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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, shown in this 2019 file photo, approved an investigation into the spread of election misinformation. (AP) Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, shown in this 2019 file photo, approved an investigation into the spread of election misinformation. (AP)

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, shown in this 2019 file photo, approved an investigation into the spread of election misinformation. (AP)

Clara Hendrickson
By Clara Hendrickson July 9, 2021

If Your Time is short

  • Michigan’s attorney general accepted a recommendation from Republican lawmakers to investigate people who allegedly spread election misinformation for financial gain.

  • A Michigan Senate committee report recommended that the investigation center on Antrim County, where a lawsuit served for months as a vehicle to advance conspiracy theories about the election.

  • An attorney involved in that lawsuit continues to share false claims about the election on his website.

Michigan's chief law enforcement officer agreed to launch an investigation into allegations that people spread disinformation about the state's Nov. 3 election for their own financial gain.

The inquiry comes at the recommendation of a Republican-led legislative committee that found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.

A report by the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee, written by Republican state Sen. Ed McBroom and adopted by all the Republican members of the committee, called on the attorney general's office to consider investigating those "utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends."

Since election night, when a human error led to an inaccurate report of Antrim County's unofficial results, the county — which former President Donald Trump won with 61% of the vote — has found itself at the heart of a disinformation campaign claiming that voting machines were intentionally designed or manipulated to switch votes.

After reviewing the Oversight Committee's report, the attorney general's office "accepted Sen. McBroom and the Committee's request to investigate," said Lynsey Mukomel, press secretary for Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Michigan State Police will aid the investigation, Mukomel said.

The Oversight Committee's report did not specify any targets for investigation, and Mukomel declined to say who will be investigated. But the report cited claims made in an election fraud lawsuit against Antrim County that for months served as a vehicle to advance election conspiracy theories. The case was dismissed in May.

PolitiFact Michigan has debunked many of the claims of election fraud filed in support of that lawsuit, including the false claim that there was a 68% error rate with the voting machines and that an algorithm manipulated the election results. 

Matt DePerno, the attorney who represented Antrim resident Bill Bailey, the plaintiff in the case, has continued to share false claims about the election since the dismissal. His website includes a link to donate to an "Election Fraud Defense Fund."

DePerno has been joined by former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell in making false claims about the election. The two were included in the speaker lineup for an "election integrity" fundraiser held in Antrim County in early June. 

And Colbeck's website, which includes false claims of election fraud, accepts financial contributions from readers.

The group has called for a so-called forensic audit of the election like the one underway in Arizona's Maricopa County. That audit has been widely criticized by Republicans and Democrats as partisan and amateurish. 

In Michigan, more than 250 audits of the election already completed have affirmed the results, as did a hand recount of the ballots in Antrim County. So far, calls from Trump allies for an audit have gone nowhere. 

President Joe Biden won the election in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes.

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