For the Sake of Integrity
I recently had the privilege of serving as a delegate to the Michigan Republican State Convention, an annual event where state delegates elect members of the state party leadership and/or nominate candidates for the November elections. Delegates to the State Convention are chosen by the County Conventions to represent each respective county at the State-level. The 2014 Convention was convened to choose nominees for positions on the State Board of Education, University of Michigan Board of Regents, Michigan State University Board of Trustees, Wayne State University Board of Governors, and most importantly, the Lieutenant Governor.
This last office received significant attention because two factions of the party were locked in competition with one another for the position. Those more closely tied with the political process and the party (labeled by some as “the Establishment”) wanted to re-nominate the incumbent, Brian Calley. Many within the Tea Party were backing a challenger, Wes Nakagiri, a grassroots leader who started the Tea Party group RetakeOurGov. The Tea Party’s efforts to oust the Lieutenant Governor were spurred on by the perception that he had not adequately stood up for the more conservative wing of the party.
Contention within the Michigan Republican Party has gone on for several years now, but the way some have handled it is disturbing. Multiple incidents of dishonesty have been witnessed in the Party, including such things as the party leadership bending the rules at the 2013 State Convention so the sitting State Chairman, Bobby Schostak, could be reelected. Earlier this year a number of precinct delegates introduced a resolution to censure the State Chairman. Included in the censure document were allegations of donating to Democratic candidates, abuse of power to fill vacant delegate positions with his choice candidates, and abuse of his position for monetary gain.1 One example of the Chairman’s profiteering included his family business, Schostak Brothers & Company, who was hired to construct a complex for Meridian Health Plan, the largest Medicaid HMO because of their contract with the Department of Community Health.2
As in previous years, this year’s event demonstrated its share of corruption. During the convention several delegates from my county were escorted by the District Chairperson to a private meeting with the Governor. The Governor was straight-forward with his message: do not vote for Wes Nakagiri, it will weaken the ticket for the general election. Michigan’s Governor tried to intimidate delegates to go along with his agenda. After the votes had been cast there was a “voting irregularity” with too many votes cast from Washtenaw County. Precautions to prevent such an occurrence included ID badges worn by all state delegates. The clerks that attended the ballots were tasked with checking the photo ID of every voter and matching them against provided voter lists for each county. I do not know what happened, but the circumstances were suspicious, and those in charge of remedying the problem, the Chairman and his team, have a reputation for unscrupulous dealings in the past.
I chose to write about the corruption within the Michigan GOP because there is a need for accountability and transparency. Integrity is not optional in our government, it is required, and it cannot develop in the Michigan Republican Party without first bringing what is wrong out to the light. While most are aware that there is a great deal of shadiness in Washington, D.C., we do not often consider that the same darkness is in our local and state governments.
On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among the children of man (Ps. 12:8).3
When the behaviors that I have described are left alone, not only are the wrongs already committed unanswered for, but further damage results from it. The moral decay of D.C. is easily acknowledged, but my home, Michigan, is experiencing the same sort of dirty politics.
An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked (Prov. 29:27).
The Body of Christ must walk in righteousness so as to be in direct conflict with deceit and cheating—to advocate goodness and honesty. My prayer for us as Christians is that we would act as a light in the darkness. For the sake of integrity, let us be vigilant to confront crookedness where ever we find it.