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Michigan AG Nessel charges former House GOP staffers with corruption

 A view into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A view into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing. (Photo: Lester Graham/Michigan Radio)

Two former senior aides to a Republican state House Speaker are facing a raft of felony corruption charges. And the state’s top law enforcement official says she expects more people will face prosecution.

Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday that Rob and Anne Minard are accused of siphoning money from nonprofit political funds. The charges include embezzling, filing a false tax return and conducting a criminal enterprise.

“This was not an accounting error,” Nessel said at a press conference. “This was not an oversight. This was, instead, a repeated pattern of illegal activity.”

The Minards were senior aides to then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who led the chamber in the 2019-2020 session. Rob Minard was Chatfield’s chief of staff while Anne Minard was the director of external affairs.

The team was known for its prolific fundraising. The Minards also ran their own political consulting and fundraising business.

Nessel said their alleged actions show that Michigan needs tougher campaign finance laws.

“We allege that Anne and Rob Minard didn’t just skirt around Michigan’s anemic regulation of political spending,” Nessel said, “but knowingly, willfully and overtly violated the law for their own personal enrichment.”

She said the couple misappropriated $525,000 or more.

An attorney for Robert Minard told Michigan Public Radio the couple will fight the charges. Bob Harrison said the Minards are being prosecuted for normal campaign activities that were conducted outside their state jobs.

“The things we’re talking about were all defensible,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate the charges have been brought and we intend to fight them all the way.”

Anne Minard’s attorney struck a similar tone, telling The Detroit Free Press he “looks forward to addressing the charges in the courtroom.”

The investigation was first announced by Nessel nearly two years ago, and it included a police raid on the Minards’ home in the Lansing area.

Nessel, the Democratic attorney general, said she expects more charges will be filed and, pointedly, did not rule out charging Chatfield.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.