Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Laura Cox sent an email to delegates on Thursday two days before the GOP convention accusing her presumptive replacement of nefarious behavior.
Cox, who was slated to relinquish her chair on Saturday, has instead asked delegates to keep her atop the state party at least temporarily after she accused Ron Weiser, her successor, “of making improper payments to keep a candidate out of a party race in 2018 when Weiser earlier served as chairman,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
In her email to delegates, Cox wrote that she “in good conscience cannot sit quietly” and allow Weiser to succeed her when “he cannot and should not be the Republican Party chair” due to an alleged “secret deal” she claims he made using state party funds.
Cox, who’s been state party chair for two years, accused Weiser of paying $200,000 to Stanley Grot, the GOP clerk of Shelby Township, from a party account over the course of seven months so he would abandon the race for secretary of state and instead let Mary Treder Lang become the party’s 2018 nominee.
Lang was ultimately defeated by the Democratic nominee and current secretary of state Jocelyn Benson.
In response, Weiser called Cox’s claims “baseless allegations” as part of “a desperate attempt to smear my name based on a long-standing political grudge, and her inability to hold onto the job of party chair that she could not keep on her own merits.”
Cox said evidence of the secret deal is plain, leading her to report the money exchange to the Michigan Bureau of Elections on Thursday as a potential violation of state campaign finance laws.
She said the payments appear to show “the manipulation of a statewide nomination process and the ethical issue of a party chair essentially defrauding state convention delegates and depriving these delegates their choice of candidates … through a sleazy payoff.”
However, Weiser — who was the only other state GOP candidate to file for party chair by the appropriated deadline — countered that Grot was put on the party payroll as a regional organizer in Macomb County, where he said Grot’s efforts were favorable to the Michigan GOP.
He also said that the issue has already been examined by a former Michigan high court chief justice.
“The contract in question was drafted by counsel, and I relied on that counsel,” Weiser said, according to the Free Press. “What’s more, Laura’s false allegations have been reviewed by former Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. of the Michigan Supreme Court, who has also consulted with other legal experts, and they all agree there have been no violations.
“I’m disappointed by Laura’s shameful attempt to destroy our party with unfounded and reckless conspiracy theories so that she can get back in the chair’s race and save her paycheck,” he added.
Grot also pushed back, writing on Facebook that his efforts were instrumental in “turning Macomb County red and making it one of the most Republican areas in the country.”
“I find it highly ironic that Laura Cox put me in charge of the party finances and appointed me chairman of the Republican Party budget committee if she truly thought I shouldn’t have been hired,” he added. “Laura Cox is desperate to hold on to her job and full of sour grapes. Shame on her. Shame.”
He explained that he was paid $10,000 a month from the state GOP’s administration account beginning three days after he left the secretary of state’s race. Those payments continued for a total of six months; he was then paid a lump sum of $140,000 two weeks before Cox took over as state party leader, the Free Press added.
Others see Cox’s actions as self-serving as well as an attempt to cover up what they describe as failures during her tenure.
“The sentiment among most GOP delegates is that Cox’s attacks are completely baseless. In 2018, Weiser declined his own GOP chairman salary, which helped hire regional organizers. It is well known that Stan Grot is one of the best grassroots organizers and has arguably recruited more delegates in the last twenty years than anyone,” says a post at ConservativeIntel.
“Delegates have already coalesced behind Ron Weiser and his co-chair Meshawn Maddock. Weiser’s ability to raise money, coupled with Maddock’s ability to organize the grassroots, make them the Republican dream team. It’s the kind of leadership we need to win the important races happening in our state this cycle,” the post added.
She has also been criticized for failing to adequately organize and assign GOP poll watchers on Election Day in November at Detroit’s TCF Center, the state’s largest ballot-counting facility.
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