LANSING — An East Lansing attorney who asked for a criminal investigation of Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Ingham County prosecutor who referred his complaint to the FBI are co-hosting a fund-raiser next weekend for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, records show.
Backers of Schuette, who is also running for governor, point to the involvement in the Whitmer campaign of attorney Mike Nichols and Prosecutor Carol Siemon as evidence Nichols’ complaint and Siemon’s referral of it to the FBI were both politically suspect, and that the allegations against Schuette are without merit.
Nichols and Siemon are among 77 co-hosts listed on an invitation to a Whitmer fund-raiser set for July 22 at an East Lansing residence.
“I just think there’s questionable politics here,” Stu Sandler, a political consultant and spokesman for a pro-Schuette Super PAC, said Monday. “This is a meritless complaint and this referral is going to show absolutely nothing.”
Schuettte campaign spokesman John Sellek said on Twitter Monday the facts point to a “politically motivated smear campaign, directly coordinated by Gretchen Whitmer’s trial attorney fund-raiser friend.”
Nichols wrote Siemon on June 28, requesting a state grand jury or other criminal investigation of allegations Schuette improperly used state resources.
On July 2, Siemon referred Nichols’ letter to the FBI, saying the federal agency was “the most appropriate investigative body for this matter.”
The FBI has declined to comment and has not confirmed whether it has opened an investigation.
But on July 9, Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who is supporting Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for governor, said Siemon’s referral of Nichols’ complaint was “clearly a serious matter,” and “it’s important that the FBI be allowed to do a thorough investigation without any undue influence and let the facts take them wherever they lead.”
More: Snyder: Referral to FBI of complaint about AG Schuette ‘a serious matter’
More: Ingham prosecutor refers request for investigation of AG Bill Schuette to FBI
Sandler said the involvement of Nichols and Siemon in the Whitmer fund-raiser shows “at the very least, there’s a question of politics” in the series of events.
In his letter to Siemon, a Democrat, Nichols cited Schuette’s use of state employees to witness personal real estate transactions in his state-funded office and his hiring of Republican campaign operatives to taxpayer-funded civil service posts in the run-up to his current campaign for governor.
Nichols said he was in a trial Monday morning and not available for comment.
Siemon issued a statement Monday confirming she is co-hosting the event but denying acting improperly with respect to the complaint she received from Nichols.
“I’ve never made a secret of my support” for Whitmer, Siemon said.
“My referral to the FBI was not politically motivated — in fact, the opposite. I referred it to the appropriate investigative entity. Period. I can’t help what political use others made of my actions but mine were emphatically not politically motivated.”
Zack Pohl, a spokesman for the Whitmer campaign, said the facts show Schuette used “government employees to help him sell $7.2 million in luxury Caribbean real estate” and “while Schuette said his millions were in a blind trust, he was getting his staff to help him turn a profit while on the taxpayers’ time.”
Schuette has acknowledged some of his state employees witnessed or notarized documents related to private real estate transactions while at work. He has said he sold real estate owned by him and his sisters and that family real estate did not belong in a blind trust.
Michael Schrimpf, a spokesman for Calley, said “it isn’t surprising to see that people who understand the extent to which Bill Schuette is abusing his office for personal gain would choose to oppose him from holding the highest office in Michigan.”
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.