS, ranging from mismanagement to extreme disorganization of certain heads for the Committee. Since at the time the “rumors” couldn’t be adequacy confirmed, we believed the story had at the time ran its’ course. That was until January 14, 2012. A post by Tim Kramer appeared on a Facebook webpage ROJS News reviews often. Mr. Kramer as the founder of Michigan Citizens United (w/Gail Schmidt as Treasurer) later named CTRRS, oversaw the filing of recall petition language at the Clarity Hearing with Washtenaw County Board of Elections Commissioners in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 29, 2011. ROJS News interviewed Mr. Kramer “off the record” in July 2011 about his removal from CTRRS. Mr. Kramer’s post linked to a blog publication named DisputeThis.Org. The post contained a dictation by CTRRS Treasurer Gail Schmidt. Details on many allegations we heard previously, on why the effort as a whole failed in its’ attempt to recall Gov. Snyder, was contained in the article.
Saturday, January 14 & the morning Sunday, January 15th, my Co-Host Autumn Smith and I contacted individuals to confirm information in Ms. Schmidt’s post: Marion Townsend former Chairperson of CTRRS, Susan Masten- Member of the Executive Board of CTRRS and Tim Kramer-Founder of Michigan Citizens United/CTRRS. Ms. Townsend refused to discuss any of Ms. Schmidt’s allegations. In my discussions with Ms. Townsend, I informed her that ROJS Radio would be presenting an open dialogue discussion regarding DisputeThis.Org post on Sunday, January 15th at 3:00 PM EST on a show titled “Special Show-Truth or Lie on Gov. Snyder Recall Allegations”. With such, she was open to issue a press
release, voice interview “on the record” or come on to the podcast to address allegations raised by Ms. Schmidt. Mr. Kramer agreed to give ROJS News an exclusive interview about his side of the story about CTRRS downfall. This interview recorded on Sunday, January 15th, played partially on ROJS Radio later that day. We published the interview entirely at ROJS News in an article published on Thursday, January 19th.
Ms. Masten called into our program on Sunday, January 15th to address her grievances, along with callers Lee Tilson, Lora (no last name given)-Oakland County Captain of CTRRS and Barbara (no last name given) a volunteer circulatory with CTRRS. During the program, linked before its’ airing at various social networks, any members of the Executive Board for newly named ‘Michigan Rising’ -formed in an attempt for another recall effort against Gov. Snyder- were welcomed by Hosts Monica RW and Autumn S. to call in with their side of the story. No one from the other side, called into the two hour podcast to dispute the open allegations. Thursday, January 19th, ROJS Radio co-host Autumn Smith alerted me of an article at publication A2Politico.com citing our podcast segment, Sunday, January 15th. The article written by author Chris Savage, failed to mention our official program name ROJS Radio and, instead incorrectly cited the name of “Monica Ross-Williams” for the program allegations of former CTRRS members publically aired grievances. I contacted A2Politico Editor, P.D. Lesko on Saturday, January 21st, via email for an article correction of our program name. A part of the email read as followed: “During the next week, I decided to do further investigations on Ms. Schmidt allegations, specifically to see if any of the charges she made violated Michigan Political Action Committee statues. On Thursday, I received word from my co-Host that Chris Savage's article had been published on A2Politico. A couple of additional points about the article itself: 1. The podcast is not named 'Monica Ross-Williams' as he referred to in the article. It's named ROJS Radio with hosts Monica RW and Autumn S. I was disturbed when Chris failed to name our podcast correctly, especially considering that he appeared on our program as a guest in December 2011. We would like a correction in the article of our official podcast name, if possible. On the effort for Journalistic/Blogger fairness, we wrote a 'clarity article' on our blog Thursday, January 19th and properly referenced A2Politico and title article on the publication.”
Ms. Lesko on Monday, January 23rd noted she made the correction to our podcast official name, in the article at the publication site. Friday, January 20th-Sunday, January 22nd, ROJS News learned of further information about
accounting details of CTRRS former Political Action Committee. A link to the publically posted at the Michigan Secretary of State website was confidentially provided to us. This information, to our knowledge, wasn’t shared by CTRRS/Michigan Rising Executive board freely with interested parties on concerned on what occurred financially in the failed recall attempt.
The following is information ROJS News learned in its’ investigation:
Michigan Campaign Finance Act 388 of 1976, states that in part the following: Section-169.221/Section 21
(2) A candidate committee shall have a treasurer who is a qualified elector of this state. A candidate may appoint himself or herself as the candidate committee treasurer.
(3) A committee other than a candidate committee shall have a treasurer who is a qualified elector of this state if the committee conducts business through an office or other facility located in this state.
(4) If a committee is not required to have as its treasurer an individual who is a qualified elector of this state, the committee may have as its treasurer an individual who is a resident of another state. A committee with a nonresident treasurer shall file, with its statement of organization, an irrevocable written stipulation, signed by the treasurer, agreeing that legal process affecting the committee, served on the secretary of state or an agent designated by the secretary of state, shall have the same effect as if personally served on the committee. This appointment shall remain in force as long as any liability of the committee remains outstanding within this state.
Section 21 addressed allegations raised by former CTRRS volunteers during the ROJS Radio podcast and at the DisputeThis.Org publication. One of the allegations were that former Executive Board member at CTRRS/now named C.E.O. of Michigan Rising Julius Muller, was not a U.S. Citizen. Rather or not Mr. Muller was a U.S. Citizen, as long as he didn’t not circulate campaign petitions during CTRRS failed attempt to recall Gov. Snyder –which require all circulatory to be registered voters of Michigan over the age of 18- no legal basis exist on his citizenship status. Mr. Muller could sit on an ‘Executive Board’ of CTRRS/Michigan Rising and not be a U.S. Citizen. Additionally, the only individual with legal responsibility to the Secretary of State for what’s contained within Committee Finance Reports was CTRRS Treasurer.
Ms. Schmidt CTRRS Treasurer, our research shows, was a registered voter in the state of Michigan during her tenure with the former recall effort. A ROJS News email inquiry on Friday, January 20th to Fred Woodhams, Communication Director for Michigan’s Secretary of State Board of Elections, confirmed other members of the ad hoc ‘Executive Board’ also didn’t carry any responsibility to be U.S. Citizens or Michigan registered voters.
Financial transactions PAC’s make in the guidelines of Act 388, normally aren’t questioned by the Board of Elections, as long as the Treasurer submits accounting statements –known as TriAnnual reports- according to Michigan Finance Act guidelines.
ROJS News inquiry email received Friday, January 20th, partial reprint: “Regarding your questions from this afternoon:
- Generally the rule is that the treasurer of a PAC that files with the Secretary of State’s Office needs to be Michigan resident, but an out-of-state person can file an additional form and be allowed to serve as treasurer of a PAC. No other person associated with a PAC is required to be a resident of Michigan.
- Michigan law doesn’t put any restrictions on what PAC money can be used for beyond the usual campaign committee contribution limits, i.e. when PAC money is used to support a candidate or ballot question committee.”
You may be interested in reviewing the manual the Bureau of Elections has created for PAC administrators that has detailed information about PAC requirements.
Reading the publication Mr. Woodhams referred, a PAC’s TriAnnual reports normally detail all financial transactions a Political Action Committee made over 90 day periods, until the PAC is dissolved. One financial transaction questioned during our podcast by those who had grievances with CTRRS, was a transfer of $28,202.16 to Kos Media, a Progressive Political Advocacy group committee on 10/28/2011. Another outstanding question raised on ROJS Radio was the formation date of new Super PAC-Michigan Rising on 10/25/2011. A conversation with Ms. Schmidt on Monday, January 23rd confirmed she approved a transfer of funds to Kos Media. Her reasoning for the transfer was that Kos Media, forwarded individual donations received for CTRRS via their “Act Blue” website, for purposes of Gov. Snyder recall campaign. Ms. Schmidt decided donated funds should be allocated to other states’ grassroots campaigns via Kos Media. For instance she stated donated funds could be used for other progressive causes like assisting with Wisconsin’s effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker or Ohio’s attempt to overturn Union Stripping legislation with Referendum 2. Ms. Schmidt noted concerns with some members of the ‘Executive Board’ of CTRRS. She noted repeated refusal of concrete ideas presented, about uses of donated funds during the August/September 2011 period, for additional efforts to recall Gov. Snyder. Ideas, she stated, that were rejected include using funds for paid circulators, billboard advertising and/or an informational campaign on why Michigan voting citizens should sign the petitions to recall Gov. Snyder. Specifically, Ms. Schmidt stated that, Julius Muller along with other members of the ‘Executive Board’ overruled proposals to focus on, “Using the funds for the last week of the signature petition drive”. After futile efforts to work with CTRRS ‘Executive Board’, Ms. Schmidt decided as Treasurer to transfer all remaining funds to Kos Media. Additionally, she cited concern that Michigan Rising’s new “Executive Board”-made up of two of CTRRS former ‘Board’ members Muller and Townsend- could mismanage remain funds.
And this is where ROJS News investigation ended, at this point. Questions remain on what Kos
Media did with the funds transferred from CTRRS? Given that Kos Media is a private organization, they’re not required to disclose such records. Since CTRRS mismanagement failed to recall Gov. Rick Snyder during 2011, should Michigan Rising be trusted again to coordinate another recall referendum on if Governor should remain in office until December 31, 2014? Should more defined regulations be enacted for PAC’s disclosures via monthly open meetings, minutes or finance reports, on what donated funds are used for? What about should the donors have judgment on who, what and where do failed petition drive donated funds are finally reallocated? Mr. Kramer expressed during ROJS News exclusive interview on January 21st, he preferred for the remaining funds to be donated to a food bank, before his removal from CTRRS in July 2011. Kramer expressed CTRRS agreed -prior to dismissal from his former ‘Founding Member’ role and ‘Executive Board’ of CTRRS-to his idea. Thousands of Michigan citizens desired an end result of CTRRS outcome to be a successful organized campaign, resulting in an up or down vote on if Governor Rick Snyder should complete his term in office. Dissenters from CTRRS,-former volunteers and board members- addressed openly on ROJS Radio when ideas, opinions, thoughts and suggestions on ways to win in the effort was raised, they were removed from strategy discussions and regularity dismissed of their duties.
Donors, who monetary donated in our difficult Michigan economy for Democracy return to our state, were lost on what happened with their funds given in good-faith to CTRRS. Worse, when questions were asked about all of the above noted information, the questioners cited that they were accused for working to keep Gov. Rick Snyder in office until the end of this elected term. Changes are needed in Michigan Campaign Finance/PAC Laws. As in the case of some non-profits and all state Governmental formalized organizations, when public funding is received, regular notifications on what the financial donations or transactions are used for, are given. Under Michigan’s current laws, financial reporting of a PAC is located on Secretary of State’s website via the TriAnnual statement(s). For a majority of donors, they wouldn’t know where to locate this information.
Hopefully lessons learned in CTRRS failed Gov. Snyder recall attempt will change laws, to provide open disclosure on the internal operations of Michigan PAC’s and Super-PAC’s, in future campaigns