As Republican loyalists hit the road, heading to Lansing
for this weekend’s state GOP convention, the overriding question is: Will anything change
in the next two days for a party plagued by officials and candidates for party
offices who harbor pasts mired in criminal activity or bigotry?

The newest GOP activist with a skeleton in his closet may
be Michael Bancroft of Thompsonville (located near Traverse City), who will be a candidate
for the Republican State Committee when the 1st Congressional
District convention-goers hold their caucus tonight.

According to public documents and Genesee County Circuit
Court records, a Michael Bancroft was charged in 2001  with sexually assaulting his babysitter. He eventually
had the 2nd- and 4th-degree criminal sexual conduct
charges bumped down to a simple assault and battery. He served 30 days in jail
and one year of probation, then moved from Flint to Thompsonville.

Now, a Michael Bancroft from Thompsonville, formerly of
Flint, is running for a State Committee seat representing the 1st District. I
made several attempts to reach the candidate, by phone and by email, telling
him that I wanted to ask about the criminal conviction outlined in court
documents. He never responded.

One Republican insider tells me that he’s convinced that
the 1st District’s Bancroft is the same guy who tried running for
a State Committee seat in the 5th Congressional District a decade ago
while living in Flint -– until his criminal record for assault was exposed and
his reputation among Genesee County Republicans was ruined.

Another GOP source says that Bancroft is known in northern
Michigan political circles for telling tasteless jokes about gays.

Will the 1st District GOP delve into this matter
at their caucus?

And what will happen at the full convention on Saturday,
when Darwin Jiles, Jr., currently on probation for shooting a man (an incident
that he insists was accidental), is up for election as the party’s vice chair
for the ethnic/minority bloc of the state GOP?
L to R: Doug Sedenquist, Darwin
 Jiles, Trucker Randy Bishop

Jiles was originally charged with a 10-year felony for assault with intent to do great bodily harm
less than murder due to an incident a year ago in the Auburn Hills
trailer park where he lives.
According to police, after Jiles became engaged in
two heated arguments with an acquaintance, the pistol he was carrying
discharged and the bullet struck the other man in the lower leg. The victim
suffered a serious, but not
life-threatening injury.

Jiles initially went to trial but, according to Oakland
County Circuit Court records, he secured a plea bargain for a lesser
misdemeanor charge of discharge of a firearm without malicious intent, but with injury.

Not all of his story added up, according to the
prosecution, but the deal he struck allowed him to avoid prison time. He was
placed on probation for one year last November.

Meanwhile, Jiles’ crime seems like a minor incident
compared to the eye-popping tale of the state GOP’s $285 million con man,
William Rauwerdink, who is a State Committee member from the 14th
Congressional District.

Party leaders were “shell-shocked” to learn earlier this
month that Rauwerdink, of West Bloomfield Township, was the mastermind behind
one of the biggest accounting frauds in U.S. history, until it was upstaged by
the Enron and WorldCom scandals.

After facing a 16-count criminal indictment for cooking
the books at Troy-based Lason Inc., federal court records show that Rauwerdink
pleaded guilty to several charges, served nearly four years in prison, and was
ordered to pay $285 million in restitution to a long list of victims.

It’s unclear if Rauwerdink plans to attend the convention
or if he will seek re-election to his State Committee seat.

As mortifying as that whole secret-past episode is for
the GOP, the highest-profile headache tormenting the party is the
hate-mongering of Republican National Committee member Dave Agema, whose
penchant for posting racist, homophobic and Islamaphobic commentaries online
has made him the scourge of Republicans nationwide.

The RNC, at its recent meeting, embraced the calls coming
from far and wide for Agema to resign. But Chairman Reince Priebus & Co.
opted to put the matter back into the laps of the Michigan State Committee
members, urging them to find a procedural way to oust Agema.

But the State Committee, which has dodged the issue in
the past, will apparently take no action again this weekend, as the heavy
favorite to become the new party chair, Ronna Romney McDaniel, continues to
walk the fence between the GOP establishment and the tea party types. Romney
McDaniel, Mitt Romney’s niece, is apparently determined to keep all Agema-ouster
plans under wraps until long after she has settled in as the party boss.

A former state representative from western Michigan, Agema
has many supporters who don’t seem to mind that their revealing defenses of his
bigotry – blaming it on squishy “political correctness” — and their steadfast
association with the RNC’s bad boy taints them too as preachers of intolerance.
One of Agema’s outspoken backers is Romney McDaniel’s main opponent for the
chairmanship, Norm Hughes.

Overall, the MIGOP’s biggest black mark may be the recent
history of its representatives on the RNC. RNC Committeeman Saul Anuzis, once
labeled a contender for the national party chairmanship, was bounced by a wide
margin – in favor of Agema — a few years ago when the new tea party factions
flexed their muscles and caught the establishment off guard.
L to R: Mary Sears, Dave Agema, Sedenquist

Next, RNC Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land quickly smacked
up against the Peter Principle, stepping down from the national committee to
launch a disastrous U.S. Senate run that was eventually labeled by some as
one of the worst 2014 congressional campaigns in the nation.

Romney McDaniel was elected last year by the party
faithful to fill Land’s RNC seat, but not before she had to fend off a
competitor, Mary Sears of Houghton County in the 1st District, who said
that all gays should be purged from the GOP because they are perverts doing the
devil’s work by “preying on our children.”

Overall, the MIGOP still tries to shake off a 2-year
stretch when it saw several skeletons come out of the closet.

“Trucker Randy” Bishop remains as the Antrim County GOP
chair (an ex-officio State Committee member) despite being exposed as a
two-time felon during his days in Macomb County.

Trucker Randy

He declared bankruptcy, lost his builder’s license, was accused of
not paying his federal and state taxes and, after fraudulently claiming in
writing that he had never been convicted of a felony, lost his real estate
broker’s license in 2001.

A judge declared that
Trucker Randy’s fraudulent behavior “illustrates his inability to serve the
public in an open and honest manner, and his lack of good moral character.”

As an aside, Trucker Randy — the GOP “oaf,” as one party
activist labeled him — begins to look more and more like Santa Claus as he
lets his white beard grow. This comes as the eccentric Kerry Bentivolio,
Michigan’s accidental congressman and Santa impersonator, fades from memory
after a one-and-done term in the House.

And, finally, we have the sordid tale of one of Trucker
Randy’s best buddies, Doug Sedenquist of Escanaba, a fellow trash-talkin’,
GOP-bashing, talk-radio commentator who wanted to see the tea party “patriots”
overtake the GOP and toss out the establishment, including Gov. Rick Snyder.

Sedenquist, who is even more obnoxious than Trucker
Randy, resigned promptly from the State Committee last summer after he was convicted
and later sentenced to three years in prison for engaging in extortion and a
computer crime while terrorizing his ex-wife.

The irony of all this is that the party loyalists are not
focusing on any of the tainted characters within their midst. Instead, the
gnashing of teeth heard as the convention approaches centers on the insistence
that Republicans should never speak ill of fellow Republicans.

A plea for unity? I’m not so sure. That kinda sounds
like: We will all go down together.