Michigan SOS proposes sweeping agenda to increase government transparency


Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. - JOCELYN BENSON/FACEBOOK
  • Jocelyn Benson/Facebook
  • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Monday announced a wide-ranging legislative agenda to increase government transparency.

The announcement coincides with the beginning of Sunshine Week, an annual initiative to promote open government.

“My legislative agenda would take Michigan from worst to first in government transparency, shine the light on dark money in politics and stop public corruption,” Benson said in a statement. “These are things lawmakers must do if they are serious about rebuilding public trust in our elected government.”

The Center for Public Integrity in 2015 ranked Michigan last among all states in government transparency.

Michigan is one of only two states that don’t require the Governor’s office or Legislature to disclose public records upon request. Last week, lawmakers revived a push to change that.  

Progress Michigan, a progressive organization that promotes government transparency, also announced a plan to launch a ballot drive in 2022 to force the government and Legislature to respond to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Benson’s “From Worst to First” agenda, which needs approval from lawmakers, would:

• Subject the Governor and Legislature to FOIA
• Require elected officials to disclose personal financial information
•Mandate more frequent campaign financial disclosures
• Require all PACs, Super PACS, and 527 committees to report all receipts and disbursements
• Create a threshold definition for electioneering in the Michigan Campaign Finance Act Tighten LLC reporting requirements to keep secret and foreign money from entering elections
• Ban foreign money in Michigan elections
• Require former lawmakers to register and report as lobbyists if they are working as legislative consultants
• Ban companies that receive state grants and contracts from making political contributions
• Enforce the Conflict of Interest Act to identify legislative conflicts of interest.

“State lawmakers can demonstrate real leadership by passing strong, enforceable legislation that would create true government transparency and accountability," Benson said. “I look forward to working with them to that end, while my administration and our department continue to operate in full transparency.”

Benson also said the Bureau of Elections is launching a new campaign finance filing system on its website to make it easier to candidates’ finances.

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