“This is Rich Baird ... " was the opening of the voice mail message left by Gov. Rick Snyder’s right-hand man and “transformation manager,” Rich Baird. The message was for union leader Carla Swift. And after that intro, it got nasty.
“I didn’t figure you would pick up on this call. It would take courage to talk to me face-to-face. Um, number one, you’d better be careful. I may be suing you …”
The voice mail from Baird is a response to a column that appeared last weekend in the Detroit Free Press, where Swift said Baird and other members of the Snyder administration play by their own set of rules.
Back to Baird’s voice mail: “I am sick and tired of you people and your unbased attacks. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Cue the James Bond theme as we take up electoral espionage. We’re talking campaign black ops. Political spying.
We learned this week that Republicans here in Michigan sent two young operatives equipped with a tiny video camera in a pair of glasses to infiltrate a Mark Schauer for Governor campaign event -- looking for whatever they might find. And what did they get? Found out.
Our ace operatives bungled the job. Dropped the disc with the video where it was found by Democrats. Who, then, made it public, including their brief conversation with Dem lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Brown.
Republicans didn’t deny the operatives were theirs.
Democrats and the Schauer campaign cried foul calling it sneaky, dirty tricks. They got some newspaper headlines. Effective messaging helped along by the fact that it fit did neatly into a narrative courtesy of some missteps -- or what seemed to be missteps -- by Governor Rick Snyder’s campaign.
Back in the 1960s, there was a hilarious TV sitcom called Get Smart, which portrayed the adventures of the world’s most inept spy.
Maxwell Smart was a bumbler who talked into his not-so-secret shoe telephone, carried around a device called the cone of silence, and never really had a clue as to what was going on.
Well, the Cold War is long over, but if he were around today, Smart would clearly have a future in politics.
This week, we learned that the Snyder re-election campaign has evidently revived some version of the classic department of dirty tricks, tactics made most famous by another Richard, the late President Nixon.
Democrats later got possession of the disc, apparently because the Republicans clumsily lost it. My understanding is that it shows the two paid staffers chowing down on appetizers and worrying that the people at the event were on to them. They apparently made small talk with Lisa Brown, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, but not Schauer.
You might think Republicans would now be embarrassed.
Each week we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.
Earlier today, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer announced that Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown will be his running mate for the upcoming 2014 election. Brown served two terms in the state House of Representatives and has served as the Oakland County Clerk since 2012, a position long held by Republicans.
Susan Demas indicates the selection of Brown will bolster the ticket because of her name recognition with voters in Southeast Michigan and she resonates well with female voters.
“Lisa Brown...gained a lot of attention in 2012 with the debate over the controversial abortion legislation, and was known for the ‘vagina-gate’ scandal when she was not allowed to speak on the floor.”
Meanwhile, a fourth member of Michigan’s congressional delegation announced he will not seek re-election. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland), the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, will step down, along with Mike Rogers, Carl Levin and John Dingell.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A group upset over last month's silencing of a female Democratic lawmaker who said "vagina" during House debate about anti-abortion legislation and another who said "vasectomy" have delivered over 115,000 signatures asking for an apology.
Members of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy For America brought the signatures Wednesday morning to the office of House Speaker Jase Bolger.
The signers want GOP leaders to make a public apology to state Reps. Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum after suspending their speaking privileges for one day.
Bolger spokesman Ari Adler said Tuesday that he doesn't anticipate any apology is forthcoming. He says the pair "violated the decorum of the House" and "were gaveled down for it."
Several women's groups also planned a Wednesday rally at the Capitol to promote women's issues.
There will be a protest performance tonight of “The Vagina Monologues” at the state Capitol. Female legislators and author Eve Ensler will read from the play that was first performed in 1996.
The event is a response to state House Republican leaders’ decision to bar two female lawmakers from speaking on the floor last week. It was a punishment for comments made by state Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum during a debate.
Brown says she has heard from people in virtually every state of the union.
“You know what? I think it has triggered an outrage amongst the American people," she said. "Not just women, but men as well and to see this kind of disregard, the disrespect and it really is a war on women. It’s not just a sound bite. There really is a war on women.”
Brown will be one of the performers tonight.
More than 3,500 people have posted on Facebook that they plan to attend the event.
Two women serving in the state House have been barred from participating in floor debates for one day. The sanction is a punishment for things they said during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.
State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are both Democrats. Brown made a reference to her vagina in a floor statement.
“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina,” she said, “but 'no' means 'no.'”
Byrum shouted at the presiding officer after she was not recognized to speak.
Ari Adler is the spokesman for the House Republican leadership.
“It is the responsibility of every member who serves in the House of Representatives to maintain decorum on the House floor and when they do not do that, there can be actions because of that. And the action today is to not recognize either representative to speak on the House floor," he said.
Brown was speaking during a debate on anti-abortion bills, and has no apologies for what she said.
“I used an anatomically correct word. I said ‘vagina,'" she said. "Can I not say ‘elbow?' I don’t see what the difference is."
This is the first time in memory that lawmakers have been formally barred from participating in floor debates.
Two Democratic lawmakers say they have been barred from speaking during House debates.
The House Republican leadership confirms that state Representative Lisa Brown will not be recognized during debates as a sanction for mentioning her vagina during a debate on anti-abortion legislation.
State Representative Barb Byrum also says she has been barred from speaking in the future because of an outburst after she was not called on during the abortion debate.
A House Republican spokesman could not confirm whether that's true.
The state Legislature has wrapped up work for the year.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have different opinions about how successful 2011 was.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) told lawmakers this week that they should be proud of the accomplishments of the Republican-led House and Senate chambers this year.
“Unquestionably, this has been one of the most productive in recent history for the Michigan Legislature,” said Richardville.
He said a quick budget process, changes to the state’s tax structure, and big changes to the education system are among his proudest achievements.
Republicans feel the changes made Michigan more attractive to businesses and set the state’s economy on the right track.
But the work Republicans are proud of is what Democrats say made 2011 a horrible year for Michigan’s middle-class families and vulnerable people.
Democratic lawmakers say cuts to schools and a new tax plan on seniors put the priorities of big business over the wellbeing of people.
State Representative Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) says she thinks a lot of the new policies actually hurt Michigan’s business climate.
“I’ve always said I don’t know what business would want to come here if we don’t have highly educated workers, and if they can’t put their kids in a quality school, said Brown. “So you’re talking about creating jobs; I think the legislation that has been put forth this past year is discouraging people from coming to Michigan.”
State lawmakers will return to the Capitol in the middle of January, right before Governor Rick Snyder gives his State of the State address for 2012.