LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Investigators are now examining the email and phone records of two state lawmakers -- following a report that one of them planned a smear campaign against himself, apparently designed to hide an affair.
Republican Rep. Todd Courser of Lapeer publicly addressed the situation on Monday, saying he was the target of a blackmail attempt before he devised the plan "to misdirect attention" from a threat to expose his extramarital affair with GOP Rep. Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell.
Courser said he began receiving anonymous texts in May demanding that he resign or else the affair would be exposed. He said he devised the false email — which claimed he was a "bisexual porn-addicted sex deviant" who was caught having paid sex with a male prostitute — in part to "disrupt" the blackmailer, buy time to figure out who was behind the plot and discredit or blunt any potential leak of his relationship with Gamrat. It was unclear who actually sent the email.
Courser blamed three former aides for conspiring with the "establishment machine" to bring him down and "control" him, alleging that his office had been bugged. In an unusual arrangement for lawmakers with districts so far apart, Courser and Gamrat had combined their office operations and had the three staffers effectively work for both of them.
"Several entities have called on Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette to step into the investigation," said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick. "The Attorney General's Office however has offered no comment."
Governor Rick Snyder, commenting for the first time on a scandal, said it's a legislative branch issue being led by House Speaker Kevin Cotter.
"I think the speaker is on top of the issue, so I'm really looking for him to take the lead," said Snyder. "He's the appropriate one that should be pursuing an investigation and I appreciate that he's being proactive on the matter."
The Republican governor scoffed at the allegation that Courser was possibly blackmailed.
"That's what the Michigan State Police are there for," said Snyder. "If you're being blackmailed, shouldn't you have contacted the police and pursued it that way?"
Snyder said this is more than just an extramarital affair.
"It's not something that should happen but with respect to their seats, again, it's an issue of is there a breach or not of public trust. And that's an issue about misuse of potentially state resources in some fashion and that's what the investigation, I believe, is focused in on," he said.
Cotter has ordered an investigation by the House Business Office to determine whether Courser or Gamrat broke legislative rules or if there is evidence of illegal behavior such as a misuse of state resources. Director Tim Bowlin said Monday he was unsure how long the probe would take.
Under the Michigan Constitution, the House can expel a member with a two-thirds vote.
Democratic House Minority Leader Tim Greimel said because Bowlin serves at Cotter's discretion and Courser has made allegations involving Cotter's office, the probe should be turned over to Michigan's attorney general. Courser said a former staffer told him that he had been working with Cotter's office to "monitor us for some time."
Cotter has stopped short of calling for Courser or Gamrat's resignation until the investigation is complete. Spokesman Gideon D'Assandro denied Courser's claims that "establishment" Republicans pressured the duo.
"There are no black helicopters or drones flying around his office. We're not running some sort of giant big-government conspiracy over here," he said. "Unfortunately that's all he's got to fall back on. This is nobody's fault but his own."
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