Former Michigan Congressman Thad McCotter Kept In Office By Serial Fraud

The weird tale of Thad McCotter's nominating petitions just got a heck of a lot weirder.

By now, we’re all familiar with the story that led to the eventual resignation of Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, perhaps most famously known for an entirely forgettable Presidential campaign. The nominating petitions submitted by his campaign to get on the Republican primary ballot for 2012 were rejected after it was discovered that they contained numerous fraudulent and photocopied signatures. Initially, McCotter had said that he would attempt to stage a write-in campaign, but later abandoned that effort and eventually announced that he was not only retiring at the end of the current Congress, but retiring immediately. Just a week ago, several of his former aides were indicted by Michigan authorities on multiple counts of election fraud. Today, the Detroit Free Press reports that an examination of McCotter nominating petitions going back several elections cycles shows evidence of fraud similar to that which kept him off the ballot in 2012:

The staff of former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter evidently had some practice dummying up petitions in order to get their boss on the ballot.

A review of the nominating petitions turned in for McCotter’s elections from 2002 through 2012 shows he did not have enough signatures to qualify to run in at least the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections. The skullduggery wasn’t detected until this year, when a part-time staffer for the Secretary of State found that of the more than 1,800 signatures turned in by the McCotter campaign for 2012, only 244 were valid.

McCotter’s spokesman, Randall Thompson, did not return calls seeking comment on the latest revelations in the scandal that led to McCotter’s resignation from Congress in July.

The petitions from McCotter’s previous campaigns surfaced this week from Mark Grebner, president of Practical Political Consulting, one of the premier developers of voting lists for political candidates. As part of compiling such lists, the East Lansing company uses voting records and nominating petitions and had McCotter’s going back to his first run for Congress, in 2002.

“I started with 2010 and immediately thought, ‘This is unbelievable,’ ” said Jim Daggy, data archivist for the consulting firm. “It was like a giant 100-foot sore thumb sticking out. My God, what were these people thinking?”

The 2002 and 2004 petitions were relatively clean with few duplicates, but in 2008, at least 67 of the 177 petition pages submitted were either copies or had been doctored by cutting and pasting dates from other documents onto the petitions.

The 2006 petitions were apparently the source for cut-and-paste jobs in 2008 and 2010. Some of the 2006 petitions, however, also were duplicates.

“It seems like at every election cycle, they expanded on what they had done and used some new tricks,” Daggy said. “They just got more and more emboldened.”

In 2010, at least 73 of the 167 pages turned in were duplicates, which would have invalided more than 1,000 of the signatures. In 2012, both the cut-and-paste and duplicate tricks were used.

Daggy said the doctoring is stunning.

“You see little rinky-dink stuff that you can pass off, but this is just — you have to wonder what was going on in their heads, that they didn’t think they were going to get caught,” he said.

“It’s a real punch in the gut, and I hope that voters out there are really watching and listening,” said Natalie Mosher, a Canton Democrat who lost to McCotter in 2010. “I’m angry, because I think the voters of the district got taken for a ride by this guy.”

The Free Press’s Editorial Board added on a blistering editorial that takes McCotter to task for, well, basically for faking his way through at least three election cycles:

If Thad McCotter were an athlete who cheated, his statistics from at least the past four years would be erased from the record books. That kind of thing doesn’t happen with fraudulent congressmen, unfortunately, but maybe it should.

That’s because examination of nominating petitions suggests McCotter’s staff routinely copied signatures to meet the filing threshold for his re-election campaigns. The technique finally caught the eye of a secretary of state contract worker this year, and McCotter was disqualified from the 2012 ballot.

Attorney General Bill Schuette noted in bringing charges against four members of the McCotter staff that evidence suggested the same thing may have happened in 2008. The Michigan Information & Research Service, which covers the state capital in detail, checked copies of 2010 petitions this week and found only 496 signatures out of 2,000 that were not part of duplicated forms.


McCotter has already resigned and vanished from the public eye, leaving a lot of soured constituents behind in a district that was tailored for his re-election. There’s no way to fix the harm done here, but his name should always carry an asterisk:
Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan congressman, 2003-2012*

* At least two terms probably served under false pretenses

National Review’s John Fund and Hot Air’s Erika Johnson are both using this incident as reason to bash Democrats over their denial of the existence of voter fraud, but that strikes me as a complete non sequiter. The incidents described here have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of voter fraud that proponents of Voter ID like to concentrate. This is out and out election fraud, cheating, and forgery, and the fact that it occurred not just once, but at least three times that are noticeable, and perhaps more than that on a much smaller scale (practice makes perfect after all) makes it much harder to believe that this all happened without McCotter having any idea what was going on. McCotter’s excuse for the 2012 fraud was that he wasn’t paying attention to the nominating petition drive because he was busy with Congressional business. Well, what about 2010 and 2008, sir? What about the apparent possibility that there may be forged signatures going all the way back to your first run for Congress in 2002?

I’ve always had an odd feeling about this entire story. Something about it just didn’t smell right, especially the idea that a bunch of staffers for a Congressman who’s been in office for ten years would just come up with this idea on their own out of the blue. Since there was only one year’s worth of petitions that had been forged, though, there didn’t seem to be any evidence to support my suspicions. Now, with at least two election cycles of petitions where, by all rights, McCotter should not have been permitted to be on the ballot at all, I’ve got to think that there just might be more to this story than a few staffers who went crazy at with the copy machine one night. With the evidence that has been uncovered, I would hope that someone is investigating all of the former Congressman’s runs for office, and just how involved he was in the petition drives. Because if he had even the slightest knowledge of what was going on and did nothing to stop it, he participated in a criminal conspiracy.

To borrow a phrase from the Watergate era, what did the Congressman know, and when did he know it?

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Alex Knapp says:


  2. Lib Cap says:

    You know, the word “projection” comes to mind.

    “Of couse there is VOTER FRAUD !!! ” , says the GOP… (after all, we do it all the time).

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Considering it was a bunch of GOP congressional staffers who executed the bogus “bourgeois riot” in the 2000 recount, you have to wonder exactly what else a bunch of guys in creased khakis were/are up to.

  4. Herb says:

    Since Thad McCotter is a sovereign citizen, he violated no law. This is perfectly legal in his own mind.

  5. Tano says:

    The incidents described here have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of voter fraud that proponents of Voter ID like to concentrate.

    And, in fact, Michigan has a photo-ID law.

    John Fund is a dishonest hack, like so many of them….

  6. walt moffett says:

    Makes me wonder why this wasn’t spotted by opposition researchers much earlier in the game.

  7. OzarkHullbilly says:

    @walt moffett:

    Makes me wonder why this wasn’t spotted by opposition researchers much earlier in the game.

    If the Dems had, Walt, I can just imagine the screams of indignation from the Republicans about how mean the Dems were being, the Dems were just making it all up, and even if they weren’t, well…. Both sides do it.

    Because… IOKIYAR

  8. James Joyner says:

    Aside from the brazenness of this, isn’t it also monumentally stupid? Once on the ballot, the man was going to have to get elected—which he did several times—through non-fraudulent means. So, how hard would it have been to collect signatures?

  9. superdestroyer says:


    The Dputy Chief of Staff of Mayor Gray in the District of Columiba was convicted of voter fraud.

    No one in the media cared since both Republicans and Democrats seem to have a deal not to ever discuss the incompetence of inner-city black mayors.

  10. James Joyner says:

    @superdestroyer: It’s amazing how little coverage Marion Barry, Sheila Dixon, and Kwame Kilpatrick got. Why, I’ve never heard of them.

  11. Just Me says:

    My feeling is much like any kind of unethical or illegal action-getting away with it once generally leads to more laziness and the willingness to do it again. Sounds like the election team did it once, got by with it and upped the ante each time. By the time they got to the most recent incident, the fraud was obvious.

    When you get the idea you can get away with it-taking the lazy way becomes easy because you start thinking you won’t get caught.

    I also wouldn’t be a bit shocked if this wasn’t isolated and other campaigns in various jurisdictions over the years weren’t fudging the signature requirements to get on a ballot.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    This is like the millionaire who shoplifts dollar items or the controller who embezzles tiny sums of money merely to embezzle. It’s like the guy who cheats on his wife by taking another woman to a hotel room but then leaves immediately after going down on her.

    As mentioned above the real absurdity here is that by definition anyone who can and does get elected in a congressional district would be able to gather up the token number of signatures to get on the ballot. I mean, come on, you could send a bunch of high school seniors out to canvass Starbucks and they’d quickly and easily be able to come up with the mere 1,000 valid signatures that were required.

    There’s something more fundamental going on here. There’s a real probability that McCotter not only is real dumb but that he’s some sort of a nutbag. I suspect a whole bunch of other stuff soon will come to light. This signature canvassing fiasco has a tip of the iceberg air about it.

  13. Franklin says:

    @superdestroyer: So you’re citing a media article to show the media didn’t care?

  14. OzarkHullbilly says:


    the incompetence of inner-city black mayors.

    Hey SD, I’ll discuss the incompetence of inner-city black mayors with you, when you agree to discuss the incompetence of inner-city white mayors with me.


  15. Mike says:

    @Doug: “The incidents described here have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of voter fraud that proponents of Voter ID like to concentrate.”

    Give ’em time, Doug, they’ll make the link from this to suppressing the minority and poor vote. Karl Rove and Frank Luntz are on it as we speak. Tune in to fox later today for the talking points.

    “With the evidence that has been uncovered, I would hope that someone is investigating all of the former Congressman’s runs for office, and just how involved he was in the petition drives.” Don’t worry Doug, James O’Keefe is dusting off the pimp costume and heading to a swing state.

  16. Moderate Mom says:

    It just doesn’t make sense. It’s a Republican leaning district and the guy was re-elected handily each time he ran. How hard would it have been to send a dozen campaign volunteers out on a Saturday to a mall or shopping center and gather the needed signatures? Why would someone cheat on such a mundane matter?

  17. Rob in CT says:

    Could it be as simple as being lazy?

  18. al-Ameda says:

    With no due respect for John Fund, exactly how is this somehow evidence of voter fraud?

  19. al-Ameda says:


    No one in the media cared since both Republicans and Democrats seem to have a deal not to ever discuss the incompetence of inner-city black mayors.

    Right on, only God and you know that incompetence among inner-city mayors is strictly a race-based proposition. Evidence? Why just look at Oakland – Jean Quan

  20. Rob in CT says:

    So, in a thread about fraud by a GOP congresscritter, Supe is determined to whine about “black inner-city mayors.”

    Total one-trick pony. And the trick sucks.

  21. @al-Ameda:

    It has nothing to do with voter fraud at all, of course

  22. @Rob in CT:

    But for the dozens about dozens of pages of signatures that were photocopied and copy-and-pasted, I cannot see how one can ascribe this to lazyness. Someone did this deliberately.

    Now, is it possible that McCotter was lazy and wasn’t supervising his staff? I suppose so, but that’s got to be an astonishing degree of laziness if that’s the case.

  23. CSK says:

    Maybe he’s…nuts?

  24. mattb says:

    The incidents described here have absolutely nothing to do with the kind of voter fraud that proponents of Voter ID like to concentrate.”

    In fact, it points the exactly the sort of fraud that proponents of Voter ID never seem to adequately address — absentee ballot fraud. Again, its the type of fraud that has been conclusively proven to happen and often relies upon creative “clerical” actions.

    Again, this is obviously *NOT* voter fraud, but the white collar nature of it is rather telling.

  25. superdestroyer says:


    Of course, there has to be inner city white mayors to discuss. How many of them still exist. Does anyone really believe that a city like Los Angeles will ever have a white mayor again.

    If you want to discuss white big city mayors, a good place to start is where they send their children to schools. It is almost never the public schools that the white mayor is in responsible for running.

  26. superdestroyer says:


    I wonder how many good progressives actually know how Shelia Dixon is and what she was forced out of office. The current mayor of DC ran a massively racist campaign and the local media could not be bothered to mention it expect for a few articles in the Washington Post. Whites in the U.S. have just learned to not notice anything that blacks do. What is why progressives make so many massive mistakes. Progressives is a movement of not noticing things.