State Rep. Steve Marino of Macomb County ran an awful 2016 campaign filled with gaffes and questionable behavior, yet he rode Donald Trump’s coattails to victory in November.
Now, Marino, a Harrison Township Republican, wants us to believe that his new focus is on ethics and transparency among state officials.
The boy legislator introduced a package of bills today that would prevent state officials from accepting gifts or cash to influence their policy decisions. Mostly, the legislation takes a stab at preventing conflicts of interest among officials.
All of this is supposed to be covered by current ethics rules, though it is rarely enforced – by the Legislature, the judiciary or the toothless state Ethics Board.
The legislation is largely redundant – and clearly for show on Marino’s part – but the larger issue here is that the 27-year-old lawmaker is hardly a man of virtue who can play a lead role in cracking down on unethical behavior.
Let’s recap the 2016 campaign blunders by Marino, aka Mr. Ethics:
- In a tape-recorded conversation, Marino boasted about his days as a Lansing lobbyist, recounting times when he curried favor with state legislators by paying their big bar tabs near closing time at local saloons in the capital.
- He planned an expensive campaign fundraiser last fall at the home of Dr. Jennifer Franklin, who was under federal indictment for participating in a $6 million drug ring that illegally sold prescription pills on the street. When the press discovered the details, Marino claimed that Franklin, a neighbor who lives just down the street from his lakefront home, was someone that he knew little about.
- He advocated outsourcing jobs to China as an effective means for corporations to avoid paying American wage rates.
- He engaged in a ploy to avoid paying part of his property tax bill on the Lake St. Clair waterfront home he bought from his father.
- He seemed to indicate that he supports child labor practices in some foreign countries – putting kids to work in factories at age 10 or 12.
- He dramatically outspent his opponent on his way to victory in November, and his campaign statements showed that the bulk of the cash, $75,000, came from his own money.
- The candidate told senior citizens that the way to preserve Social Security is to boost the retirement age from the traditional 65 to 75, forcing the elderly to engage in more robust retirement savings and investments.
- The GOP nominee for the 24th House District tried to downplay damaging information that surfaced when he first entered politics in 2014 and won a seat on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. At that time, he attacked his Democratic opponent, a bus mechanic, for personal financial difficulties. But what Marino didn’t tell voters is that his election foe’s bankruptcy, which occurred nearly a decade prior, came after his wife died suddenly of a heart attack and he was stuck with a pile of medical bills.
- That 2014 campaign for commissioner also revealed that, prior to declaring his candidacy, Marino had failed to vote in 10 of 13 elections. Running in a marginally Republican county district, Marino breezed through the August primary after his GOP opponent died prior to the election.
- Given the numerous missteps that came to light throughout the fall 2016 campaign, Republican analysts had nearly given up on Marino’s chances for election to the House. At a gathering of lobbyists just weeks before the November vote, a top GOP election strategist reportedly said: “I’ll say this, if Steve Marino wins, you can thank straight-ticket voting.”
Straight-ticket voting, and Trump’s popularity in Macomb County, probably resulted in Marino’s 10-point win in November. Now, the 24th House District voters must deal with their narcissist representative in Lansing who seems incapable of understanding the meaning of irony – or hypocrisy.