Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whither Whitmer?

Every sport has an off-season (except possibly for Davis Cup tennis, which never seems to begin or end; it just keeps going). Electioneering used to have an off-season, when the voters could relax, watch TV, listen to the radio, and drive without being assaulted by an endless array of commercials, jingles, and road signs.

Those days are over.

Now, the end of one election merely signals the beginning of the next election cycle, when candidates begin lining up support and money for their next try at electoral glory. The parties, fundraisers, websites, and chatty emails begin slowly, then build to a headsplitting crescendo from the primaries to the general election.

And so, we now have candidates jockeying for position in the 2010 race for statewide office. As voters, it’s tempting to tune them out, but as responsible voters, we need to take some interest in the candidates now, if only to sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

At this stage, however, there is little to go on. Without position papers, press conferences, and debates, it’s not easy to tell what many candidates stand for. In some cases, there is a track record of accomplishment or futility that can inform and enlighten us.

Ah, futility. That brings us to Gretchen Whitmer, a state senator from East Lansing, who is apparently interested in running for attorney general next year. What does her record reveal about her and what kind of attorney general she would be?

First, it is important to remind ourselves what the attorney general does. Michigan’s chief law enforcement officer, the AG has far-reaching duties. Under Michigan law:

The attorney general shall prosecute and defend all actions in the supreme court, in which the state shall be interested, or a party; he may, in his discretion, designate one of the assistant attorneys general to be known as the solicitor general, who, under his direction, shall have charge of such causes in the supreme court and shall perform such other duties as may be assigned to him; and the attorney general shall also, when requested by the governor, or either branch of the legislature, and may, when in his own judgment the interests of the state require it, intervene in and appear for the people of this state in any other court or tribunal, in any cause or matter, civil or criminal, in which the people of this state may be a party or interested.

These are heavy powers and responsibilities, and the person exercising them should be qualified to do so, with a record that demonstrates he or she possesses the necessary judgment and commitment to the rule of law this position requires. Whitmer does not have such a record, and the record she has compiled casts serious doubts on her judgment.

Whitmer was admitted to the bar in November of 1998 and elected to the House of Representatives in 2000. She has been in the state legislature ever since. So, she spent about two whole years practicing law, and undoubtedly spent a good deal of that time running for office. She worked for a large firm, which can be good experience, but large firms are notorious for not letting their newest lawyers do anything of consequence, so in all likelihood she spent her two years of legal practice running for office and handing papers to a partner who was actually doing the heavy lifting.

What’s that, you say? Once she got to the legislature she really blossomed? Uh, not so much. After being in the House from 2000-2006, she moved on to the Senate. I reviewed the records from the last five years, and she has not been the primary sponsor on a single piece of legislation that passed either House. In the one instance in which she got her legislation to the House floor for a vote, it was defeated. Badly.

But let’s give Whitmer the benefit of the doubt here. She is, after all, a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Senate. Surely, her legislation is merely being blocked for political reasons, despite its obvious wisdom, right? Sorry, no.

Take, for example, Senate Bill 88, which Whitmer introduced on January 27, 2009. This bill would permit voters to have addresses on their driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards different from their addresses on the qualified voter list. Obviously, this removes an important protection against fraud, since every voter is required to show a picture identification at the precinct, which is compared against the qualified voter list. If the addresses are allowed to differ, the fraud door is flung open wide.

Incredibly, Whitmer introduced this bill less than three months after the 2008 presidential election, which was marked by rampant voter fraud. In some cases, the fraud was officially sanctioned. As I wrote here:

The dregs of ACORN, considered criminals in days gone by, are now embraced by our federal government and given hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. Remember, this is the same group that, in concert with the Ohio Secretary of State (a Democrat) and a federal judge (appointed by Clinton), effected a settlement by which the homeless were permitted to use park benches(!) as their addresses for voter registration purposes. ACORN is being investigated or has been charged with voter fraud in 14 states. The U.S. Department of Justice has now ordered that states are not permitted to verify voter citizenship.

What does it say about Whitmer’s judgment that she would introduce such a bill? A bill, by the way, for which she couldn’t even get any other Democratic co-sponsors. When I contacted Whitmer’s office to ask about the reason for this bill, I was told by a staff member that it was to permit college students (particularly those in Whitmer’s district) to vote where they go to school without having to go home or get an absentee ballot. (What is the purpose of an absentee ballot if not for this situation anyway?).

So Whitmer has never really practiced law, has served with zero distinction in the legislature, and has proposed a bill that would encourage voter fraud. Only in the Democratic Party would this be considered a background worthy of an attorney general.

If this is what we have to look forward to in the next election cycle, I can wait a while longer.


  1. Wow; what a baseless attack on Gretchen Whitmer. Funny, I notice you don’t call out Mike Bishop, who has actually announced he’s running for AG, since he is term-limited. He graduated from law school in 1993 – I have no idea when he was admitted to the bar – and elected to the House in 1998. That’s not much more experience than Whitmer. It appears the law firm he currently works for – which also appears to be “a large firm” - specializes primarily on corporate law. But, you know a major function of the AG is administrative.

    As fro Bishop’s record, the Senate is where good legislation goes to die; even when Republicans controlled the House and Senate.

    As for this “rampant voter fraud” you speak of, I must have missed it. The fact is that’s a lie. We also get the standard attacks on ACORN. They have never been involved in voter fraud, and you know that. Their crime is that they dare to try to empower the poor and people with no voice.

    As for Senate Bill 88, also known as the Rogers’ Law, it rids us of the requirement that Michigan voters to have the address listed on their driver’s license match the address on their voter registration card. You chose to forget that this was one of the last law’s Rogers pushed through the Michigan legislature when the GOP controlled both the House and Senate, and it ensured Rogers won his current seat in Congress by a mere 111 votes in 2000 when students from MSU were turned away from the polls on election day.

    You also choose to ignore that Rogers’ Law is a barrier to students who want to vote on issues and representatives where they spend the majority of the year. Most students need to keep their home address on their DL for finical aid and medical coverage reasons. Its sad that Republicans will throw up roadblock and roadblock just to keep voter turnout down and them in power.

  2. Hey, Communicationsguru -- When I see a post that includes, as yours does, the following: "[ACORN] have never been involved in voter fraud, and you know that. Their crime is that they dare to try to empower the poor and people with no voice," I know that rational discussion will be illusory. Being a democratic legislative staffer (whatever that is), I don't really expect you to offer any objective commentary, and you don't, nor can you take issue with any of my observations regarding Sen. Whitmer. Saying "Mike Bishop has only 5 years of legal experience" does not refute Whitmer's lack of experience as an attorney, just as attacks on Sarah Palin did not prove that The One had the required experience to be our President. Events have proven me right on that count as well.

    Keep reading and commenting!