DETROIT - A former Missouri Senator by the name of Harry S. Truman is famous for the saying "the buck stops here." A wood plaque with that maxim sat on his desk in the Oval Office.
Running for Congress is a "buck stops here" kind of proposition. Congressman John Conyers didn't hire the circulators for his nominating petitions that were farmed out largely to community activists and college students, and the congressman was careful to say he had nothing to do with the signature gathering process at all when Local 4 News interviewed him last Friday.
I asked: "Can you verify the fact that the people who grabbed your signatures were in fact registered voters when they collected their signatures."
[RELATED: John Conyers hires election lawyer]
He replied, while wishing the interview to end quickly: "Please sir, I didn't collect any signatures, I couldn't do that, sorry."
We now know that two of those gatherers weren't, as the law requires, registered voters. And that could mean Conyers might not qualify for the August primary.
But there is another question we now must ask about his petition gathering operation: "Mr. Conyers, did you know you had a convicted felon with outstanding arrest warrants collecting your re-election nominating signatures?"
That's right! You read it here first. Local 4 News has documentation showing that one of the key players in Conyers' petition mess is a wanted criminal.
This goes beyond simple embarrassment and questions about the constitutionality of Michigan election law; it goes into the "what were you thinking?" territory. No the congressman did not gather signatures, but it is his campaign that employed a man with multiple arrest warrants awaiting him in other parts of the state did. The congressman's desk is where this buck should stop, and it is not a good look!
Daniel Alexander Pennington broke into a Battle Creek home in 2009 at the age of 18. Court documents say he also stole valuables from the home. He was convicted and received a year in jail for his actions. Somewhere along the way he violated probation, didn't show up for a court date and to this day there is a pending felony arrest warrant waiting for him in Battle Creek.
Police originally filed the arrest warrant in 2009 and renewed it in 2012. They couldn't find him for a good reason, he'd left town. We know this because Lansing Police record numerous run-ins with Pennington at that time.
Lansing Police have case files showing he was hanging around known drug houses, giving false information to police officers, and eventually allegedly assaulted a man before leaving the scene. Police never caught up with him but scheduled him for a misdemeanor court hearing. He missed that one too. The judge in the case ordered a bench warrant for his arrest and that too is still pending.
Pennington clearly came to Detroit to stay away from the law that was after him. He took the job to circulate signatures for Conyers and was paid 75 cents per signature. He collected roughly 300 names for a hard earned $225 in the coldest weather anyone in Michigan can remember.
But Pennington never dreamt he would become the center of a ballot controversy, and he did not expect to be discovered as the wanted man he is.
In the end, this "wanted felon" thing has nothing to do with whether the Congressman gets on the ballot. It is more about political optics and whether the buck stops with John Conyers.
I approached his campaign for comment today and there was radio silence. The final part of my conversation with the Congressman last Friday went like this: "You're feeling certain you're on the ballot?"
"So far I am and I plan to stay on," Conyers said.
By using a wanted man to collect your signatures?
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