Report: Former Michigan legislators seek out consulting jobs

November 30, 2019

DETROIT (AP) — More than a dozen former Michigan lawmakers who left the state Legislature at the end of 2018 due to term limits have avoided disclosing clients by working as consultants, rather than lobbyists, a newspaper has found.

There were 45 state legislators who departed last year. At least 14 such lawmakers — nearly one in every three — have created businesses that appear to offer consulting services, The Detroit News reported, citing its analysis of business filings and lobbying disclosures.

The number of politicians who become consultants or lobbyists goes against the idea that term limits, which voters approved in 1992, would end “cozy relationships” within the Capitol, said Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, a Wayne State University professor who has studied the impact of term limits.

“Relationships just are the lifeblood of the Legislature,” Sarbaugh-Thompson said. “They are going to have relationships with somebody.”

The public deserves to know when individuals are being paid to pass laws through the Legislature or advance policy changes, according to Lonnie Scott, executive director of the liberal group Progress Michigan, which has called for reforms to the state’s lobby laws.

“The problem comes when there’s a gray area between consulting and lobbying,” Scott added.

Of the Michigan lawmakers who left the Legislature because of term limits, eight are registered as lobbyists. Only five of them have followed the lobbyist mandate of publicly disclosing clients, according to records filed with the Michigan Secretary of State.

Former lawmakers said the difference between the two is that lobbyists communicate directly with legislators and high-ranking state officials to advance policy changes on groups’ behalf while consultants advise groups on how to reach their goals.

Former Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and former House Speaker Tom Leonard both formed consulting businesses in January, within a month of departing from the Legislature.


Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/