#ToddGoals

Author's note: I'm publishing my column a couple of days early because I'll be quite busy toward the end of the week.  Consider it penance for all the times I've been late.

At the age of 30, I've still lived in South Florida for a greater number of years than I've lived anywhere else -- North Carolina got three of them, and Michigan will set the new record in 2018.  Being from Miami, I've seen a lot of political corruption and scandal in my (admittedly short) lifetime, and misappropriation of state funds to cover up an illicit affair with a fellow legislator is among the least scandalous crimes I've seen committed by a government official.  Hell, that won't even get you a second look down there; it's practically a given.

So it's really saying something when I tell you that Todd Courser is the single biggest delusional sociopath I've ever seen in state government.

Just in case you've been living in a cave for the past nine months, here's the story so far:

Todd Courser of Lapeer and Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell -- both theocratic Republicans elected in 2014 on a "traditional values" platform -- decided, upon their January arrival in Lansing, to merge their offices into one and share a staff... even though their districts are more than 100 miles away from each other.  They rubbed everyone the wrong way from the very beginning, even going so far as to fight their own party's leadership over bringing in their own office furniture and blaming it on their shared staff when the provided furniture was destroyed.  No, I'm not making that up.

Upon election, they put together a so-called "Contract for Liberty" that was, in reality, anything but.  The document, signed by Courser as being "In His Grip" and Gamrat "With Firm Reliance on Divine Providence," expressed the typical Religious Right ideals with a few Tea Party talking points thrown in for appearances.  It said, in essence, that liberty is for only those who agree with Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, and if you're not a Christian zealot who believes that conservative religious ideology should be written into law, you're S.O.L.

Is that not enough to convince you that these two are theocrats of the worst kind?  Then buckle up, because we've got a lot more zealotry ahead, starting with "The Liberty Response" to Governor Snyder's State of the State Address.  The document began thusly:

"We want to first thank God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for our salvation and His abounding and generous gifts, blessings and His grace, and mercy on our state and nation. It is important to acknowledge that it is only by His power and might that our state and nation remain. It is not the bills or the laws or the regulations that make our state and nation great, rather, it is recognizing who God is and submitting to His authority and dominion in our lives and as a state and nation; without this acknowledgement and also valuing God’s gift of life, then all other steps to set our state on the right course will be amiss."

Yes, that's political liberty: submit to the Christian God or else lose everything.

This goes far beyond the Founders claiming belief in the Creator and seeking to secure His blessings to preserve their liberty.  The Founders of this country understood that they were the ones responsible for taking their actions, and they were asking for God's blessing in order to be successful in securing their liberty.  This, what Courser and Gamrat wrote, is a statement of belief that God is responsible for whatever happens, and that government is His tool, wielded to enforce what they believe is God's will, regardless of the rights of anyone who disagrees with them.  It is a profoundly anti-liberty statement and sentiment.  It demands compliance with their religious doctrine lest the entire world burn.  Welcome to Tehran, Michigan, and praise be to Allah for gifting Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat unto us!

This, among other things said in the response, was not taken kindly by Republican leadership, and tensions only increased until they hit the boiling point in mid-April, when Gamrat was kicked out of the House Republican Caucus for posting details of a budget workshop on her Facebook page, which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act's allowances for closed caucus meetings in MCL 15.268(g).

On May 20th, various media outlets in the state and prominent figures in the state Republican Party received an otherwise anonymous e-mail from the address "georgerathburn520@gmail.com" alleging that Courser was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub.

Rumors that Courser and Gamrat were having an affair had been whispered around political circles for some time at that point, but they jumped to a whole new level at that month's Mackinac Policy Conference.  MLive sent a FOIA request to the Lansing Police Department regarding rumors of a confrontation at the Radisson and a subsequent police report, but it was eventually determined that nothing of the sort ever happened.

Things took a turn for the theocratic again when, on June 17th, prior to the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, Courser and Gamrat jointly introduced a bill that would require all marriages in the state to be performed by clergy.  It is one of the most poorly-written and self-contradictory pieces of legislation I've ever seen, right on par with the adoption funding discrimination bill that our own State Representative Eric Leutheuser introduced around the same time (and for the same reasons).  On the plus side, Courser and Gamrat's bill has gotten absolutely no where.  On the negative side, Nerd Boy signed Leutheuser's bill into law on June 11th... though I fully expect it to be overturned as the result of a lawsuit at some point.

On July 9th, West Michigan Politics got word that Courser himself sent the e-mail about his intoxicated gay sex antics.  It took some time, but The Detroit News took up the story and, early in the morning on August 7th, they broke the news -- complete with audio recordings of the event in question -- that Courser had asked former staffer Ben Graham to write and send the e-mail. Graham refused, and Courser subsequently sent it himself.

Later that same August morning, House Speaker Kevin Cotter announced that he would order the House Business Office to conduct an investigation into the possibility of misused state funds.  It subsequently came out that fired former Courser / Gamrat staffers had approached Cotter's people about such matters when the e-mail had been sent on May 20th, but had provided no evidence at that time.

On August 11th, Todd Courser released "text messages" (and you'll shortly learn why I use sarcasm quotes there) that he claims came from a "blackmailer" demanding his resignation.  The messages would appear to reveal the actions of someone stalking Courser and Gamrat and threatening to expose their affair unless Courser alone resigns and does not mention Gamrat or the affair in his reasons for leaving office.  Courser to this day claims that he wrote the May 20th e-mail to "distract" the person sending the texts -- "distract" being a word he's using a lot lately -- and that this is the real reason for the cover-up, not an attempt to hide his actions.

Courser claimed at the time that political consultant David Forsmark of Winning Strategies was the blackmailer.  Forsmark said that while he dislikes Courser, he doesn't even have Courser's phone number, telling WXMI, "This is like somebody in a mental home came up with a season four for House of Cards."

And I'd have to agree with Forsmark, because there's one very basic little problem with Courser's whole story: those aren't text messages.  They're e-mails.  The operating system on his phone is iOS 6, and you'll notice the button in the upper-left corner of every picture says "Back."  The problem?  iOS 6 shows a "Messages" button there when reading text messages.  The "Back" button appears when reading e-mails.  These are forged images, and I can tell you exactly how he forged them: he used another e-mail account to send himself these "text messages" as e-mails, then changed his phone's display name for that second e-mail account to the phone number that you see there.

Oh, and that phone number?  I looked it up the day he released these fraudulent messages.  It's been used in the past by telemarketers and scammers to hide their real number.  No, that's not definitive proof that Courser sent the e-mails himself, but it certainly doesn't help Courser's case at all.  Granted, if there is a "real blackmailer" as he claims, that could have been their intent, but given what had happened up to that point, I can't believe for one millisecond that it wasn't Courser himself.  It fits the pattern of his behavior far too well to be anyone else.

And no, the text messages sent to Dan Courser are not vindication.  If the phone truly was Todd's, he could have simply used it to message his own brother.  The timeline is the same.  And you'll notice that the last message Dan received actually was a text message received on iOS 6, further proving that the images Todd released are e-mails.

Even the "blackmailer's" claims of having audio recordings does not disprove that Courser himself was the "blackmailer," because the audio recordings reveal that he suspected someone of having audio or video evidence of what they were doing when he wrote the May 20th e-mail.  He knew he was being watched, and by the time these "texts" were sent, he could have figured out that someone had been recording audio.  If he himself was the "blackmailer," he would know to include in the "text messages" the fact that someone had audio evidence against him.

Todd Courser shot his own false narrative all to hell.

Oops.

On August 14th, Gamrat -- who had been nigh silent this entire time -- staged a huge press conference with her husband at the office of her lawyer, Andrew Abood of the Abood Law Firm.  She apologized for her affair, but claimed that she had no knowledge of the e-mail Courser had sent until it was made public and denied any wrongdoing as a state legislator.  She, as had Courser throughout the ordeal, refused to resign.  Abood stated that he believed the findings of the House Business Office investigation would be "a lot less damning than what everybody has suggested."

That investigation concluded last week and the office released their report on Monday, which found that Courser and Gamrat not only misused state funds to cover up their affair, but that the evidence uncovered in the investigation finds all kinds of illegal activity:

  • Both representatives have repeatedly lied throughout the entire ordeal, particularly Gamrat, who had stated at the press conference (and to both the House Business Office and the state police) that she had no prior knowledge of or participation in writing the May 20th e-mail, let alone that it was written or sent by Courser.  The staff testimony and audio recordings prove that she knew all of it and helped craft it.
  • Courser and Gamrat required their shared office staff to hide their affair, even to the representatives' family members, and required discussion of matters surrounding their affair during business hours.
  • They forced their staff to forge their signatures on legislation.
  • They used state staff to perform work for Courser's law firm, and...
  • They used state resources to create a voter database for Gamrat's national party committeeperson campaign and Courser's 10th District congressional campaign, all in direct violation of campaign finance law.

Additionally damning and indicative of their being unfit for public office, the investigation found that Courser and Gamrat refused to learn the legislative process, even unearthing an e-mail from Courser to a staffer that proclaimed (as quoted by the Detroit News), "I DO NOT KNOW THE AMENDMENT PROCESS NOR SHOULD I HAVE TO."  The report says that their joint office was "highly dysfunctional."

Cotter, for his part, immediately called for Courser and Gamrat's resignation, as have many (myself included) for as long as this has been going on.  They have demonstrated utter contempt for their constituents and the law, and quite frankly, they belong behind bars for their crimes.

Gamrat, to her credit, is wise enough to keep her head down when she knows she's in the line of fire.  She's continued her silence, and we know relatively little about her motivations and future intentions.  She did, however, tell reporters that she wants the voters to decide whether or not she remains in office.

Not surprisingly, she has retained a different lawyer since the press conference.  The Detroit News article about the report names Michael Nichols as her attorney.  One would have to assume that she had unequivocally lied to Abood -- which he had to be downright pissed about after the private investigator he'd hired for her claimed to have uncovered the name behind the "blackmailer's" phone number.  That P.I.'s information, as far as I can tell, was never revealed.

But MLive's was.

The statewide news organization hired a former reporter who is now a P.I., and he paid for a simple records search (as literally anyone with about $50 can do) that led to one name: Todd Courser.  It became painfully obvious at that moment exactly what was going on here, and my guess is that Abood told Gamrat to seek legal counsel from someone else because he wasn't going to put up with her crap.

Amusingly, Nichols would seem to be seriously reconsidering taking the case himself, since he told DetNews that "he needed 'a few days' to 'digest' the report before he and Gamrat would respond."

On the other hand, Courser, as he is so wont, released a rambling six-page response to the report, in which he blames a "progressive" conspiracy against him due to his "conservative" voting record.  Because, apparently, everybody is a pinko liberal commie socialist in comparison to The Great Todd A. Courser.  Yes, even you, you fascist Marxist scumbag.

Remember how I said that he's been using the word "distraction" a lot lately?  He correctly recognizes that his detractors (myself included) are pointing to his antics as a distraction from real issues of state governance.  He's recognized that all along.  However, what he said this time takes the cake.  I'm going to include a screenshot of his early Wednesday morning Facebook post in this article's gallery just in case he takes it down... which he's been known to do when the comments start revealing facts that contradict his claims (which, not coincidentally, is why he banned me from commenting on either of his pages).  Here's what the post says:

"Resign you are a distraction" - I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of good reasons to resign, but because I am a distraction? Well if so then am I a good distraction or a bad distraction? Do you mean I am a distraction to passing higher taxes, more spending, and more invasions into our private lives? You will have to decide. A great many of these resigners seem to feel I am a distraction to getting the bigger more expensive government that they deserve. Not all who call for me to resign fit this mold, but a great many do. Well folks every day they focus on me they don't pass their new gas tax increase and it saves the people of this state millions of dollars. Biggest budget in history and still they want more. They will be back in the next few weeks to push their new tax again thru the state house.

Did you catch that?  He's refusing to resign because he believes that his insane behavior is a positive distraction that prevents the passage of legislation that he doesn't like, and he wants you to support him in that endeavor.

Any professional huckster will tell you that the trick to a successful scam isn't how you sell it, it's making sure that you don't buy your own shtick.  Todd Courser is buying his own shtick.

Like I said: he's a delusional sociopath.

Now, let's ignore the fact that a couple of legislators who campaigned on the sanctity of marriage got caught having an affair with each other, because there a different hypocrisy to make note of here.

Re-read Courser's post as cited above: "more invasions into our private lives."  Apparently, "invasions into our private lives" doesn't include writing legislation that, in an effort to prevent gays from getting married by limiting their choice of officiants, would force non-believers (of any religion) to go to a church to get the license signed.  How is that not an incredibly hypocritical trampling of the First and Fourteenth Amendments?.  Theocracy, that's how.  Those amendments don't apply to you if you're not a True Believer®.

And in true theocrat fashion, Courser maintains that his first duty is to God.  He told Graham during the crafting of the e-mail that he believed God put him in office.  He repeatedly thanks what few supporters he still has (which is a depressingly above-zero number) for their prayers.  He frequently posts about his self-proclaimed faith on Facebook.  I have yet to see a statement from him in which his religious motivations, even if not explicitly stated, aren't readily apparent.

Now before you go off and accuse me of hating Christians, let me remind you that I myself am a Christian.  I don't have have any problem with people in general citing their Christian beliefs as reason for their actions, because I do it myself.  In fact, I'm about to do it right now.  It's because I am a Christian that Todd Courser's behavior angers me.  Just like all other theocrats on the American right, he uses his claim to faith as not only an excuse, but as a weapon to promote and enforce the very government intrusion into private lives that he claims to stand against.

But it's worse than that.  Not only is it hypocritical, it's blasphemy, heresy and apostasy all rolled into one big tyrannical ball of big-government idolatry.  His actions -- and the actions of all Christian theocrats -- tarnish the name of Christ Himself, the man at the very center of the religion that Courser claims to believe in.

Jesus did not advocate law, Jesus advocated love.  Jesus never once said "use government to further my message."  He never even alluded to it.  Not even close.  On the contrary, Jesus repeatedly used phraseology like "whoever has ears, let them hear" and "not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given."  He didn't tell us to force it onto people, he told us to spread the word and let people take it as they will.  Courser, Gamrat and other theocratic Christians directly contradict the very method that Christ gave us to use.  And that's just one of their many blatant contradictions of scripture.

And it gets even worse than that.  A since-removed Facebook post (the one that got me banned, in fact) detailed, in Courser's signature long-winded and rambling style, his reasons for why we shouldn't blame God for what he did.  Yes, you read that correctly: not only is Todd Courser so deluded as to believe that God put him in office, he's so deluded that he believed -- at least until the people in the comments section told him otherwise -- that everyone shares that belief with him and that they were subsequently blaming Jehovah for Todd Courser's actions.

This man needs serious psychiatric help.

There's a hashtag phrase the kids are using these days (God, I'm getting old, aren't I?) for the objectives they want their circle of friends to achieve: #SquadGoals.  Well, let me lay out a few objectives that Courser and Gamrat are working on:

  1. Be threatened with removal from the House by way of a two-thirds majority vote.
  2. Face criminal charges for their campaign finance violations.
  3. Face criminal charges for intentionally lying to the Michigan State Police in the course of their investigation.
  4. Get kicked out of the House by that aforementioned vote.
  5. Substantial monetary fines and possible prison time.
  6. Book deal.

#ToddGoals