To launch Sunshine Week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson yesterday announced her legislative agenda to increase government transparency in Michigan.
“My legislative agenda would take Michigan from worst to first in government transparency, shine the light on dark money in politics and stop public corruption,” said Benson. “These are things lawmakers must do if they are serious about rebuilding public trust in our elected government.”
The Center for Public Integrity in 2015 ranked Michigan 50th among all states in government transparency. Benson, a longtime advocate for transparency, announced that her From Worst to First legislative agenda would increase trust in state government by doing the following:
• Expand the Freedom of Information Act so it applies to the Governor and the state Legislature.
• Require personal financial disclosures from elected officials.
• Require more frequent campaign disclosure than the current quarterly requirement.
Shining Light on Dark Money
• Require all PACs, Super PACs and 527 committees to report and close the administrative account loophole by requiring reporting of all receipts and disbursements.
• End the “Express Advocacy” reporting exception by creating a threshold definition for electioneering in the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.
• Tighten LLC reporting requirements to ensure secret and foreign money does not enter our elections.
• Ban foreign money in Michigan elections, as state law only bars it from super PACs.
• Require a 2-year period between leaving elected office and working as a lobbyist.
• Require former legislators who are doing “legislative consulting” to register and report as lobbyists.
• Eliminate the potential for quid-pro-quo corruption and “pay to play” by banning companies (and associated individuals with a controlling interest) that receive state grants or contracts from making political contributions.
• Enforce the Conflict of Interest Act (Act 318) to identify legislative conflicts of interest.
“State lawmakers can demonstrate real leadership by passing strong, enforceable legislation that would create true government transparency and accountability,” said Benson. “I look forward to working with them to that end, while my administration and our department continue to operate in full transparency.”
Benson noted that the Department of State and all state departments are subject to the Freedom of Information Act already, and that her administration launched the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission with complete transparency, made public the list of 177,000 voter registrations slated for cancellation more than a month in advance and worked with clerks on both sides of the aisle to conduct more than 250 audits of the November election – more than ever before in state history.
Benson also said that, this year, the Bureau of Elections will launch a new campaign finance filing system on its website that will make it easier for the public to track the finances of candidates.