News Story

Who Is Really Trying to Recall a Michigan GOP Lawmaker, and Will They Win?

Evidence that the recall campaign against Michigan House Education Committee Chair Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, was a union-run, outside operation is piling up. That wouldn’t mean the recall was in any way illegal. But if true, it could mean that claims by the recall group “Citizens Against Government Overreach” that the petition drive was a local grassroots effort are just political rhetoric.

A week and a half ago Capitol Confidential quoted Grand Blanc Public Schools Superintendent Mike Newton making the observation that he didn’t see many Grand Blanc teachers working the petition drive.

“It really seems to have basically been organized across the state,” Newton said. “You have people from the AFL-CIO coming in. I don’t know that first hand, but that’s what I’ve been told. That’s what seems to be taking place.”

Dave Doyle, who is working with the Michigan House Republicans to overturn the recall, said a preliminary glance at the petitions would seem to verify Newton’s comment.

“It looks like from 25 to 50 percent of the petitions were collected by people from Detroit and the City of Flint,” Doyle said. “Apparently they were paid somewhere from $3 to $4 per signature. We’ve noticed possible problems with some of those petitions.”

Last Friday — the deadline date — the Scott recall campaign turned in 12,200 signatures, well more than the 9,446 required to put Scott’s name on the ballot for a recall election in November. The fact that many of those who collected the signatures were from outside of Scott’s district would not make the signatures in any way less legitimate. However, it might increase the likelihood of duplications and other possible mistakes that could potentially knock the total down below the required 9,446.

It’s widely believed that East Lansing-based Practical Political Consulting was hired to play a key role — and possibly even a coordinating role — in the recall effort. Mark Grebner, president of PPC, is considered one of the state’s top, if not the very best, experts on legislative recalls. He and his company were instrumental in killing the initial attempt to recall former House Speaker Andy Dillon in 2008.

“We’ve been told Grebner was involved, or at least that they used Grebner’s lists,” Doyle said. “But we have no way of verifying that at this point.”

Grebner is a compiler of political lists used by campaigns of all sorts to quickly identify and contact like-minded voters. Grebner gave no comment when asked to verify whether he or his company was involved in the Scott recall.

Doyle said no one on Scott’s side of the issue is willing to concede that Scott will even have to fight a recall election this fall.

“We have the signatures to look over and there’s also the appeal,” Doyle said. “I thought the arguments on the appeal were pretty compelling.”

Scott appealed a recent decision by the Genesee County Election Board that the language on the petitions was clear enough for signature collection. The Genesee County Court did not deal with the appeal.

Those in the Scott camp claim that a 1993 law requires that all clarity language appeals must be exhausted before petitions can be circulated for valid signatures. The case is now before the Michigan Court of Appeals and could potentially end up in the state Supreme Court. The final “drop-dead” date for the court stepping in would probably be during the week of Sept. 6-9.

The recall petition language cited Scott’s support of both the alleged K-12 budget cuts and the so-called pension tax as the reason he should be removed from office. An earlier version of the petition that also included Scott’s support for the Emergency Financial Manager legislation was rejected as being unclear.

Doyle said he doesn’t believe those behind the Scott recall would accomplish anything even if they were to successfully recall him.

“The election to replace Scott would be held on February 28 at the same time as the Republican [presidential] primary,” Doyle said. “Again, we’re not willing to concede that Scott will ever even have to stand a recall election, but if he were recalled, he’d be replaced by another Republican. He could even run again for the newly drawn district after that. All that’s happening is that the unions are pissed off about necessary changes that are being made. It’s just an extension of what’s happening with the recalls in Wisconsin.”

But if Scott were successfully recalled, wouldn’t that allow the unions to argue that the voters were on their side regarding these issues?

“No,” Doyle said. “If there were an election, they (the unions) wouldn’t be able make it be about issues like changes to teacher tenure and the various collective bargaining reforms, which are now actually resulting in school districts being able to avoid laying teachers off. The voters simply don’t agree with the unions on those issues. They won’t be able to use those issues in the election and hope to win.”

Another factor: Because Scott would be the only lawmaker facing recall in November, the election would receive a great deal of news media attention. That means the chances of a low profile, low turnout, stealth election would be nil.

“The unions would probably spend a lot on it, and so would our side,” Doyle said. “It wouldn’t be a stealth election. But at this point there are some pretty good chances that the election is never going to happen anyway.”

Meanwhile, The Detroit News has reported that Citizens Against Government Overreach missed a July 25 state deadline for reporting on its fundraising and expenditures.

The recall committee has argued that because it registered with the Genesee County Clerk, instead of the state of Michigan, it did not have to file a campaign finance report until 11 days before an eventual recall election.

State officials have conceded that a state campaign manual was not as clear as it should have been about where the committee was supposed to file. It’s believed the recall campaign finance report will be filed with the state this week. In its July 25 filing, the Michigan Education Association revealed that it had donated $25,000 to Citizens Against Government Overreach.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.