In December, the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press published “Conflicted Interests,” an investigation that analyzed the disclosure reports from 6,933 lawmakers across the 47 states that required such reports at the time. Idaho and Vermont were the two other states that did not require financial disclosures, but Vermont started requiring them this year. In Idaho, which has a part-time Legislature, lawmakers shot down legislation in January to require them.
The news organizations' probe found numerous examples across the country of lawmakers who have introduced and supported legislation that directly and indirectly helped their own businesses, employers or personal finances.
In Michigan, it is up to legislators to police themselves and abstain from voting if there is a potential conflict of interest. But it is rare for them to do so. A total of 25 House members disclosed their own potential conflicts of interest at least 38 times amid voting on more than 10,000 bills from 2009 through 2017, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis conducted earlier this year. Even so, the Center found five legislators who voted on the bills in which they had noted their own conflicts.
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said conflicts of interest are common in the Great Lakes State and blamed both the lack of transparency and term limits for creating abuses of power in the legislature. Michigan has one of the strictest term limit laws in the nation, allowing lawmakers to serve no more than three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.
“We see a lot of rotation of state lawmakers, and they don’t always stop doing what they were doing before they became a state lawmaker,” Scott said. “We also have very weak lobbying laws, very weak financial disclosure laws, and really all of that put together is a recipe for corruption.”
We're collecting the disclosures here. Stay tuned for more additions.