Emails: Schuette talked RNC in AG office

Lansing — Attorney General Bill Schuette was discussing his official role as a future speaker when he held a meeting on the Republican National Convention with staff in his taxpayer-financed Detroit office, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The 2015 meeting, which came a full year before his speech, was disclosed in an email dump by liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan. The organization obtained communications between Schuette staffers as part of a lawsuit alleging he illegally used his state office and staff to build a political enterprise and help him climb the political ladder.

The documents show attorney general staffers — many of whom had worked on Schuette’s attorney general campaign or now work on his gubernatorial campaign — were careful to use personal email accounts when they discussed political activities. But the staffers often did so during regular state employee hours. It’s not clear if they took breaks.

With less than a week to go until Tuesday’s GOP gubernatorial primary, Schuette called the email release a political attack and said his staff sent “personal email on personal time.”

Schuette’s official schedule for July 23, 2015, shows that he was in Detroit to read to school kids and meet with Attorney Linda Orlans.

But a separate schedule sent by a state staffer from her personal account shows that Schuette was expected at a 2:30 p.m. meeting in his Detroit office to discuss the “Cleveland Convention,” a July 2016 political event where Schuette would end up speaking ahead of President Donald Trump’s official GOP nomination.

“At that time, Mr. Schuette was a big Jeb Bush supporter,” said Mark Brewer, attorney for Progress Michigan and former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “It was a planning meeting to help Mr. Bush,” he suggested.

Bush dropped out the GOP primaries in late February 2016.

Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely disputed Brewer’s characterization and said the meeting was organized “to determine the information that would be contained in the remarks that the attorney general delivered in his official capacity at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.”

The schedule showed longtime political fundraising consultant Katy Tylus was among “staff” who attended the meeting, alongside Wendy Anderson, Schuette’s supervisor of constituent relations representatives, director of public affairs Rusty Hills and director of public relations John Sellek, who is now a strategist for Schuette’s gubernatorial campaign.

Tylus was not at the meeting as a fundraising consultant, Bitely said. Instead, she was there as a “volunteer” who helped make sure that “logistics were sound for the event.” Bitely said Schuette had been invited to speak at about one month prior to the 2015 meeting. His speech was publicly announced one year later.

State work or politics?

Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said the attorney general’s office should produce documents to back up its claims, arguing his group has “proof” of its allegations.

“If you look at the trove of staff emails, there seems to be several discussions about the RNC that popped up,” Scott said. “It clearly is political activity, and the fact that meeting was called in a state office should at least raise questions the AG’s office should answer.”

In his convention speech, Schuette touted his work as attorney general in Michigan but also highlighted his role as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association,” a political organization he described as “27 women and men dedicated to defending the Constitution and upholding the rule of law.”

Schuette’s unofficial schedule shows he also set individual meetings that day with Roger Penske…

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