Ned Staebler, the university administrator who notoriously spouted a furious tirade against two Wayne County Republican election officials in a public meeting last November, is also treasurer of an entity promoted by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) for “nonpartisan voter education.”

On November 17, 2020, Staebler, vice president for economic development at Wayne State University and head of the business-development organization TechTown Detroit, blasted county Board of Canvassers’ members Monica Palmer and William Hartmann for initially voting to block the certification of votes in Wayne County. 

After dismissing misgivings Palmer and Hartmann had regarding the accuracy of election results in the county (which includes Detroit) and arguing that vote-tallying problems exist in more Republican areas, Staebler accused the two officials of racism. He spoke remotely via computer during the meeting’s public-comment period. 

“I just want to let you know that the Trump stink, the stain of racism that you, William Hartmann and Monica Palmer, have just covered yourself [sic] in, is going to follow you throughout history,” Staebler said. “Your grandchildren are going to think of you like [segregationist Birmingham, Alabama public-safety commissioner] Bull Connor or [segregationist Alabama Governor] George Wallace! Monica Palmer and William Hartmann will forever be known in southeastern Michigan as two racists who did something so unprecedented that they disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of black voters in the city of Detroit because they were ordered to. Probably, I know, Monica, you think ‘Q’ [of QAnon-conspiracy fame] told you to do it, or some other crazy stuff like that.”

His rhetoric did not cool as he went on. 

“But just know when you try to sleep tonight, that millions of people around the world now on Twitter know the name [sic] Monica Palmer and William Hartmann as two people completely racist and without an understanding of what integrity means or a shred of human decency,” he said. “The law isn’t on your side! History won’t be on your side! Your conscience will not be on your side! And, Lord knows, when you go to meet your Maker, your soul is going to be very, very warm!”

Democrats who accuse Republican officials of racism and conspiracy-theory mongering have become commonplace, though they aren’t always entrusted by public officials with “nonpartisan voter education.” Yet public records have indicated Staebler serves as treasurer of the Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration (MCELA), a nonprofit which uses that very phrase to describe its objectives and was previously headed by Secretary of State Benson. Its operations in 2020 were funded solely by grant money from the national nonprofit Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR). 

CEIR, heavily funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, has distributed grants to local — mostly government — entities across the U.S. for election administration purposes. CEIR has often received criticism for orienting its activity to be favorable to Democrats.

As The Michigan Star reported this week, the supposedly nonpartisan MCELA spent 99 percent of the roughly $12 million it received from CEIR on the Democrat-aligned media-strategy firms Waterfront Strategies and Grosse Pointe, Michigan-based Alper Strategies. Its current President Jen McKernan and Secretary Kimberly Trent have both donated substantially to Democratic campaigns.

Despite all this, Benson publicly lauded CEIR’s support of MCELA (which she helped found over a decade earlier) to facilitate ostensibly unbiased voter education mainly about how to request and utilize absentee ballots.

Staebler’s own loyalty to the Democratic Party is on clear display beyond that infamous Wayne County meeting. Campaign finance records viewable on opensecrets.org show he has contributed financially to the campaigns of Benson and many other Democratic politicians, including Hillary Clinton, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Sen. Gary Peters, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The records also indicate he donated $1,000 to the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee in 2018. On his Twitter page, Staebler has frequently deprecated Republican politicians including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

At this writing, Staebler has not replied to a request for comment.

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Bradley Vasoli is a reporter at The Michigan Star and The Star News Network. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to bradvasoliwriter@gmail.com.
Photo “Ned Staebler” by Ned Staebler.