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Reform slackage?

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The Michigan House last week overwhelmingly passed legislation to slow down what critics call the "revolving door" that allows public officials to go to work for lobbying firms as soon as they leave office.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Marc Corriveau (D-Northville) would require legislators and other state-level elected officials to wait one year before they can start to lobby.

But don't go cheering just yet. News Hits gave a call to Rich Robinson, executive director of the watchdog Michigan Campaign Finance Network and a true good-government kind of guy, to get his take on all this.

His response: Be wary of fig leaves.

The legislation, says Robinson, is filled with loopholes. For example, former legislators may not be allowed to engage in lobbying for a year, but there's nothing to stop them from, say, being paid to map out a strategy for others interested in lobbying the Legislature. Or a lobbying firm could hire them as a "rainmaker" focused on bringing in clients. Also, threshold limits regarding contact with policymakers are set very high, and some functions that clearly involve lobbying aren't covered.

"I think the motivations are good, but there are some real deficiencies with this stuff," says Robinson.

Other reform bills — including a law that would require elected state officials to file financial disclosure statements and another that deals with exposing the forces behind so-called issue ads — are in the works.

The question is, will they resemble your toothless granny and be all gums with no real bite?

If you're interested in seeing reforms passed that have their incisors intact, a good way to start would be to visit the Michigan Campaign Finance Network's Web site at mcfn.org.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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