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Politics & Government

Courser and Gamrat are just the latest in a colorful history of political scandals in Michigan

Gamrat's husband (left) stood by her side.
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The details of the affair between state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat – along with Courser's attempt to cover things up with a fake gay sex scandal – have made national and worldwide headlines.

But the two tea party, conservative Christian lawmakers at the center of this scandal are just the latest in a long history of political scandals in the state.

Nancy Kaffer recently recounted some of the state’s historic scandals for The Detroit Free Press.

Kaffer says she made the choice to avoid retelling the Kwame Kilpatrick story. Instead, she wanted to highlight less recent or well-known wrongdoing.

This includes 1939 Detroit Mayor Richard Reading’s involvement in what was known as “the Janet McDonald affair.” McDonald killed herself and her daughter, but not before sending notes to the city’s papers accusing Detroit police of accepting bribes from a bookie who was her former lover.

When Reading refused to investigate the claim, the City Council grew suspicious and found Reading was accepting kickbacks.

Kaffer says Reading called his indictment “the greatest injustice since the crucifixion of Christ.”

Then there was Oakland County judge William Beer. Kaffer says Beer didn’t just have an affair with his secretary, who was 19 when it began, but he had an entire separate family with her. Beer had three children with his first wife and nine with his secretary. Both families lived in the metro area.

Beer's tenure also consisted of some shocking decisions, including delaying the sentence of a convicted rapist for a year to see “if he could behave himself,” says Kaffer.

This resulted in a law that now prevents the delay or suspension of a sentence in a rape conviction.

According to Kaffer, the House Fiscal Agency scandal of 1993 was a turning point in state politics.

Employees were using the agency as their own piggy bank, paying for credit card bills, vacations and more. 

"It seems like this is a scandal that really made people change their view of how state government operated and the trust they should put in it,” says Kaffer.

Detroit City Councilwoman Kay Everett’s alleged bribes were more creative than just monetary gains. Kaffer says Everett was allegedly paid not only with money, but 17 pounds of sausage. She passed away before she stood trial on the charges.

Republican state Senator David Jaye had a laundry list of public mistakes, including supposedly dropping a pistol on the Senate floor. Kaffer says an associate of Jaye described his personal life as a very weird spectacle.

And Kaffer says, “I think you could actually describe his whole political career as a very weird spectacle.”

With multiple drunk driving charges and a domestic assault charge, Jaye was expelled from the Legislature.

Democratic state Senator Henry Stallings II also had his fair share of legal issues, with a paternity suit against him, accusations of failing to pay child support, and a bankruptcy.

He eventually resigned, moments before he was about to be expelled after using a state employee to frame pictures in his art gallery.

Kaffer says in recalling all these affairs, many of which included very serious accusations and charges, "it seems like in reading various people’s stories that the conduct of the lawmakers may really be what drives colleagues to snap.”

So where will Courser and Gamrat fall in this history?

Kaffer says it’s hard to tell, with new details still coming out, but “I think it’s going to be pretty high on the list.”

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