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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012

Legislative disgrace

Michigan voters tend to be fairly unflappable, but eyes are rolling at the revelation of a scandal in the state Legislature: House Speaker Jase Bolger reportedly conspired this year with a state representative to try to rig an election.

That conclusion is in a report by Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, who, like both lawmakers, is a Republican. We know what they did, because the prosecutor got their text messages.

In May, the report says, Mr. Bolger conspired with state Rep. Roy Schmidt to arrange for Mr. Schmidt, who was elected as a Democrat, to switch to the GOP. They decided he should do so at the last minute, so Democrats wouldn't be able to find a strong opponent.

The lawmakers schemed to get a phony Democrat to put his name on the ballot, the report said, to make it harder for a legitimate Democrat to run a write-in campaign. Mr. Schmidt had his son offer a young man $450 to lie and say he lived in the district (he doesn't) and to file for the race.

The candidate agreed, but then got cold feet -- even though Mr. Schmidt himself went to the store where the man worked and increased the offer to $1,000 -- which would have been diverted from the representative's campaign funds. The younger Schmidt was to have gotten another $1,000 for his role in the scheme.

Incredibly, nothing the politicians did was apparently illegal, according to the prosecutor. He called on the state Legislature to pass laws to prevent this kind of chicanery from recurring.

Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Bolger are rejecting demands that they resign. House Republicans have proclaimed they intend to keep Mr. Bolger as speaker.

Mr. Bolger would do better to step down immediately, and lawmakers should expel Mr. Schmidt. Otherwise, voters can validly assume that Michigan Republicans are the party of Tricky Dick, not Honest Abe -- and that they can expect more of the same.

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