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Michigan Republicans and their "pay to play" politics shows they are out of touch

Ever think you might want to be lieutenant governor? It’s not all that stressful. Basically, you have only two real duties. You preside over the state senate in case there’s a tie vote, and you serve as standby equipment in case the governor dies or resigns.

Oh, they do other things – preside over boards and commissions, mostly when asked by the governor, or push pet causes of their own. Sometimes the governors send them on trade missions or to visit scenes of disasters or tragedies. Depending on the relationship they have with their particular governor, they may be a close policy advisor or just someone who smiles and waves. Lieutenant governors are in charge when the governor leaves the state.

But basically, it’s not a lot of heavy lifting, and you get a salary of $111,510 a year. And you don’t have to run an expensive primary campaign. All you have to do is get nominated by the Republican state convention, which meets around Labor Day during an election year. Normally, they pick who the nominee for governor wants.

But sometimes, convention delegates have a mind of their own. True, they haven’t ignored the nominee’s wishes since 1964, when the delegates picked Bill Milliken over George Romney’s first choice, a now forgotten fellow named Allison Green.

But they might. Establishment Republicans were rattled three years ago when Wes Nakagiri, a Tea Party leader, attempted to get the convention to nominate him for lieutenant governor. His challenge was beaten back, but the thought of two incompatible running mates was enough to make party leaders shudder.

Some wanted to change the rules to allow the convention to do no more than respond to the gubernatorial nominee’s choice. Well, when the Republican Party’s policy committee met Monday night, they didn’t do that.

But what they did do was change the rules to say if you want to try to get the convention to nominate you, you need to pay a fee of $3,345. Pay to play, in other words.

If you want to run for Secretary of State or Attorney General, that will cost you slightly more -- $3,370. According to MIRS, the respected state capital news source, these fees were suggested by Ron Weiser, the personally very rich Michigan Republican Party chair.

He said the money would go towards defraying the cost of the convention. There are other fees, too -- $500 a pop for seeking nomination to the state supreme court, the state board of education, or a slot on the boards of the University of Michigan, Michigan State or Wayne State.

Gary Howell, the chair of the policy committee, told MIRS he thought the fees were fair, because these jobs had “significant salaries attached to them.”

Still, I don’t know of any “normal” job where you have to pay more than three thousand non-refundable dollars just to apply. And members of the state and university boards of education don’t make any salary at all. They serve as a public service.

Doesn’t making them pay $500 just to ask to do so sound a little … wrong? Now, I wouldn’t want to say that GOP policy makers are out of touch with average people.

But as all this indicates… they are.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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