Monthly Archives: March 2022

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (Guest: John Sipher)

The focus in Michigan politics this week is the apparent takeover of the state Republican Party by the Trump Big Lie faction even as the gloves come off in the race for the Attorney General. Bridge Michigan published a major “opposition research” dump on the sketchy professional resume of frontrunner Matt DePerno. DePerno’s campaign is also under pressure for him to disclose how he used $400,000 in contributions raised in the name of fighting for “election integrity” (meaning another audit of the 2020 election).

Topping the week will be a Trump rally in northern Macomb County in support of DePerno and Secretary of State candidate Kristina Karamo, another Trump acolyte who preaches the Big Lie. What other Republicans will show up? Just as significant will be the list of Republicans who skip the rally.

Meanwhile, Republicans are focusing on the promise to “Fix the Damn Roads” campaign pledge by Gretchen Whitmer, running an ad that could boomerang on the GOP as billions flow into road repairs in a matter of weeks, and continuing right up to Election Day.

In our second segment, Mark and Jeff are joined by former CIA spymaster John Sipher.

John Sipher retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, which included serving in Moscow and running the CIA’s Russia operations. Sipher served multiple overseas tours, as Chief of Station and Deputy Chief of Station, in Europe, the Balkans, Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia. He also ran Russian operations at headquarters. He retired as a member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service, and received the CIA’s Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. He is the co-founder of Spycraft Entertainment, a global production company run by former senior intelligence officers from the US and UK and experienced Hollywood producers.

With the war in Ukraine dominating the headlines, there’s nobody better to help us get into the mind of today’s version of the James Bond super-villain, war criminal Vladimir Putin.

A Good/Great Week for Whitmer (Guest: Chad Livengood)

Governor Whitmer gained some powerful evidence of leadership for her reelection campaign with a pair of huge victories: announcement of a $1.7-billion expansion of a car-battery plant in west Michigan (weeks after GM’s $7-billion investment commitment for electric vehicles and battery manufacturing); and an agreement with the Republican Legislature on a $4.7-billion supplemental spending bill which invests heavily in schools and infrastructure (roads, bridges, water supplies and more).

Also this week: the state board of canvassers gets shot down on a blatantly partisan change in the requirements for all political petitions; Donald Trump plans to visit the Trumpiest county in Michigan, Macomb; and there’s a formidable new candidate for the Michigan Supreme Court.

Joining the conversation this week is Crain’s Detroit senior editor Chad Livengood. Livengood covers Michigan politics, public policy and the revitalization of Detroit after decades of economic, social and political decline. His focus is on writing about the people, institutions and ideas that will be vital to returning a middle class to the poorest big city in America along with the politics and state policy issues impacting the state’s largest urban center.

Prior to joining Crain’s Chad covered state government for five years for the Detroit News. Earlier in his career he covered state government and politics in both Delaware and Illinois. He’s a graduate of Central Michigan University where he was editor in chief of the student newspaper.

Putin’s War (Guest: Kremlinologist Olga Lautman)

There’s plenty going on in Michigan politics. Jeff and Mark offer their takes on the apparent domination of Donald Trump in Michigan politics, and the massive field of Democratic candidates in the Detroit-based 13th congressional district.

In our second segment, our focus shifts to Putin’s vicious war on Ukraine. Joining the conversation is one of the nation’s leading experts on the opaque world of the Putin dictatorship, Olga Lautman.

Lautman is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis. She is also the creator and co-host of Kremlin File podcast series, which features expert discussions on the Kremlin’s internal affairs, global operations, and tactics used from their hybrid warfare toolkit to destabilize Western democracies.

Her research focuses on the cross-section of organized crime and intelligence operations in Russia and Ukraine, their impact on the West, and the monitoring of active measures campaigns conducted by the Kremlin to destabilize democratic practices and influence foreign elections.


Follow the Money (Guest: Craig Mauger)

Jeff is off this week as he and his family deal with the sudden passing of their youngest son. Our hearts go out to Jeff, Mattie and their four other children. They have asked that we all respect their privacy. If you would like to send a message to the family, you can email “”.

Pinch-hitting for Jeff this week is one of the best of state capitol journalists, Craig Mauger of the Detroit News. Prior to joining the News, he was Executive Director of the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) where he tracked the money that drives the political system.

Craig is a graduate of Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism. He spent a decade working as a journalist covering government and politics. Prior to going MCFN three and a half years, he worked as a reporter for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS News) in Lansing. At MIRS, much of Mauger’s coverage focused on money in politics. He’s written about the changing role of politically focused nonprofits, investigated the purchase of a new Senate office building and uncovered that a top state official was benefiting from primary residence tax breaks in two states.

At the Detroit News, has continued to “follow the money.”

State of the Campaign (Guest: PR maven Darci McConnell)

Since our last “legitimate political discourse,” Putin invaded Ukraine on what he labeled a peacekeeping mission (complete with bombs, missiles and miles-long convoys), President Biden began what the White House hopes is a reset with his State of the Union address, and the debate over Michigan’s new legislative districts’ impact on African-American voters became more heated.

Public relations and political consultant Darci McConnell joins the conversation to weigh in on the latter, as well as help us take the political temperature of Southeast Michigan.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, McConnell is no stranger to local government and politics. As president and CEO of Detroit-based McConnell Communications, Inc., she routinely works with local municipalities and politicians and in 2020, she was appointed to the Grosse Pointe Park City Council – the first African American to serve.

She has owned and operated her public relations business for 18 years and previously spent 14 years as a newspaper reporter across Michigan as well as in Washington, D.C. Her personal passion is making a difference in the lives of young people through mentoring and other opportunities.