You want to know how the Michigan Legislature actually works, within the world of partisan warfare and special interest groups eager to buy influence from their favorite lawmakers?
Consider this bit of insider politics reported by the nonprofit Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN):
Take Wednesday, March 21, for example. The first state House committee began at 9 a.m. The first fundraiser was scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m.
By 10 a.m. Wednesday, a (campaign) donor could have gone to fundraisers for five different state House members, according to invitations posted online. Inside a single office building, the Michigan Credit Union League was hosting a reception for Rep. Sue Allor, a Republican from Wolverine, on the fourth floor, and the Michigan Health & Hospital Association was hosting an event for Rep. Terry Sabo, a Democrat from Muskegon, on the 12th floor.
In total, there were nine fundraisers scheduled for Wednesday — a day during which lawmakers were also crafting the state budget and debating the possibility of tying work requirements to Medicaid eligibility. All nine of the fundraisers took place within walking distance of the Capitol.
Days like Wednesday aren’t unusual in Lansing where legislators face increasing pressure to raise money. According to a review of campaign finance disclosures, state elected officials reported having 601 fundraisers during 2017, a significant increase compared with previous years.
MCFN executive director Craig Mauger reports that the jump last year could be because 2017 leads into an election year, 2018, when Michigan voters will choose a new governor, a new attorney general and a new secretary of state. Voters will also select candidates to fill all 148 seats in the state Legislature.
Could be? I would say undoubtedly. What’s undeniable is that Mauger, a former journalist, has emerged as a major force in the Capitol as a reporter and researcher for the MCFN, exposing the underbelly of the Michigan Legislature, specifically it’s ethically challenged ties to lobbyists and special interest groups who are eager to pass around campaign cash at any time, at any place.
As Mauger notes in his newest post on the MCFN website, the upward trend in Lansing politics is two-fold. It takes a whole lot of money to win election to the state House or Senate, and it takes a whole lot of money from special interest groups and PACs to collect a sufficient campaign warchest.
In 2016, races for the Michigan House were the most expensive on record with seven individual races costing more than $1 million. The last time all 38 state Senate seats were on the ballot, Michigan saw the most expensive individual Senate race in state history. That campaign cost about $2.6 million combined for the Republican and Democratic contenders.
So, voters, judge for yourselves on what this all means. But keep this in mind: How would a private-sector employer react if an employee working for a minimal number of hours for a pretty decent salary spent far more time and effort, compared to the job at hand, sucking up cash from his best buddies?
I would guess the response would be obvious: You’re fired.