A Republican state lawmaker faces federal charges of bribery, extortion and lying to the FBI. Representative Larry Inman is accused of illegally soliciting a campaign donation of more than $5,000 in exchange for a vote last summer.
Inman has lost his committee assignments as a result of this scandal. His office has been taken over by the House Business Office. And he has stopped showing up to House session in order to cast votes.
Adrian Hemond is partner and CEO of Grassroots Midwest, a bipartisan political consulting firm based in Lansing. He wrote about this subject recently on the Grassroots Midwest blog.
As part of the weekly series MichMash, Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with a political strategist in Lansing about the many ways this scandal could hurt other state officials, as well as the people they represent.
Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.
Here are some of the folks Hemond says might feel the pain of this indictment and the process moving forward.
Inman’s colleagues in the Legislature
Hemond points out that in the text messages at the heart of the indictment, Inman allegedly represents that he’s not just soliciting bribes on his own behalf, but on behalf of 12 other Republican members of the Michigan House.
“There hasn’t been any evidence that’s come to light that any of those folks were involved in that scheme directly,” he notes, “but we’re still pretty early in the process here. And there are going to be folks trying to get under the fingernails of other lawmakers.”
One of the only groups that could use a PR crisis less than politicians in Lansing are the lobbyists who represent different interests. That being said, lobbyists work on behalf of many different groups and interests in Michigan. If you have a job or an issue you care deeply about, it’s likely there’s a lobbyist in Lansing that advocates on your behalf.
Hemond says this scandal in particular could create “some reticence on the part of lobbyists in terms of their interactions with lawmakers.”
He notes that it doesn’t look like any lobbyists did anything wrong in this case. In fact, one of them was responsible for alerting authorities to the situation. But there will still be a discovery process in the case.
“There are folks who were contacted by Rep. Inman who are going to be asked to give depositions,” says Hemond. “And that’s not a position that a lobbyist ever likes to be in.”
The residents of Inman’s district
There are a number of similar recent examples of lawmakers in hot water: the Courser-Gamrat sex scandal, former state Sen. Virgil Smith’s domestic violence scandal, former state Sen. Bert Johnson’s public corruption case.
Hemond says when these things happen, it’s those lawmakers’ constituents who lose big.
“The first thing to think about is the bread-and-butter constituent services that get provided by a lawmaker’s office,” says Hemond. This is a large portion of the work of a legislator in Michigan. A representative or senator is expected to provide non-legislative help to residents of his or her district. This could include help navigating government services or bureaucracy or coordinating school visits to the Capitol.
Of course, it also means those residents don’t have someone in Lansing casting votes on their behalf.
“The particular views and needs of Grand Traverse County [Inman’s district] aren’t currently really being represented in the House,” Hemond says.