Group launches petition drive to reign out-of-control Lansing lobbying
HOUGHTON — An Michigan-based organization, registered as a ballot committee, launched a constitutional amendment ballot initiative effort to change laws in Michigan to increase government transparency, and curb rampant lobbying.
The organization, the Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, states on its website that corporate lobbyists have too much influence in Lansing; on every issue from workers’ rights to environmental justice to public education, corporate lobbyists have played a major role in shaping our state’s policy decisions, even when what they wanted would hurt working families.
“Lobbying firms spend hundreds of thousands on free food and fancy trips for members of the legislature,” the coalition stated. “Lawmakers regularly take jobs as lobbyists immediately after leaving office. Michiganders have no way of knowing what goes on behind the scenes between lobbyists and their elected officials.”
On Sept. 6, 2019, Progress Michigan announced the launching of the ballot committee. The ballot initiative, according to the ballot committee website states the initiative includes:
• Banning gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers.
• A mandatory cooling off period for elected officials leaving office before they can take a job as a lobbyist.
• More stringent reporting requirements on lobbying activities not only from lobbyists, but from lawmakers as well.
Bridge Michigan, in a Jan. 23, 2020, article stated the proposal also calls for:
• Requiring public officials and lobbyists to keep a public log of lobbying actions, including meetings and the subjects of conversations.
• Require all public communications aimed at influencing public officials, such as advertisements, to include a marker indicating who paid for them and how much they spent.
• Require lobbying logs be kept for at least six years.
• Give the Secretary of State the power to enforce the rules.
The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes, Bridge stated, consists of advocacy groups Progress Michigan, Michiganders for Fair and Transparent Elections, and other undisclosed partners. The coalition submitted ballot language with the state on Jan. 23, 2020. If approved, the groups would need to at least 425,059 valid signatures to place it on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The ballot language states:
“A constitutional amendment petition to regulate lobbying by adding Article III, Section 9 to the Michigan Constitution which would prohibit lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to public officials and their immediate families; prohibit a state elective officer from being a lobbyist for 2 years after leaving office; prohibit paying lobbyists on a contingency basis; require lobbyists and their clients to register and report lobbying expenditures; require lobbyists and public officials to keep a record of lobbying activity and make it public; require identification and reporting of lobbying communications; and require enforcement by by the Secretary of State.”
The Bridge referred to the Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes as a “liberal advocacy group.”
According to Influence Watch, a national watchdog, Progress Michigan is a “left-of-center advocacy organization” in Michigan. It is one of 22 state-level networks of Progress Now, a national organization of liberal groups started in Colorado to support left-wing networking and rapid response communications.
“Progress Michigan engages in political activity through social media and online communications, issuing news releases and comments for mainstream media outlets,” Influence Watch states. “It primarily targets Republican candidates and officeholders, Republican-led initiatives, and conservative- or libertarian-leaning organizations.”