Michigan could soon be the only state that doesn’t require state lawmakers to disclose their finances.
Of the other two states that had not required financial disclosures, Vermont passed a law this year to require reporting in 2018 and the Idaho legislature is expected to take up the issue in January.
Craig Mauger is with the Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan group which investigates how money impacts Michigan politics. He said not only do state lawmakers not have to disclose information, they also are not prohibited from voting in their own self-interest.
“There is no law in Michigan that bars state lawmakers from voting on bills in which they have a personal financial interest or a conflict of interest.”
Mauger said there’s no question a lawmaker’s financial interest can influence their vote.
“There was a lawmaker last session who sponsored an amendment that said ‘airports cannot block ride-sharing apps like uber from picking up passengers.’ It turned out this lawmaker had been a driver for Uber on the side in addition to his work in the legislature.”
Mauger said without financial disclosure requirements it’s nearly impossible to know when lawmakers are voting in their own self-interest. He said Michigan’s lawmakers show no signs that they will increase transparency.
“If I was prognosticating I would say it’s unlikely that this is going to change in the next year and a half, in rest of this legislative session. Because the current lawmakers who would be in power to decide whether such a change would go forward have already publicly stated their opposition to this.”
Lawmakers can abstain from voting if they have a conflict of interest but Mauger said instances of self-reporting have been on the decline.
Between 2011-2012 lawmakers abstained from voting and reported conflicts of interest 22 times. In the 15-16 session lawmakers only reported six times.