Taking Republican Senator up on his offer, Michigan AG to probe profiteers of election misinformation

Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation after a Republican-led state legislative panel said people are making baseless allegations about 2020 presidential election results in a northern Michigan county to raise money or publicity for their own ends.

Lynsey Mukomel, spokeswoman for Democrat Dana Nessel, said Thursday that the department accepted the request from GOP state Sen. Ed McBroom, of Vulcan, and the Senate Oversight Committee he chairs. State police are assisting.

Election night results in rural Antrim County, which has roughly 23,000 residents, initially erroneously showed a local victory for Joe Biden over then-President Donald Trump. But it was attributed to human errors, not any problems with machines, and corrected. A hand recount validated the results as accurate.

In a report that also determined there was no widespread or systemic fraud despite Trump's claims, the committee said "those promoting Antrim County as the prime evidence of a nationwide conspiracy to steal the election place all other statements and actions they make in a position of zero credibility."

The report did not specify whom should be investigated. But people mentioned in it include lawyer Matthew DePerno, who unsuccessfully sued the county on behalf of a resident, and ex-state Sen. Patrick Colbeck. Colbeck has called the report "shoddy" and has called for the panel's GOP senators to be censured. DePerno has accused the committee of an election "cover-up."

On his website, Colbeck asks for donations to cover costs to defend himself after Dominion Voting Systems threatened legal action over his false claims that the election was stolen by manipulating the company’s machines. Dominion has accused Colbeck of "knowingly sowing discord in our democracy" and soliciting "exorbitant amounts of money" — over $1 million — to his business. DePerno’s website seeks donations, too, and says $384,000 has been collected.

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The state Senate committee also urged the attorney general or Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to investigate a Wayne County Republican canvasser’s statement that election officials used poorly constructed drop boxes for absentee ballots despite the canvassing board having disallowed them. The report called it a "serious breach."

The attorney general’s office did not elaborate on the probe's specifics, saying it is an open investigation.