Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sign of the Times

If you really need another example of how Mike Rogers skates on the edge of ethics, look no further than the front page of today's Press & Argus.

In Political billboard stirs concerns, we learn that a few years back, a local attorney donated land to Genoa Township for use as a fire station. As part of his gift, he kept his access to the billboard (which normally shows an American flag), which sits on land between the fire station and the highway. Among the other caveats of his gift: the town has to give back the land if (1) he no longer has access to the sign, (2) if the station is no longer named after him, and (3) if it is no longer used as a fire station.

Not being a real estate lawyer, I can't comment on the details of these restrictions. Being a person with common sense, I can ask what on earth the township was thinking when it accepted this "gift."

The current Town Clerk has concerns about these restrictions, too, and she hit the nail on the head in this morning's article.

Polly Skolarus, Genoa Township clerk, said she's concerned about the appearance of a political sign on township property.

"I don't like the impression that Genoa is supporting Mike Rogers over somebody else," Skolarus said. "It's not that Mike Rogers is not a good person. I don't want it to look like we're supporting one candidate over another."

What does this have to do with Mike Rogers? After all, Rogers' spokeswriter press secretary Sylvia Warner says that Rogers didn't pay for the sign, nor did he request it.

"Based on what's been reported, the man owns the rights to the billboard and he's exercising his First Amendment rights," Warner said.
Hmmm. Well, there's this thing called leadership. There are a few other things called ethics and appearances, too.

It's hard to believe that FBI Guy Rogers is unaware of Michigan's campaign finance laws, which state that "a public body shall not use or authorize the use of property to make a contribution to political campaigns."

Why won't Rogers just pick up the phone and call the guy? He could say, "Gosh, I really appreciate your support, but it puts us all in kind of an awkward position. Would you mind putting the flag picture back up instead?" Heck, even Ms. Warner or Mr. Baltimore could make that call.

Q: Don't you think that Mr. Rogers & Co. would be concerned about these kinds of questions, especially during a competitive election year?

A: They don't really care what you think. Just like when Mr. Rogers took money from Jack Abramoff, gave thousands to Tom DeLay & Bob Ney, voted against the new GI Bill, or voted against children's health insurance

1 comment:

Bluesman Johnson said...

These sorts of ego-driven conditional land donations happen all the time, and are perfectly legal, be they between individuals, a public body, an entity, or a combination thereof.

As to whether this raises issues under campaign finance laws, the billboard guy may be right too, though this is a close call. It is something of value, and arguably a contribution that Rogers' committee should record on one hand, and also has aspects of the private volunteer advocacy that is completely protected, and should always be, on the other. I don't believe anyone has ever gone after "farmer Jane" for painting an Obama sign onto the side of the barn she owns, nor can we fault the wonderful people that carry around hand made signs that say "pitbulls for Palin." THis is not the act of any public body, so no tax dollars are being used to "pimp" for a candidate.

The real issue is that the local paper, yet again, is giving Rogers all kinds of free ink, along with (as it appears), a nice free ad. I think most readers will see this (in the Argus) as another pro-Rogers story.