UPDATE: Some 18 months after Michigan Republican Party leaders expressed shock at learning that a GOP official had served nearly four years in prison for a notorious $285 million fraud, the leadership has looked away as that same swindler has racked up five political positions awarded to him by the party.
As I reported last week for Deadline Detroit (below), William Rauwerdink gave up his spot on the GOP State Committee last year when his secret was exposed. But he quietly won election to the Republican’s 14th Congressional District Executive Committee. He then became the communications director for the 14th District and the editor of the district’s newsletter.
Less than 48 hours after the Deadline Detroit story was posted, the Oakland County Republican Party appointed Rauwerdink to a fourth spot – a seat on the county party’s Rules Committee.
Then, on Friday night at their state convention in Grand Rapids, the GOP did something extraordinary. Brushing aside the history of this infamous felon, the party named him one of the Electors to cast a vote in the Electoral College for Donald Trump, should the real estate mogul win the November election.
William Rauwerdink, a West Bloomfield Township businessman, previously known best in financial circles from Metro Detroit to Wall Street, could play a constitutional role as an Elector in a presidential election. If that happens, Rauwerdink’s name will be enshrined in the National Archives for all to see, in perpetuity.
This is an excerpt of a column I wrote for Deadline Detroit.
As Republicans head to their state convention this weekend, they quietly have a notorious felon in their midst.
By Chad Selweski
William Rauwerdink is not your average guy with a secret to hide. His disgrace was so big that it embarrassed the entire Michigan Republican Party when it all unraveled.
GOP officials learned last year that Rauwerdink — at the time a member of the party’s State Committee – had served nearly four years in prison and was ordered to pay $285 million in restitution after pleading guilty in an infamous financial fraud case well known in Wall Street circles.
Yet, the West Bloomfield Township businessman continues to quietly play a role in the state GOP even after revelations of his sordid past “shell-shocked” the party leadership just 18 months ago.
At the February 2015 state convention, Rauwerdink tacitly decided not to seek re-election to the State Committee after his shady history was exposed. At that point, it seemed he was fading from the political scene.
But that wasn’t the case. Rauwerdink has been actively involved ever since with the Republican leadership group in the 14th Congressional District, a political territory that covers a wide swath of Detroit and Oakland County.
He landed his new role with the Michigan Republicans despite widespread media coverage of his criminal background after Deadline Detroit broke the story just days before the 2015 convention.
At the time, Paul Welday, a prominent former Oakland County party chairman and a fellow 14th District GOP delegate, summed up the party’s reaction to Rauwerdink’s secrets in remarks to the Detroit Free Press. “I’m a little shell-shocked, like everybody else,” said Welday, who died last April. “I guarantee you, nobody knew anything about this.”
But once everybody knew all about Rauwerdink, he still won election at that February 2015 state convention to the 14th District Executive Committee.
As the Republican elite prepare to gather for another state convention this weekend in Grand Rapids, it’s assumed Rauwerdink, 66, will be in attendance. Delegates will choose two party nominees for the Michigan Supreme Court, the State Board of Education and the boards of Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.
He continues to show interest in being an active part of the party. According to an online message in July, Rauwerdink wrote that he went to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, though not as a voting delegate. And on Tuesday night, the Oakland County GOP Executive Committee elected him to the party’s Rules Committee, further proof that this guy just keeps getting a pass.
Sarah Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party, steered Deadline Detroit inquiries about Rauwerdink to the 14th District Committee. 14th District Chair Janine Kateff, also of West Bloomfield, could not be reached for comment. An attempt to reach Rauwerdink for comment through email was unsuccessful.
Rauwerdink’s prison sentence stemmed from a 2003 federal indictment on 16 counts of fraud while he served as chief financial officer of Lason Inc. of Troy, a digital imaging company that did business with several major corporations, including the Detroit Three automakers.
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