On Petition Signatures, “The Candidates Do Have the Ultimate Responsibility” 

“Campaigns were negligent” … “Garbage operations” … “The word is due diligence”

This week, James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Michael Markey are fighting in court to appear on the ballot after getting caught submitting tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures sourced through forgery and the exploitation of dead voters. 

Over continued pleas that attempt to relieve them of all responsibility for submitting such shoddy signatures, candidates and their lawyers have yet to deny that the signatures were fraudulent. Before the Board of Canvassers last week, most conceded they had no quality control measures in place to prevent these outcomes.

Read more on the candidates’ responsibility for the largest forgery election scandal in Michigan political history:

The Responsibility is on the Candidates in Question Who Should Have Ensured Signatures Were Valid

Detroit News Editorial Board: “Ultimately, however, the responsibility remains on the candidates who decided to submit the signatures.” 

Republican State Senator Ruth Johnson: “You feel bad, but the candidates do have the ultimate responsibility.”

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Candice Miller: “If you’re going to run for governor, you have to have some sort of organization. You can either build one or you can buy one. With Craig and Johnson, one was trying to build one, one was trying to buy one. They hired these fraudsters, that’s tough. Too bad. […] We can’t change the rules because they didn’t know who to hire.”

Republican consultant John Sellek: “I would argue first of all that the system worked. Candidates that didn’t have the organization or support to collect the signatures, didn’t get onto the ballot, that’s the cold, hard truth of the results, so maybe there isn’t a need for a fix.”

Conservative columnist Bankole Thompson: “The candidates and those they delegated to gather signatures on their behalf are to blame for not meeting the standards for signature collection.”

Former MIGOP executive director and National Republican Senatorial Committee political director Stu Sandler: “The Michigan Republican Party candidates ran garbage operations. The fact the Michigan Republican Party is defending all this fraud is embarrassing.”

Republican election attorney John Pirich: “I don’t know how anyone in good conscience would say these candidates should be on the ballot when they couldn’t do something as fundamental as circulate properly registered voter signatures and turn them in. I mean, to put them on the ballot would be an insult to the whole process. […] If you hire scum-buckets to do your work, you’re gonna get some scum-bucket results and you should be associated with those results.”

Discussions of Why Candidates Should be Held Accountable Continued over the Weekend 

Flashpoint on WDIV Part 1 Part 2

HOST DEVIN SCILLIAN: …The ironies here are pretty rich. James Craig was the presumed frontrunner – a designation that usually doesn’t get tripped up on petition signatures. And for Johnson, the ‘quality guru,’ well, wasn’t exactly elite quality control. 

[…]

Political expert DENNIS DARNOI: Absolutely I mean, there are two things that happened: a massive fraud occurred, but also these campaigns were negligent in following through on these signatures. Every campaign knows that at the end of the week, you meet. You ask, “Where are your signatures? What is our validation rate?” The reason you raise so much money for signatures is so that you get them checked. So, I mean, it is a shame that people backed these candidates and these candidates won’t be on the ballot, but they are the ones to blame. They are the ones who are at fault. And if you want to run the state of Michigan, you first have to know how to run your campaign. 

SCILLIAN: That’s what it seems to me, Steve. And that’s why I was a little surprised that the two Republican members of the Board of Canvassers sided with these aggrieved candidates.

Political expert STEVE MITCHELL: Well, obviously Republicans are going to side with Republican candidates on this, but you need to change three. Again, the obligation is on the candidate to get the right signatures. And what the process is, as Dennis so correctly says is, you bring the signatures in and you begin verifying immediately. Every week you’re verifying. You’re going to the clerks, you’re making sure that they’re not fraudulent. Anyone who looked at these signatures knew that there was something wrong, and yet apparently there was no internal quality check on what was going on. […] I don’t believe the courts will allow them on. I think that they’re off. I think that the two major candidates, the one with the most money and the one in the lead, are not going to be voted on in August because they were unable to do that.

SCILLIAN: Adolph, it kind of exposes a little dirty secret. The idea that these candidates paid up to $20 per signature…

Political expert ADOLPH MONGO: To quote the great Fred Sanford, “You big dummy.” Listen, if it doesn’t pass the eye test…and I’ve done signatures. I hate it, but you can look at some of these signatures, and you know. You throw them out. Chief Craig, listen, he was the chief for a long time here in this city. He built up a rapport with a lot of community people, why didn’t he go into the community? He would’ve gotten some good folk that would’ve got him the signatures. But, he knows better than anybody. He’s going to run his own campaign. He runs out all his campaign managers. He deserves every bit of this. Him and Perry Johnson. They bragged about how great they were, and they couldn’t even get 15,000 good signatures. And they had all this time to get these signatures. Shame on them. They’re gone, bye bye. […]

ZOE CLARK (Michigan Radio): It’s beyond astonishing. I think I’ve heard “goat rodeo” actually uttered more in the past few days than I have in Michigan politics. [crosstalk] We’re grateful for that, it makes it so much easier to describe what’s happening. It’s absolutely astonishing. […] We are a nation of laws and rules, and one of the ways to become governor is this is the first thing you do. 

SCILLIAN: […] What they were asking was to put me on the ballot anyway. I guess I could show up and say, “Put me on the ballot! I didn’t have signatures either!”

DARNOI: For a party that’s against participation trophies, it seems there are a number that want to be given this. 

Off The Record – 5.29.22

HOST TIM SKUBICK: Some of the candidates threw themselves on the mercy of the court and said yesterday, “We tried. We did the best we could.” But at the end of the day there is a state law: 15,000 valid signatures. Read my lips, folks.

ZACH GORCHOW (Gongwer): What was it? Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” [crosstalk] So that is what the situation is here, though. You know, you’ve got to get there-

SKUBICK: And whose responsibility is it? Is it the candidates? Some of them said it was the state’s responsibility [crosstalk]

CHAD LIVENGOOD (Detroit News): No no no, it’s the candidate’s responsibility. It’s interesting. […]

SKUBICK: But Cheyna, by the same point, couldn’t a candidate argue, look, I hired a legitimate firm I assumed that they were doing their job. You know, I couldn’t fly spec all those names myself.

CHEYNA ROTH (Slate): Couldn’t you? Because that’s what you’re asking the state to then do, is to fly spec every single one of your signatures. I mean, you’re the one that hired these people. But that’s what they want them to do, to go through and be like okay, you’re gonna check every single signature. I mean, it is on the candidates, they are the ones that want to be in this position. They are the ones that want to run for governor. It is their responsibility, and their responsibility alone, to make sure that the people they are hiring…and this is something you get into when you hire people to collect your signatures for you. They are responsible for ensuring that they are doing a good job.

NANCY KAFFER (Detroit Free Press): And ask yourself…how do we take it if our governor says, “I don’t know what these folks were doing, I just hired them. I didn’t really pay attention to what they were doing. I didn’t check it.” We don’t care for that when our governor says it, so these are people who want to be governor.

SKUBICK: The word is due diligence.

GORCHOW: Well, as the candidate, you have to sign the petition. When you turn everything in, you are signing a statement that says you attest to the best of your knowledge these are accurate, valid signatures. Ultimately the buck stops legally with the candidate. This idea that I tried, it’s not my fault. You’re totally opening up the floodgates if they ignore this.

KAFFER: And then you have Chief Craig who was saying that he thinks this is orchestrated fraud. He also thought it was an orchestrated attack when the DNR, when their protesters stormed his campaign announcement and he thought they were paid and the DNR had allowed this to happen. And then in 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protest, he said it was orchestrated with paid Marxists. There’s like this weird insistence that there’s all these plots-

SKUBICK: Well he alleged that the State Department, the Bureau of Elections was out to get him.[…]

LIVENGOOD: We should note that Perry Johnson is a multi-millionaire. He’s spent at least probably $3 million to date on his campaign. He could’ve very well at $20 a signature bought himself the best checked signatures money could buy. The late Matty Moroun bought himself 400,000 signatures one year in order to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and Perry Johnson couldn’t come up with 15,000.

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