State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Traverse City) was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of extortion, bribery and lying to the FBI. U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge alleges Inman offered to trade one of his votes in the House for campaign money.
The indictment says Inman texted a lobbyist from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCCM) in June 2018 and offered to vote ‘no’ on a prevailing wage bill if MRCCM and other trade unions would donate more to his campaign.
“We never had this discussion,” Inman wrote to the lobbyist at the end of one text message.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says the MRCCM did not respond to Inman’s request. Inman ended up voting ‘yes’ and the prevailing wage law was repealed in the House 56 to 53.
Inman could not be reached for comment but released this statement:
"I am innocent of these charges. I have never compromised the integrity of my vote. I have always represented my constituency honestly and legally. I intend on vigorously fighting these charges and defending my reputation."
MRCCM could not make a spokesperson available for comment either but did provide a statement.
“Our members deserve elected officials who vote on the merits of a bill, and how it will affect us as taxpayers and hardworking people. We’re glad that Larry Inman is being brought to justice,” said Mike Jackson, executive secretary and treasurer of the MRCCM.
The House Business Office has taken control of Inman’s office, and he has been removed from his committee assignments.
“Everyone in the house is surprised and disappointed by the news,” Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said in a statement. “There’ll be more to say once we’ve been able to have a longer conversation with Rep. Inman.”
John Roth, chair of the Grand Traverse County Republican Party, says he is very disappointed and did not expect this from Inman.
"If these actions are true ... he needs to step down immediately," says Roth. "Our party did not send him there to do that kind of work, and we do not condone it in any way shape or form."
A culture in Lansing:
In the text message to the lobbyist, Inman suggested there were 12 lawmakers who would consider a similar deal, exchanging a ‘no’ vote on prevailing wage for campaign contributions.
“We only have 12 people to block it. You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there [sic] campaigns,” Inman wrote.
Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, says this behavior is extremely troubling.
“A lot of people feel that lawmakers are making decisions based on campaign contributions, instead of based on the will of the people they’re sent to Lansing or … Washington to represent,” Mauger says.
He says people who are in favor of less oversight of campaign finances will point to a lack of evidence of corruption.
“These type of things are very difficult to prove,” says Mauger. “Here’s an incident of wrongdoing.”
The 104th seat:
Inman represents Michigan’s 104th district in Grand Traverse County. He narrowly won re-election in 2018 for his third and final term, beating Democratic challenger Dan O’Neil. After Inman voted ‘yes’ to repeal prevailing wage, the MRCCM stopped contributing to Inman’s campaign. A spokesperson for O'Neil says a bit later in the summer, the carpenter's union endorsed O’Neil.
It is not clear what will happen with Inman’s seat yet.
In a statement, O’Neil’s former campaign manager, Ashlea Water said, “As for Dan, there are no decisions to be made. There is no vacancy to consider, and we’ll wait to see how this matter progresses.”
If found guilty, the extortion charge alone could result in a 20-year prison sentence for Inman.
An arraignment has not yet been scheduled.