Man stopped near Michigan governor’s home worked on research against Democrats

The Michigan governor's summer residence on Mackinac Island, Mich., is shown on Sept. 18, 1999. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

By Associated Press

October 25, 2023

LANSING—A man dressed in black who works for a group specializing in opposition research about Democrats was stopped while climbing a bluff near Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s summer residence in August, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.

The man, whose name was redacted in the document, said he worked as a “political tracker” for America Rising. The police report links to two websites as potential employers, one at an America Rising corporation and one for an America Rising political action committee.

The man said he was “climbing the hill to get a ‘view up here’ when he was stopped Aug. 26. When members of the Executive Protection Section advised there was no view to see where he was at, (the man) stated, ‘I guess I’m leaving now,'” state police said.

The mansion on Mackinac Island is a summer residence for a Michigan governor in office. It’s on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, according to the island’s tourism office.

The island is a unique summer destination for tourists with arrival possible only by boat or small private plane. Cars are not allowed.

Police followed up with an interview at the man’s apartment on Sept. 12.

The man said he had no plan to harm Whitmer, a Democrat, and simply wanted to take photos of “political figures” who might be visiting with her outdoors, according to the report.

The man said he didn’t know he couldn’t be there “because there were no signs posted,” Det. Sgt. Aaron Sitko wrote.

The governor’s team would not confirm whether she was at the island residence on Aug. 26, citing security concerns.

State police spokeswoman Lori Dougovito said Tuesday that the investigation was closed without the man being charged, though the area is a no-trespassing zone. She didn’t elaborate on the decision.

Separately, the state police director, Col. James Grady II, said: “We are monitoring this situation to understand the scope of the individual’s intentions and connections to any known previous or ongoing threats against all government officials.”

Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping scheme in 2020. Nine people were convicted at trial or pleaded guilty. Five were acquitted.

Her chief of staff said the August incident on Mackinac Island was considered “extremely serious,” in light of the previous criminal cases.

“The governor deserves the right to safety and privacy,” JoAnne Huls said.

America Rising told the AP that the man hasn’t worked there for about a month. Spokesman Jahan Wilcox didn’t indicate whether he had quit or was fired.

“America Rising has clear and stated policies to ensure appropriate behavior of our employees and we take those policies seriously,” Wilcox said in an email.

State police learned that the man had been confronted at political events in the past.

In July, in Brighton, Michigan, the man was questioned after “posing as media and attempting to gain entry into the building” at an event featuring Democratic US Rep. Elissa Slotkin and US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, police said.

The man said he was unhappy with Slotkin and “wanted to call her out,” police said.

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