Politics and Prejudices: Criminals, racists, and Republicans

Mar 18, 2015 at 1:00 am

Michigan Democrats had something extra and exciting to celebrate the night President Barack Obama was first elected. Diane Hathaway had done something almost nobody expected: Not only did she defeat a sitting Michigan Supreme Court Justice, she knocked off the chief justice, Clifford Taylor.

So how did she repay the voters and taxpayers for their trust? By committing felony real estate mortgage fraud, that's how, for which she was deservedly trundled off to federal prison, though not for nearly long enough.

But she's not the Democrats' only penal star. There's state Rep. Brian Banks, (D-Detroit) who has been convicted of eight-count-'em-eight felonies, mostly for bad checks. Once he got to the legislature in 2013, he was promptly sued by a male aide for sexual harassment.

Actually, however, the voters are probably more to blame here; they re-elected the crook last year, voting for him in both a hotly contested primary and then the general election.

What kind of campaign slogan do you run on when you're a convicted bad check felon? Brian's was "You can bank on Banks." Apparently, it worked. Yes, you couldn't make this stuff up. And yesiree, there's more to the Democratic Party than Kwame Kilpatrick, all right. But now for the kicker:

Republicans are worse.

Our three Democratic black sheep are, more or less, a bunch of sleazy and scuzzy crooks, of a type known in politics since, oh, about the time of Australopithecus Afarensis.

The Republicans, however, have Dave Agema as their representative on the party's national committee.

Agema is a racist who hates Muslims, blacks, gays, and the truth, not necessarily in that order. He has repeatedly posted vile smears against all these groups on Facebook.

Last week, he was back with a new post (since corrected) claiming that President Obama was "50 percent white, 43.75 percent Arabic, and 6.26 percent black." OK, so Dandy Dave isn't so good on arithmetic, since that adds up to more than 100 percent.

But accuracy never mattered much to the world's most bigoted former pilot. In the real world, the president's mother was a white woman from Kansas. His father was a graduate student from Kenya. They produced Baby Barack in 1961.

Agema's rant, by the way, claims the Democrats secretly want to keep slavery going today via welfare. Or as he put it, in a blaze of misspelled glory, "programs don't make you free, they make one dependant and a slave to their government and a guranteed life of poverty. ... This is just plan (sic) wrong!"

Well, hey. That still might beat starving to death.

In any event, Agema's behavior became so notorious last year that some Republicans begged him to resign. He just laughed. He doesn't care about anyone or anything other than his own twisted agenda, which the GOP should have known. Back when he was in the legislature, he skipped a key budget vote one year because he wanted to go hunt sheep in Siberia.

Late last year, Agema posted an article that claimed to be by a "liberal" public defender. It said, among other things, that blacks "are different by almost any measure to all other people. They cannot reason as well. They cannot communicate as well. They cannot control impulses as well. They are a threat to all who cross their path, black and non-black alike."

Keep in mind that Agema is Michigan's top representative to his party's national committee. Other Republicans claim there's no way to remove him. You have to wonder why they don't change the rules. Could it be that many secretly agree with him?

Last month, we learned that Agema is capable of more than ranting. Believe it or not, like most old-style racists, Agema has his own pet Negro, one who fits his stereotype.

Working behind the scenes, Agema got his boy — whoops, man — one Darwin Jiles, installed as ethnic vice chair of the Michigan GOP last month. Jiles, 29, was sold as a case of someone who had "survived failed liberal policies" and pulled himself up from the mean streets of Flint.

Indeed, at the time of his election, it had been two whole months since Jiles had been last sentenced for shooting someone in the leg. Originally, he was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm, which might have meant Jacktown. But he managed to cop a plea to a misdemeanor, and so get out on probation, so long as he doesn't leave the state.

However, this isn't the new Republican vice chair's first brush with the law. Jiles was charged with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder back in 2001. Fortunately for him, he was then a 15-year-old and, instead of doing hard time in prison, he ended up spending more than a year at the Shawono Center near Grayling, which the state defines as a “treatment facility for male juveniles who have been adjudicated for one or more felony counts."

When this came to light, Jiles threatened to sue the news media for "lies and slanders," before he was informed that it wasn't libel if you printed the truth. Agema wanted him elected because the previous vice chair had criticized his racist rants and his "tameless tongue."

There is a little bit of good news, however; under the terms of his probation, Jiles at least can't carry a gun.

You'd think the GOP would be a place where the crooks would go in more for white-collar crime. Well, you wouldn't be completely wrong. Just before their state convention began in February, Macomb County's Chad Selweski, one of the best reporters around, uncovered something interesting about Bill Rauwerdink, a top member of the party's state committee.

Seems old Bill was sort of a mini-Madoff, who was indicted by the feds in 2003 for massive accounting fraud.

He went to prison for almost four years, and was ordered to pay $285 million in restitution. To be fair, he did not get re-elected to the state committee. But he is hardly the only felon on the GOP state committee. Take old Doug Sedenquist of Escanaba, who was arrested two years ago by Wisconsin cops for resisting arrest, threatening to kill himself, etc.

Despite all that, his fellow Republicans happily kept him aboard till last July, when he went off to prison on a separate extortion and computer crime set of charges.

Duggie is gone, but "Trucker Randy" Bishop, the GOP Antrim County chair, is still there. He fled Macomb after losing his real estate broker's license and two felony fraud convictions.

But that's a mere insignificant detail.

Update: This story initially reported that Darwin Jiles served time at the Maxey Boys Training School. He, in fact, spent more than a year at the Shawono Center.
Jack Lessenberry is head of the journalism program at Wayne State University and the senior political analyst for Michigan Public Radio.