Michigan GOP convention rocked by controversy, as Weiser compares criticism of him to 1930s Germany

By: - February 5, 2021 1:35 pm

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Ahead of Saturday’s convention, private emails from University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser, who is running for the Michigan Republican Party chair, have surfaced where he compares criticism of him at the university to Germany in the 1930s. 

A series of controversies have emerged in recent days as the Michigan GOP seeks to rebuild for 2022 after now-former President Trump lost the state and the election last year. Weiser’s fundraising ability was seen as a key strength, as was his alliance with Trump Republicans by picking activist Meshawn Maddock as his co-chair.

In a letter to Weiser obtained by the Advance, 343 U of M faculty, students, staff and alumni asked Weiser to resign from the university’s board of regents because of his position in the Michigan Republican Party. The letter cites the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the many election fraud conspiracies spread by Republicans, saying that the “aims of these two positions [with the MI-GOP and the university] diverge so radically that you cannot hold both without bringing disrepute to our university.”

Ron Weiser

“You have to choose between supporting the University of Michigan and supporting the darkest factions of U.S. political life. You can not do both,” the letter concluded.

Weiser — a former ambassador, real estate developer and former Michigan GOP chair — then wrote to Vice President and Secretary of the University Sally Churchill, as well as copied the board of regents and U of M President Mark Schlissel, saying it “might be nice if some or all of my fellow board members say something about my service or largess to the University.”

“Silence has historical consequences. Remember Germany in the 1930’s,” Weiser wrote. 

This is only one of a number of controversies that have been uncovered recently about Weiser, such as other personal emails forwarded to regents, including a photo of a woman in a bikini.

Current Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox  also shared in an email to Republican activists that in August 2018 Weiser paid Secretary of State candidate Stanley Grot of Shelby Township $200,000 from a Republican party account “so he would withdraw as a candidate for secretary of state.” The convention nominated Mary Treder Lang, who lost to now-Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Cox, who dropped out of the race last month, is now campaigning to be a temporary chair, instead of electing Weiser, saying that she would step down in April so the committee could elect a new chair. Cox is a former House member who’s married to former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

Weiser took to Facebook to denounce Laura Cox’s claims, writing that her “baseless allegations are a desperate attempt to smear my name, based on a longstanding political grudge, and her inability to hold onto the job of party chair that she could not keep on her own merits.”

Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox with Vice President Mike Pence in Saginaw, Dec. 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Cox said that on Thursday she reported the transaction with Grot to the Michigan Bureau of Elections as a possible violation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

Maddock, who held a leadership role with Women for Trump, came out in support of Weiser on Facebook Thursday, calling Cox a “bitter, sore loser.”

“This is obviously a desperate, last minute attempt to hold on to her paycheck and she is embarrassing herself,” Maddock wrote. “I strongly support Ron Weiser for Chairman and look forward to cleaning house in Lansing … I can’t wait to get to work. This just makes me want to work harder!”

Maddock is married to state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford). She helped organize buses to Washington, D.C., ahead of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump event that culminated with activists ransacking the U.S. Capitol, leaving five dead. The Maddocks say they were not present.

Weiser and Maddock also raised the fact that Cox knew about the payment to Grot for years, but has waited to make it public. 

Cox said that she was trying to be “respectful of Ron’s serious health and family issues last year,” but “regrets not taking action sooner.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.