Jocelyn Benson Calls for More Campaign Finance Disclosure, FOIA and Lobbying Reforms 

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Thursday, March 8th, 2018

Jocelyn Benson Calls for More Campaign Finance Disclosure, FOIA and Lobbying Reforms

In advance of Sunshine Week, Secretary of State candidate calls for personal financial disclosure among candidates, officeholders

Jocelyn Benson today unveiled details on her plan to promote transparency in Michigan state government, which the Center for Public Integrity has listed dead last among the states when it comes to transparency and accountability.

In announcing her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State, Benson said if elected in November she will champion reforms that will shine a light on the secret money flowing into the state’s election process and requiring instant disclosure of all political and lobbying money. Benson’s goal is to make Michigan one of the best states in the nation when it comes to transparency and accountability.

“Disclosure is the best way to limit the corrupting influence of money in politics,” Benson said. “Citizens have a right to know who is funding candidates for elected office and who is bankrolling the advertisements they see on television.”

Benson’s transparency agenda is designed, in part, to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened up a new era of money in politics. That ruling gave corporations an unlimited right to try to influence elected officials through election advertisements, and created a dangerous loophole that enables corporations controlled by foreigners to spend money to influence U.S. elections.

Benson who has been endorsed by men, women and organizations across Michigan including, most recently, the Michigan Education Association is calling for:

Increased and Instant Transparency and Disclosure

Michigan law should require unions and corporations to publicly file reports when they spend money from their treasury funds to influence elections, including so-called “issue ads.” These reports should be timely and the information filed should be made publicly available in an easily accessible format

A Ban on Foreign Money in Michigan Elections

Organizations controlled by foreigners should be prohibited from using their funds to support or oppose candidates or issues in Michigan.

Eliminating the Potential for Quid Pro Quo Corruption

Companies that have contracts with, grants from, or that receive tax benefits from the state of Michigan or any local government should be prohibited from using their funds to influence Michigan elections. A company that has applied for, submitted a bid for, or requested a contract, grant or tax benefit from the state of Michigan or a local government should be prohibited from spending money to influence elections while the application, bid or request is pending.

Lobby Reform

Several changes are needed to increase transparency and reduce conflicts of interest in Michigan’s lobby law including full, timely disclosure of all lobbying expenses and purposes, and a required two-year “cooling off” period before former public officials can become paid lobbyists.

Personal Financial Disclosure for Public Officials

Michigan’s constitutional officers, members of the state legislature and members of the Appeals Court and State Supreme Court, along with candidates for those offices, should be required to file annual financial disclosure statements regarding their income, assets, and liabilities.

Expansion of FOIA Law

The Governor and members of the Legislature should be subject to state’s Freedom of Information Law.

“A century ago, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt led the charge to limit the spending of large corporations in our elections,” Benson said. “Roosevelt believed, rightly so, that corporate spending should not drown out the voices of the people in our democracy.”

Benson said if elected Secretary of State she will advocate for the changes she’s outlined.

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