GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The attorney for state Rep. Larry Inman, accused of soliciting a bribe and attempted extortion, said Inman’s acceptance of campaign contributions should not serve as the basis for criminal charges.
Inman, R-Williamsburg, asked that the indictments be dismissed.
If the case proceeds, the federal government could “scrutinize every vote of state legislators for criminal responsibility,” attorney Christopher Cooke said Friday, Aug. 9, in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
He said it should be no surprise that donors support legislators who share opinions. He called the prosecution “excessive federal government intrusion into what is a state matter.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor said: “There is nothing protected about a campaign contribution that is tied to trying to sell a vote.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker said he would allow both sides to write additional briefs on the matter before he issues a written opinion on the defense motion to dismiss the bribery and attempted extortion charges.
He said that a charge of lying to the FBI would proceed.
Jonker had concerns about the prosecution, in particular the First Amendment rights of those making campaign contributions – the donations are their voice.
“That’s what I’m really most worried about,” he said.
He said those concerns may not lead to dismissal of charges but they could be included in jury instructions if the case goes to trial.
Inman is charged under the Hobbs Act, in which “the Government need only show that a public official has obtained a payment to which he was not entitled, knowing that the payment was made in return for officials acts,” the U.S. Supreme Court says.
The prosecution says it’s a classic case of “quid pro quo.” In this instance, cash for a vote.
The defense attorney said, “We’re talking about whether or not a legal campaign contribution can be used as the pro quo for the quid pro quo requirement under the Hobbs Act. It has to be something for something. If you start looking at campaign contributions given to elected officials as a basis for a pro quo, then everybody who receives a campaign contribution or gives a campaign contribution could fall under jurisdiction of the Hobbs Act.”
Inman was indicted after he appeared willing to sell his vote – and influence other legislators if they, too, received significant campaign contributions – in the repeal of Michigan’s prevailing-wage law. Inman had extensive text conversations with those opposed to repealing the law, which required that workers on public projects, such as building schools, receive union-level wages.
State legislators enacted the repeal after a group obtained enough signatures to put an initiative before voters.
Inman sought funding from trade groups in exchange for a no vote, the government said in court records.
He allegedly said that a “dirty dozen” of other lawmakers could join him if each received $30,000 in campaign donations.
Meanwhile, Inman, subject of a recall effort, has a “pretty hopeless future for him just because of the indictment,” Cooke said.
He said that the charges provide the basis for the recall. He said it was unfair because the allegations have yet to be proven in court. He said his client, who is undergoing an opioid treatment program, expects to return to work soon.
Michael Naughton, a Traverse City attorney representing the recall organizers, was in court. His clients are concerned that Inman has missed over 80 votes since he was indicted in May.