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Where does Michigan rank in a "State Integrity Investigation"? Dead last

These 14 states were in the bottom of the rankings. Michigan was ranked the worst.
Center for Public Integrity
These 14 states were in the bottom of the rankings. Michigan was ranked the worst.

Fiftieth out of fifty states.

That's where Michigan ranks in a report released today by the Center for Public Integrity.

The last time we wrote about this, Michigan ranked 43rd out of 50. 

In his piece on Michigan for the Center for Public Integrity, Chad Selweski details just why Michigan is at the bottom of the barrel:

A significant factor in Michigan’s 2015 ranking is its lack of effective disclosure rules for officials in nearly all facets of state government. Conflicts of interest and potential public corruption remain buried in an honor system with no honor. Thanks to loopholes created by the legislature, big spenders representing special interests can dramatically influence an election without leaving a trace.

State representative Jon Hoadley, D-Kalamazoo, says the basement ranking is an embarrassment to the state.

"This is not a government of the people, by the people, and for the people," he says. "This is a government of special interests for special interests."

Hoadley says he’d like Michigan to adopt reforms including requiring lawmakers to disclose personal financial interests, and making the governor’s office and the Legislature subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network says a third of the spending in last year’s campaigns for governor, the Legislature, and the state Supreme Court was so-called “dark money.”

In his piece for the Center for Public Integrity, Selweski highlights a story when Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson came close to daylighting some campaign financing information.

During a Senate committee meeting in November 2013, Senators were discussing a bill that would double the amount people could give to candidates. 

Then something puzzling happened. In a rare move, the legislators called a recess midway through the session. A lobbyist in the audience who was friendly with the committee chairman, it was later learned, received an urgent phone call warning that Secretary of State Ruth Johnson had just announced new administrative rules requiring the disclosure of campaign donors in all circumstances. When the committee reconvened, an amendment was hastily attached to the legislation, which would override Johnson’s decision and preserve Michigan’s “dark money” campaign practices. House and Senate approval of the bill soon followed, as did Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, called the quick change to the bill “a hostile action.”

“We don’t have full public disclosure and it’s not because good people failed to do the right thing, it’s because those bastards did the wrong thing.”

Melanie McElroy is with the watchdog group Common Cause.

“Michigan has become so weak on transparency and disclosure, the voices of ordinary people are being drowned out by special interests, insiders, and lobbyists,” says McElroy.

Want to read more on this topic? Click on all of Lester Graham's "Money Talks" segments below.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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