Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Riddle, wrapped in a Con(yers) inside the Michigan Democratic party?

The Bribery investigation that led to Monica Conyers guilty plea continues to reveal a complex web of corruption among the political power set in Detroit and among the Democrats in Michigan.

From Conyers to Sam Riddle - Papas defends Riddle's hiring as legitimate
Greektown businessman Dimitrios (Jim) Papas on Tuesday acknowledged hiring Detroit consultant Sam Riddle at the request of then-Councilwoman Monica Conyers, but said Riddle’s hiring was not a trade-off for help from influential U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Monica’s husband.
Riddle at the time was Conyer's chief of staff and it is beginning to look like John Conyers knew at least something of this or there is a very interesting coincidence going on.

From a Riddle in a Con(yers)to being wrapped in an invesitigation of a Riddle of deal with the Dems -- Riddle: FBI probed $50K deal with Dems
Political consultant Sam Riddle says federal investigators have questioned $50,000 he received in 2006 from the Michigan Democratic Party-- payments he described as election year "hush money."

In a recent interview with a Detroit News editor, Riddle said the Democrats paid him not to say negative things about Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who faced a challenge from Republican businessman Dick DeVos in the November election that year.

FBI agents also questioned Riddle about connections between Granholm and business consultant Bernard N. Kilpatrick, the father of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, said Riddle, the former chief of staff to Councilwoman Monica Conyers.

Granholm and Bernard Kilpatrick worked together in the administration of the late Wayne County Executive Edward H. McNamara in the 1990s. Federal agents have been investigating payments made to Bernard Kilpatrick's consulting firm, Maestro Associates LLC, by companies seeking contracts with the city of Detroit while his son was mayor.

The Michigan Democratic Party defends the payment it made as being for "Media Consulting"
Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said the $50,000 contract with Riddle's Meridian Management Systems of Flint was for media consulting and was not specifically related to the gubernatorial campaign.

"I can't be responsible for what Sam now says about the contract," Brewer said. "The contract was for media consulting services, and we did in fact consult him about appropriate messages and people to talk to for the fall campaign.

As Nolan Findley of the Detroit News points out, in Detroit media and political consultants and their contracts are often conduits for bribes to politicians:
Details are still emerging of how the corruption worked in the case of Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Monica Conyers, who pleaded guilty Friday to federal bribery charges.

But here's how it was explained to me:

Conyers very early in her council career learned that her vote had value far beyond making the city work.

She could make some people a lot of money depending on how she cast her vote. That became even more true once she got on the city's cash-rich pension board.

Why shouldn't she be rewarded for her service?

So she started to think about how to make politics a bit more lucrative.

At the pension board, she noticed that hardly anyone gets a loan unless they're walked in the door by a consultant. The icebreaker is often someone with close ties to a trustee or a big shot at City Hall. Sometimes, he's even a relative of a very important person.

As it happens, she had a consultant, who she was tight with. He shaped her career, and she doesn't make a move without his advice. But she can't pay him what they both think he's worth.

She hatches a plan to take care of both problems without the risk of dirtying her hands.

When someone comes courting a vote on a city contract or a pension fund loan, Conyers suggests the process would go a lot smoother if the vote seeker hired her consultant to help navigate the city's quirky politics.

The consultant takes over from there, negotiating a retainer, say $10,000. He is also assigned to take first-class trips to exotic locales to weigh the worthiness of the request. Sometimes, he even gets a fancy watch as partial payment.

He knows who's buttering his bread and is grateful. Since the councilwoman got him the work, he feels moved to pay her a finder's fee, say $5,000, or half the retainer.

So, how far does this tale of corruption go?

How many Democrats in Michigan are enmeshed in this web of consulting payments and contracts that for a quid pro quo so that businesses could get approval for their plans?

How many businessmen understood or were made to understand that unless they hired the right consultant they would never get approval for their development plans?

With luck the FBI will continue their investigation wherever it goes and we may begin the solve the Riddle after all.

Update: The BlogProf has a detailed update including audio of a radio station interview with Riddle that is well worth reading/listening to, and he puts more pieces of the puzzle together with his excellent-as-always analysis and commentary.

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