State Rep. Todd Courser, a married father of four, said in an audio recording that the e-mail was intended to create a “complete smear campaign” of false claims so that a public revelation about his relationship with state Rep. Cindy Gamrat would seem “mild by comparison.”
The Detroit News interviews suggested that the freshman representatives used their taxpayer-funded offices to maintain and cover up their relationship. The newspaper describes the two as “socially conservative legislators who often invoke their Christian faith in pursuit of new legislation governing gun rights, abortion and marriage.” They found support through tea-party activism and formed their own legislative coalition.
Calls to Courser and Gamrat were not returned immediately on Friday.
Courser in mid-May told a former House aide to send a mass e-mail to Republican activists and operatives appearing to be from an anonymous political enemy who said Courser was “caught behind a Lansing nightclub” having sex with a man, according to the News. Both representatives fired their aides, including the aide who sent the e-mail, without explanation.
During two meetings recorded by the aide, Courser and Gamrat, who is also married and has three children, did not dispute the aide’s characterization of their relationship as an extramarital affair. Courser and Gamrat combined their office operations, having three aides work for both of them.
Courser confirmed that it was his voice as a Detroit News reporter played the recording but disputed the legality of the recording. Laws regarding permission to audio record vary by state. A Michigan Court of Appeals ruling said participants in a conversation may record a discussion without receiving the permission of other participants.
In April, House Speaker Kevin Cotter kicked Gamrat out of Republican caucus meetings after she was caught leaking confidential discussions. The mass e-mail Courser sent on May 20 called Gamrat “a tramp,” suggesting she covered for Courser “and her involvement is the real reason she was thrown out” of the House Republican caucus in April, according to the News.
“In a controlled burn, you do a little bit of truth mixed in with a lot of lies,” Courser told his aide, according to the News.
In one clip, Courser told his aide he was concerned that video could be released pointing to a personal relationship with Gamrat. “We decided to destroy ourselves,” he said, referring to the pending e-mail. “If this is the lead-in, they go for the sham, the scam. She’s working through it with her husband, and they’ve been working through it.”
Cotter has ordered an investigation into allegations the two used their offices and staff in an apparent coverup.
“The office will review the matter and determine whether there was a violation of House rules or any evidence of illegal behavior, and will follow-up with any and all appropriate measures, including disciplinary steps,” Cotter said in a statement. “We will not stand for any violation of House rules or law, and we will not let anyone’s actions tarnish this institution or take away from the work we do every day to improve the lives of the hard-working men and women of this great state.”
Courser’s state representative bio includes quite a bit about his faith, including how his parents raised him in a Christian home.
“The love and compassion that Courser’s parents emulated shaped the ‘religious’ part of Courser, one of genuine faith,” the bio states. He currently attends Lapeer Assembly of God.