AP Political Writer
POSTED: 04:09 a.m. HST, May 31, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 05:13 a.m. HST, May 31, 2012
LANSING, Mich. >> U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra wants to set up a national office to check presidential candidates' birth certificates, even though a campaign spokesman said Wednesday that Hoekstra believes President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii.
Hoekstra told Lapeer County tea party activists in early May that CIA and FBI agents should staff a new federal office that would investigate the authenticity of presidential hopefuls' birth certificates. A debunked conspiracy theory among conservative activists dubbed "birthers" charges that Obama is not constitutionally qualified to serve in the White House because he wasn't born in the United States.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who flirted with a 2012 presidential run, has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of Obama's birth certificate, telling CNN on Tuesday that "a lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate" just before Trump hosted a Mitt Romney fundraising event at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Romney has said he believes Obama was born in America but hasn't condemned Trump's comments.
Such allegations about Obama's birthplace have been repeatedly proven false.
Hoekstra campaign spokesman Paul Ciaramitaro said Wednesday that Hoekstra, one of five Michigan Republicans running for the chance to take on Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow in November, "believes that the president is a citizen."
Ciaramitaro couldn't offer any additional details on why Hoekstra wants to set up a new federal office to verify presidential candidates' birth certificates or how it would run.
Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer criticized what he called Hoekstra's "radical plan" to "create a new federal bureaucracy."
The Washington-based publication "The Hill" posted the video Wednesday showing Hoekstra answering a question about the Democratic president's birth certificate at an early May campaign event. Hoekstra blamed 2008 GOP presidential nominee John McCain for not making a bigger issue out of it then, but added it's no longer a factor in this year's election.
"We lost that debate in 2008 when our presidential nominee said, 'I ain't talking about it,'" Hoekstra told the audience. "I think with this president, the book is closed."
He went on to say that he'd to establish "a three person office in Washington, D.C. ... so that, in any future election, that someone would have to walk into that office and prove that they meet the minimum qualifications to be president of the United States."
Hoekstra served in the U.S. House for 18 years representing a district stretching up the east coast of Lake Michigan before running unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He now is a Washington lobbyist and was expected to be an early favorite for the GOP Senate nomination.
But he has had some campaign missteps, including a Super Bowl campaign ad featuring a young Asian-American woman speaking in broken English about China taking away American jobs. The ad was panned by minority groups and even some Republicans as racially insensitive. Hoekstra's campaign eventually substituted a different ad on television and took the first ad off its YouTube video page.
Stabenow said donors poured more than $150,000 into her campaign in response to the ad. At the end of March she had $7 million on hand, compared to $1.5 million each for Hoekstra and GOP rival Clark Durant.