Once again, Michigan has received an “F” from the watchdog groups that keep track of the transparency and accountability associated with each state’s election system.
That’s because Michigan politicians are able to enjoy a cozy relationship with one another and, due to the state’s lack of reporting requirements, the voters never know the difference.
Michigan is one of the few states that do not require even the most generic reporting of officials’ income and assets. And it’s one of just three states left that relies upon the “honor system,” which expects a politician to abstain from a vote on matters when he will benefit financially.
No matter how many dinners and drinks and gifts lobbyists buy for elected officials, they never have to report anything valued under $55.
Political parties can collect unlimited contributions from individuals and that money, of course, is then doled out to party favorites or needy candidates. What’s more, in non-election years, officials only report their campaign cash once a year.
And my own personal favorite: The State Ethics Board has no funding, no staff, and no “teeth” to nab elected or appointed officials for unethical behavior.
Michigan ranked number 43 in the study by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity and two other watchdog groups, which nearly matched its past rankings.
The reason why our state’s political system has such a terrible track record in the categories of transparency and integrity is that every time the advocates for campaign finance reform speak out – in the public square or in the Legislature – they are nudged aside by legislative leaders who say, basically, that Lansing has better things to do.
A 16-bill package on ethics and reform assembled by the Democrats is floundering in the House because the Republican leadership has chosen to ignore it. Partisanship is obviously at work here.
But Rep. Pete Lund, a Shelby Township Republican who chairs the House Ethics and Elections Committee, said the other day that ethics reform is not a priority for voters.
“When I talk to constituents, they talk to me about jobs rather than what kind of assets I have,” Lund said in an interview with one of the Detroit papers.
The problem with that kind of thinking, Rep. Lund, is that most people assume that you would get caught – and would be in big trouble – if you voted for a bill that would line your own pockets.
And most people would be outraged to know that you can cast a vote that would line your pockets without anyone knowing, even the voters. Especially the voters.