Two former Oakland County Democratic Party officials have been arraigned on felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from a political scandal this past election season involving fraudulent candidate affidavits for so-called “Tea Party” candidates who were allegedly signed up for elections to siphon away conservative votes from Republican candidates in close races.
Michael McGuinness, the former party chairman, and Jason Bauer, the party’s former operations director, didn’t enter pleas before Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander on Wednesday, March 16; a not-guilty plea was entered into the record for both men.
McGuinness faces six counts of forgery and perjury, while Bauer faces the same counts, plus three other charges for allegedly violating provisions of the Michigan Notary Public Act when he notarized what were allegedly fraudulent candidate affidavits for Aaron W. Tyler, who was running for the county Board of Commissioners 2nd District seat; Ruth A. Spearman, who was running for the Board of Commissioners 4th District seat; and Johnathon Michael Young, who was running for the state Senate’s 12th District seat.
Uttering and publishing is a 14-year felony; perjury is a 5-year felony; and violations of the Notary Public Act are 1-year misdemeanor offenses.
The county board’s District 2 represents Highland Township, the village of Holly, and Holly, Springfield and Rose townships. District 4 represents portions of Waterford and Independence townships, and Clarkston.
The pair’s next court date is April 13, according to staff in Alexander’s office.
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, a Democrat, held a joint news conference with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, a Republican, on March 16 announcing the charges. The next day, she said that the electoral process is “sacred” and that, while partisan politics can be “very disgusting” at times, these offenses were a matter of the law, not ethics.
“This is who we are as a nation,” she said. “We pursue them. The electoral process is sacrosanct, and you don’t mess with the electoral process. They violated the laws that are associated with that process. This wasn’t a partisan thing. These were individuals who went outside the law.”
Under provisions of the grand jury investigation that continues into the matter, Cooper said she wasn’t allowed to discuss further any possible charges that still may be forthcoming against the two former Democratic Party power-players.
McGuinness, who ran against Oakland County Commissioner John Scott (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) in the 2010 general election, and Bauer were both released after posting $25,000 bond. McGuinness is being represented by John Allen, while Bauer is being represented by Michael Dezsi.
The two former party officials are at the center of the scandal that eventually caused former Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Ruth Johnson, now Michigan Secretary of State, and County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to request a one-man grand jury of Circuit Court Judge Edward Sosnick, which was convened in September.
In July 2010, a group identifying itself as the “Tea Party” submitted 59,000-plus voter signatures to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office, as well as the names of 23 candidates seeking legislative positions as Tea Party candidates.
Waterford resident Matthew David Quinn filed an affidavit with the Secretary of State’s office as a Tea Party candidate for the 43rd state House District seat, a position currently held by state Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield).
Waterford resident Andrew Nicholls was seeking the 26th state Senate District seat, which at the time was held by former state Sen. Deb Cherry but is now held by state Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford). Most of that district is in Genesee County.
Lyon Township resident Heather Sartorius, who was born in June 1990, making her just 20-years-old at the time, was vying for the 15th state Senate District seat held at the time by former state Sen. Nancy Cassis but now held by state Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Milford, Highland, White Lake, West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Wixom, Walled Lake, Wolverine Lake).
The Michigan Constitution requires that state representatives and senators be at least 21 years of age, meaning Sartorius would have been an ineligible candidate for that office.
Neither Quinn, Nicholls, nor Sartorius have been charged or accused of any violation of law.
State senators serve four-year terms and are currently paid $79,650 per year.
State representatives serve two-year terms and are currently paid $79,650 per year.
County commissioners serve two-year terms and earn $32,093 annually.