In secret recording, Unlock Michigan trainer describes ‘shady job’

LANSING – A company collecting signatures to strip Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of her emergency powers coached paid petition circulators on giving voters false information, illegally collecting signatures without witnessing them, trespassing on private property, and even lying under oath, a secretly recorded videotape shows.
The video showing Erik Tisinger, a trainer for the California signature company In the Field, Inc., was secretly recorded Sept. 4 by a representative of Keep Michigan Safe – the group opposing the Unlock Michigan effort – and made available to the Free Press.
The profanity-peppered training session provides an inside look at the world of paid signature gatherers and could potentially pose problems for Unlock Michigan’s attempts to certify the close to 500,000 signatures the group hopes to collect.
It is the second example of irregularities in the Unlock Michigan signature collection process the Free Press has highlighted.
“This can be a real shady job,” Tisinger tells the trainees. “And when I say shady, I mean, people do all sorts of illegal s— all the time and never get caught. It’s really hard to get caught doing s— except for, like, forgeries.”
Tisinger then tells the trainees, who are paid $3.50 per signature, that he does not want them to do illegal things, but “you can.” He then, in some cases, proceeds to tell them how to do illegal things, while explicitly warning them to avoid only forging signatures, as that’s too time-consuming and easy to detect.
Unlock Michigan is trying to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945, which Whitmer is using to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
In August, the Free Press reported thpany involved in collecting signatures, Let the People Decide, has a history of alleged “bait and switch” tactics in paid petition drives around the U.S., in which people were allegedly given inaccurate descriptions of what the initiatives would do, and the company is headed by a man who has a criminal record for falsifying his voter registration.
Tuesday, September 22, 2020 5:00 PM
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Fred Wszolek, a spokesman for Unlock Michigan, said In the Field, which hired Tisinger, will not get paid for the signatures it collects,based on the contents of the video.
In the Field and Tisinger could not be reached for comment Monday.
In the video, Tisinger, who describes himself as a manager from California, tells prospective signature gatherers:
After the training, the Keep Michigan Safe representative collected and turned in a few signatures and was issued an In the Field check for $17.50. A copy of the check, dated Thursday, was also made available to the Free Press.
Wszolek confirmed Monday that In the Field “has some crews working on the west side of the state” on the campaign to repeal the 1945 law. He said In the Field is a subcontractor to the main firm Unlock Michigan has hired, National Petition Management, which did not respond to a phone message.
After he was told about the contents of the training session, Wszolek said he is suspicious that it “could be a setup” because he said Tisinger normally works on progressive campaigns, not conservative ones, such as Unlock Michigan. But in any case, he said In the Field will not get paid for the signatures it collects.
Whitmer said the revelations from the recording are “deeply disturbing and raise very serious concerns” amid a virus that has killed 200,000 Americans and more than 6,600 Michiganders.
Mark Fisk, a spokesman for Keep Michigan Safe, said any suggestion of a setup is absurd and completely false.
“They got caught red-handed again, and they’re trying to weasel out of it,” Fisk said.
“Unscrupulous and illegal tactics have become standard operating procedure for Unlock Michigan and this video showing a trainer encouraging people to break the law and lie under oath fits into a disturbing pattern.”
Wszolek said Unlock Michigan has mostly relied on volunteer signature gatherers and has now collected more than 400,000 valid signatures. Fewer than 350,000 valid signatures are re…
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