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If Michigan’s embattled Republican governor thought he could simply keep his head down and he would be off the hook for what his administration did to (and didn’t do for ) the city of Flint, then he just got a very rude awakening. Rick Snyder and several of his staffers were just served notice that they were being sued for a “pattern of racketeering activity.”
The lawsuit stems from a group of 15 Flint residents who saw the lack of action being taken at the criminal level and decided to seek damages at the civil one. Snyder now faces a RICO suit, the same typically used to take down corporations committing fraud and organized crime done by mobsters. Ironically, it’s Snyder’s conservative philosophy of treating his governance like running a business that may be his undoing .
“He wants to run the state like a business,” attorney Marc J. Bern said of Snyder. “Well. The citizens of Flint, as shareholders in the corporation of the state of Michigan, I don’t think they were treated in an appropriate way.”
The lawsuit alleges that officials misrepresented the suitability of the Flint River water as the city’s drinking water source for roughly two years and billed Flint residents at rates that were the highest in the nation for water that was unusable, resulting in the city’s budget deficit being reversed.
At first blush, using the RICO act, to go after a sitting governor seems like a stretch, but Snyder has always stressed how he hated government and considered himself more of a facilitator of private industry . To prove it, one of his first acts after being elected in 2010 was to give enormous tax breaks to his rich friends . In that light, proving greed-motivated gross negligence, and potentially willful deception, at the hands of Snyder’s administration shouldn’t be very difficult. Through emails , it’s clear that both Snyder and the people who worked for him were very aware of problems with Flint’s water. At the same time, the group made very little attempt to hide the fact that they hoped skimping on Flint’s water safety would save them a few bucks in the long run. It was all part of that business-first mindset that Snyder trumpeted during election years.
As The Washington Post put it:
Snyder, a former accountant and venture capitalist whose Twitter handle is @onetoughnerd, took office in 2011 promising to fix the state’s many financial problems by applying the expertise of outsiders who could reinvent the way government works. In Flint, where poverty had deepened after the departure of much of the auto industry, he appointed a series of emergency managers whose authority superseded even that of the elected city council.
With his unelected cronies in place, Snyder focused on profit margins rather than the welfare of his state’s residents. And to absolutely nobody’s shock, the plan came back to backfire – hurting Michigan’s most vulnerable. Now he’s being accused of the same crimes that took down the mafia . Should Snyder ever wind up behind bars, it’s likely he would fit right in.