Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

Lawmakers Must Report Every Lobbyist Meal 

06/06/24 10:21 AM By Team MIRS

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 06/05/2024) Attorney General Dana Nessel opined Wednesday that public officers must disclose lobbyist-paid meals, travel payments and travel reimbursements under the state's new public official financial disclosure law, whether or not the lobbyists report them. 

In a formal opinion, authored at Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s request, Nessel concluded the new Public Officers Financial Disclosure Act requires public officers to disclose all payments of any value made by a lobbyist to a charity in lieu of honoraria. 

“Knowledge of public officers’ financial interests and entanglements permits the public to determine when those officers might be acting for their own gain,” Nessel’s opinion reads. “Simply disclosing that a public officer has a ‘pension,’ ‘annuity,’ or ‘deferred compensation’ plan would not advance the purpose of the amendment (2022-1).”  

The Secretary of State also can require public officers to provide identifying information – such as an address – for reporting sources of unearned income, securities and investments. 

Lastly, the Attorney General concluded that the Secretary of State may also require public officers to list the date of a gift, travel payment, travel reimbursement, or payment to charity, along with the name and identification number of the lobbyist involved. 

Proposal 1 of 2022 revamped legislative term limits and financial transparency, requiring state elected officials, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, SOS, AG and lawmakers, to file annual public financial disclosure reports beginning April 15, 2024. 

Benson requested the opinion in April after her office received questions about whether filers using the SOS’ Personal Financial Disclosure Portal had to provide the addresses of the sources of their unearned income, securities and investments. 

In a statement Wednesday, Benson said Michigan voters “took a stand” when they passed Proposal 1. 

“I have been a consistent advocate for a more transparent and ethical state government, so I take my responsibility to carry out that mandate very seriously,” she said. “I’m grateful for the Attorney General’s thoughtful analysis of our personal financial disclosure tool and that we agree on the proper interpretation of the law in this case. We are on solid legal footing and have implemented the requirements of Proposal 1 in accordance with the state constitution.  

“This opinion provides clarity and certainty that will help Michigan take steps in the right direction – toward a state government that is accountable to the people we serve,” Benson added.  

The first financial disclosure period has passed with a wide range of compliance. Some lawmakers, like Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon), went beyond expectations by reporting every time a lobbyist picked up the tab for a meal. 

On the other hand, others, like Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Twp.), mailed in his financial disclosure form after losing patience with the online portal. 

The information is still not publicly available.