Dark money: AG calls for more transparency in campaign financing

LANSING – On Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, testified before the House Ethics and Oversight Committee in support of the Bringing Reforms in Integrity, Transparency and Ethics (BRITE) Act, a package bills to increase disclosure make demands for shadowy political funds, slow the revolving door of lawmakers-turned-lobbyists, and expand disclosure of gifts to elected officials.

In her testimony, the attorney general called on the Legislature to close loopholes in Michigan campaign finance law, which currently allows powerful interests to fund politicians through secret means to prevent public disclosure of their pursuit of influence. Nessel criticized current ineffective statutes as contributing to a culture of corruption and giving bad actors a private highway to influence elections and public policy.

“Dark money threatens the impartiality of elected officials in all branches of government and, as we have seen far too often, lends itself to political corruption,” Nessel said. “Democracy dies in darkness. If we can’t stop the influence of special interest money, we can shine a light on it, and the BRITE package before us today is a solid first step towards restoring public confidence in the Michigan politics.”

Nessel has been a strong advocate of improving standards of government ethics and transparency and prosecuting those who use positions of power for personal gain. Earlier this week, Nessel charged former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield with 13 felonies for allegedly orchestrating a self-enrichment scheme against state, campaign and nonprofit funds. The attorney general has charged two individuals in recent months in connection with an alleged money scheme to use nonprofits to illegally conceal donations to the Unlock Michigan ballot initiative.

However, Nessel said in her testimony that the current statutes governing political funds and donor disclosures in this state are meaningless and that the people of Michigan deserve a fully transparent and accountable system that does not operate in the dark.

“In all these cases, it is the weakness of these laws that has made it easy for people associated with our government representatives, and for big-money donors, to circumvent the system for personal gain, while also avoiding any legal responsibility for their avoid evil deeds. behavior,” Nessel said.

Included in the legislative package are House Bills 5580, 5581, 5582, 5583, 5584, 5585 and 5586. Before the committee today were HBs 5583 and 5586, although AG Nessel was allowed to speak to the entire offering. Nessel urged the body, with a newly restored Democratic majority, to put these basic guardrails in place, telling lawmakers on the committee: “None of you here in elected office now created this unseemly state of affairs . You have not violated our system or the public’s trust in government. But you now have a chance to fix it. I ask that you not waste this opportunity to do what is right for Michigan.”