Our state politicians, particularly the Michigan Legislature, have had a rough go of late, battered by naysayers who've questioned their ethics and public accountability.
First, a study conducted by government watchdog groups deemed Michigan one of seven states that merited an "F" grade for what they said is among the nation's least transparent, least effective set of rules to govern lobbying, campaign financing, and ethics enforcement.
In effect, a report released in March by the Center for Public Integrity, Public Radio International and Global Integrity, found Michigan's look-the-other way approach to governmental ethics is a breeding ground for corruption — akin to a mosquito seeking a water-logged tire for procreation.
Both thrive in fetid, swampy areas shrouded from sunlight.
Michigan law doesn't require politicians to disclose investments or assets, nor other financial entanglements. It's up to them to announce whether individual pieces of legislation help or hurt them, and state pols are allowed to create secret "leadership" accounts into which corporations and others may pour money to buy influence.
Late last month state Democrats introduced a proposal to expand the Freedom of Information Act to include members of the state House and Senate. Elected officials who dream up, pass or scrap laws aren't answerable to FOIA, and the Dems' plan would make pols' correspondence, phone records, etc., available for public review.
Except it won't, because state pols won't agree to anything that would allow the unwashed public to get a close look at their sausage factory. The would-be FOIA expansion is going nowhere.
Other recent shots across pols' bow include campaign finance reform proposals floated by Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. She contends the digital era means politicians should report campaign contributions faster than the Pony Express-like system and other disclosure avoidance techniques embraced by decision-makers. Refer to the previous paragraph to see where Johnson's plan is headed.
So what do our pols do when they're not catching flak from do-gooders about alleged ethical shortcomings? They make laws like the dandy piece of legislation Gov. Rick Snyder signed last week that saved the brother of state GOP Chairman Bobby Schostak from a $2.4 million personal judgment tied to his investment in Traverse City's Cherryland Center.
David Schostak's company stopped making mortgage payments on the Garfield Township mall in 2009 and a bank foreclosed in 2010.
Thirteenth Circuit Judge Philip Rodgers ruled, and a state appellate court agreed, that Schostak's company owed the lender $2.4 million; but a curiously bipartisan state Legislature scurried to create a retroactive safety net that Snyder claimed "encourages continued business investments in Michigan ..." Oh, and David Schostak's lawyer helped craft the legislation.
Michigan legislators ought to be glad the grading scale stops at "F."