News & Politics

VIDEO: Michigan Republicans Caught Spying on Democrat Running for Governor

Instead of being embarrassed, the state GOP says this is business as usual.

The Michigan Republican Party has been caught—again—spying on the Democratic gubernatorial campaign of Mark Schauer and his running mate Lisa Brown.

This latest episode, the third by the Detroit News’ count, is not the stuff of a James Bond thriller. It’s inept, juvenile, and stupid, yet astoundingly, the Michigan Republican Party is defending the behavior of its so-called sleuths as standard operating procedure.

The incident occurred on June 22 at a fundraiser in Bloomfield Hills. One of the GOP snoops, a young woman named Natalie Collins, attached a small camera to her glasses. She was accompanied by Kyle Anderson, a college student who said he wanted to be a politician. As would-be intelligence officers, neither showed much promise.

The eight-minute video was discovered after someone apparently dropped the memory card at another Democratic event. Collins, who the Detroit News said was “a regional press secretary and full-time employee for the state GOP,” is seen at the start trying to hide the camera after she parks her car outside the Schauer fundraiser.

“I have to figure out the best way to hide this,” she says on camera, adding, “As long as I don’t go though my phone, they’ll see I have the Rick [Snyder] for Michigan app… and Fox News.”

Before they go inside, Anderson complains about the sound quality of earlier videos, saying they were hard to transcribe. Collins complains that “the chord thing is really hot,” referring to her hidden camera wire. When they see the Democratic candidates arrive, they decide to walk in behind them. 

Everyone is very friendly to the interested young couple. At first, Collins is more interested in a fruit tray and dessert than the event. She remarks that one guest has a really “ugly” shirt on. She complains about the décor, saying the house “is very ‘80s, like look at the tile that was used on the fireplace.”

Then it's showtime. “We’re in the front room. We got to get aggressive,” she tells her fellow spy. When Collins is introduced to Lisa Brown, she fumbles when asked how she learned about the event, saying it was posted on Facebook. The look on Anderson’s face: guilty as charged. They quickly decide to leave.

The pair never talk to gubernatorial candidate, Mark Schauer, or record his remarks. Once back in the car, Collins, whose recorder is still on, says, “That lady [Brown] was freaking me out. I think she was onto us.” Anderson replies, “I think so, too.”

Then they discuss “laying low for a while,” and turning off their Twitter accounts so they won’t be outed as GOP agents. Collins says her picture is on her profile, which would confirm her identity if the Democrats take a look. Photographers at the event took pictures of them, as they did other guests.

Needless to say, this entire episode is as amateurish as it is ridiculous. But, apparently, it’s also perfectly acceptable to the Michigan Republican Party. The state GOP spokesman confessed after confronted by the Detroit News.

“The disk containing the video was found on the floor of the Pipefitters Local 636 union hall in Farmington Hills after a July 8 Oakland County Democratic Party meeting,” the paper reported, which means the GOP keeps trying to infiltrate Democratic events.

The newspaper said it was not the first time Governor Rick Synder’s team has tried to spy on Democrats. In March, one campaign worker falsely claimed he was a reporter for CNN. Other college-age Republicans have volunteered for the Democratic gubernatorial campaign but were later outed by their e-mails and online messaging.

Darren Littell, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party, said there was nothing new going on here, and suggested this was hardly scandalous.

“Tracking and recording the words and actions of candidates isn’t new,” he told the Detroit paper. “Republicans do it. Democrats do it. People use different ways to get the footage....This is a newer approach.”

Michigan Democrats say they do not send undercover spies into Republican events. But the GOP says that’s not so because some people have given Democrats smartphone videos from inside Republican events. Wow, talk about qualifications for higher office.

Watch the entire video below.

h/t Political Wire

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

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