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Michigan Taxpayers Alliance Updates: February 2008

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leading Lottery Lawmaker is Lucky Lottery Winner!


Last Friday, State Representative Barb Farrah (D-Southgate) won a $2 million lottery prize during halftime of a Detroit Pistons game. Rep. Farrah was one of five finalists for the grand prize out of 875 lucky people who had earlier won a qualifying $1,000 instant scratch-off ticket.

The problem is that Rep. Farrah is the chairperson of the committee in Lansing that oversees the state lottery. And the method used to select the five finalists out of the 875 qualifiers was a non-public drawing conducted by a lottery employee.

News of the coincidence of the lucky key lottery legislator's win broke on the blog RightMichigan and you can read more here.

I served in the state legislature for four years with Rep. Barb Farrah and I believe that she is a very honest person who would never engage in any improper behavior. But with the state lottery, any appearance of impropriety must be avoided. That is why lottery employees are prohibited by law from winning the lottery. That law should be extended to include state lawmakers who directly oversee lottery laws and regulations.

To protect the integrity of the lottery, I have asked Attorney General Mike Cox to review the drawing that selected Rep. Farrah as one of the finalists for the grand prize. I believe that review would find no evidence of any wrongdoing by anyone. But the public deserves that assurance of fairness after a coincidence such as Rep. Farrah's lucky win occurs.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Government Bureaucrats Now Lobby with Your Tax Dollars


The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, an organization that tracks campaign donations, has found a sector of the state economy growing almost as fast as the state budget: lobbying. The MCFN reports that money spent lobbying Lansing lawmakers increased by six percent last year to just over $32 million.

Nick, who blogs at www.RightMichigan.com, found something interesting on the list. It seems that state government agencies are now spending your tax dollars to lobby state government. For example, the Michigan Department of Treasury spent over $90,000 last year to lobby lawmakers. And Governor Granholm spent over $63,000 of taxpayer money on lobbying government.

Why does the Treasury Department use your money to wine and dine state lawmakers? I have no idea. When I was in the state legislature, if I wanted to talk to the state treasurer or any department head, I called them. If a department head wanted to talk to me, we met in the office and talked. No government bureaucrat actually spent part of their budget "lobbying" me with food, drinks or entertainment. I understand that the public universities and local governments lobby lawmakers with football tickets and dinners all the time while asking for more money, but the Treasury Department? The Governor? The Department of Environmental Quality?

At least when private companies like General Motors, Ford, insurance companies, etc. spend money lobbying, they spend their own money. Now, bureaucrats are using YOUR money to lobby politicians for MORE of your money! Can this be legal?

The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance intends to find out how Treasury, the DEQ and others spent your money lobbying and will be sending a Freedom of Information Act request to the departments to find out. We won't bother sending a FOIA request to find out how Governor Granholm spent your money lobbying. The governor's office is specifically exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and Granholm has refused to respond to previous requests.

We will keep you posted.

In other news, plans are underway to increase voter turnout in upcoming elections. In case you missed it, the Detroit Free Press ran this little tidbit on Wednesday:

Seeking a captive audience

East Lansing political consultant Mark Grebner has a new get-out-the-vote program for Michigan Democrats. Among his target groups: prisoners.

It's a group Grebner says is often eligible to vote but doesn't for reasons including "an utter lack of political interest and knowledge" and "low level of literacy and inability to follow directions."

Grebner writes that about 80% of inmates are Democratic.

Unbelievable. I mean, who would encourage illiterate people with no political interest or knowledge to vote for state policymakers. What kind of politicians would we end up with? Hmmm. Best stop asking these questions...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Is your state lawmaker one of Lansing's biggest spenders?

Is your state lawmaker one of Lansing's biggest spenders? Or one of the most frugal?

The 2008 state budget spends $1,470,045,900 more than the 2007 budget. Below are the ten biggest-spending Republicans and Democrats in both the state House and state Senate, along with lists of the most frugal lawmakers. (Only those legislators who made all the budget votes are listed). The data was compiled by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

It should be noted that some lawmakers may have voted against the higher-spending budget bills because the bills did not increase spending ENOUGH to earn their vote.

Ten Biggest-Spending House Republicans:
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1. tie) Bill Caul Mt. Pleasant/99 $1,470,045,900
1. tie) Tory Rocca Sterling Heights/30 $1,470,045,900
3.) Brian Calley Pittsford/58 $1,463,545,900
4. tie) Tim Moore Farwell/97 $1,350,045,900
4. tie) David Palsrok Manistee/101 $1,350,045,900
6. tie) Law, David Commerce Twp./39 $1,332,045,900
6. tie) Phil LaJoy Canton/21 $1,332,045,900
6. tie) Jeff Hansen Hart/100 $1,332,045,900
6. tie) Darwin Booher Evart/102 $1,332,045,900
6. tie) Dick Ball Bennington Twp./85 $1,332,045,900
Ten Most Frugal House Republicans:
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1.) Fulton Sheen Plainwell/88 $6,500,000
2. tie) Glenn Steil Cascade/72 $7,500,000
2. tie) Joe Hune Hamburg Twp./47 $7,500,000
2. tie) Jack Hoogendyk Texas Twp./61 $7,500,000
5.) Kevin Elsenheimer Bellaire/105 $45,100,000
6.) John Pastor Livonia/19 $49,835,000
7.) Brian Palmer Romeo/36 $116,500,000
8.) David Hildenbrand Lowell/86 $121,000,000
9.) John Garfield Rochester/45 $126,500,000
10.) Marty Knollenberg Troy/41 $154,100,000
22 Democrats voted for the maximum increase of $1,470,045,900:
Name Location/District Name Location/District
Andy Dillon Redford/17 Ted Hammon Burton/50
Katleen Angerer Dundee/55 Jones, Robert Kalamazoo/60
Terry Brown Pigeon/84 Law, Kathleen Gibraltar/23
Brenda Clack Flint/34 Lamar Lemmons Detroit/2
Paul Condino Southfield/35 Jeff Mayes Bay City/96
George Cushingberry Detroit/8 Andy Meisner Ferndale/27
John Espinoza Croswell/83 Gino Polidori Dearborn/15
Matt Gillard Alpena/106 Dale Sheltrown West Branch/103
Lee Gonzales Flint Twp./49 Smith, Virgil Detroit/7
Marty Griffin Jackson/64 Dudley Spade Tipton/57
Richard Hammel Mt. Morris/48 Lisa Wojno Warren/28
34 Democrats voted for $1,350,045,900 or more in increases spending. Only 2 Democrats broke with the pack and voted for less spending:
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1.) Fred Miller Mt. Clemens/31 $1,211,045,900
2.) Mike Simpson Jackson/65 $1,332,045,900
Most Frugal Senate Republicans:
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1.) Nancy Cassis Novi/15th $217,600,000
2.) Jud Gilbert Algonac/25 $1,339,835,000
All of the remaining Senate Republicans (who voted on all the bills) voted for the maximum $1,470,045,900.
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1.) Michael Prusi Ishpeming/38 $1,205,545,900
2. tie) Deborah Cherry Burton/26 $1,219,835,000
2. tie) Irma Clark-Coleman Detroit/3 $1,219,835,000
2. tie) Dennis Olshove Warren/9 $1,219,835,000
2. tie) Gretchen Whitmer East Lansing/23 $1,219,835,000
Only 1 Senate Democrat voted for the maximum increase:
Rank Name Location/District Increased $$$
1.) Michael Switalski Roseville/10 $1,470,045,900

Leon Drolet
Michigan Taxpayers Alliance