The Todd Courser/Cindy Gamrat sex scandal sparked a brawl
among political reporters in Lansing today.

Well, maybe not a brawl, but a war of words. The key
antagonists: Gongwer News Service and MIRS News.

First, word leaked out this morning that MIRS was publishing
a story that said Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood, according to Gamrat’s
private eye, was identified as the so-called “blackmailer” in this increasingly strange drama.
In other words, Livengood, who broke the story wide open on Aug. 7, allegedly set the
whole mess in motion by secretly texting messages to Courser which the Lapeer
Republican interpreted as blackmail.

MIRS was immediately chastised for publishing the claims of
a lawmaker desperately trying to hold onto her seat.

First in line was Zach Gorchow, editor and reporter at MIRS’
chief medial rival, Gongwer.

In a message on Twitter, Gorchow said: “If I know something
is a ploy to slander someone, I don’t print it. Others have a different
approach apparently.”

Nancy Kaffer, a Detroit Free Press columnist, jumped in with
a tweet: “Did MIRS even see this supposed private investigator’s report? From
their story, it sounds like no.”

MIRS (@MIRSnews) then responded: “To your question. Yes. I
have (it) in my possession.” MIRS stood by the story, which reported that the
text messenger used two different names, according to a database search.

Several reporters and various Lansing political figures rushed
to support Livengood, a mild-mannered, highly respected journalist. On Facebook,
two hashtags were created in solidarity with the News writer, #StandWithChadLivengood
and #justiceforchad.Susan Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan
Politics, offered this juicy observation on Twitter and Facebook: “Wow, the
House/Senate press box is going to be all kinds of awkward.”

All of this follows a
report on Wednesday afternoon by MLive, relying upon a separate private eye, that
said the person who sent the “blackmail” text messages to Courser used a pre-paid
cell phone purchased by someone using the name “Todd Courser.”MLive hired P.I. Scott Lewis, the former Detroit TV
news reporter, and he tracked the history of the phone number used to send the texts
to a so-called “burner” phone purchased by “Todd Courser” using a P.O. Box in
Detroit. Courser told MLive that he had no knowledge of the phone purchase.

Meanwhile, the Courser-Gamrat tale has turned into a
fast-moving story over the past 24 hours. In addition to the developments
above, here’s what’s new:

· Livengood broke this part of the story on
Twitter: Justin Near of Near Perfect Media has resigned as state Rep. @CindyGamrat‘s crisis communications

After the new Michigan Democratic Party Chairman
Brandon Dillon on Wednesday afternoon publicly lambasted Republican House Speaker
Kevin Cotter for his handling of the scandal, a website emerged called “What
is Cotter hiding?”  Following Dillon’s
lead, the site demands that Cotter release the full text of the investigative
report completed by the House Business Office before it is “sanitized” by a law
firm. That report concluded that Courser and Gamrat had improperly used tax
dollars in an attempt to cover up their affair. The questions being asked
include how is the review of the report by the Dickinson Wright law firm
costing the taxpayers and how was that firm chosen. But ultimate query has a
familiar ring from the Watergate era: What did Speaker Cotter know and when did
he know it?

·   Blogger Brandon Hall from the site West Michigan
Politics claimed this morning that the real dirt dug up by the House Business
Office is that Gamrat used tax dollars in her unsuccessful intra-party campaign
for Republican National Committeewoman last February. Hall reports that his
sources tell him that Courser and Gamrat (R-Plainwell) “used
staff to make phone calls and emails in an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to make
sure Gamrat won the seat.”