15 lawmakers and their potential conflicts of interest


A log trucking company owner eases rules on logging trucks. The president of a real estate management company recommends decreasing the liability of landlords over bedbugs. A father votes to give his daughter a raise.

Conflicts of interest?

On the surface they may appear to be, but that hasn’t stopped Michigan lawmakers from voting on bills that impact their professions, their personal lives or those of their loved ones, though a few have voluntarily refrained from voting, citing such a conflict.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network and Bridge Magazine examined voting records and official biographies of current Michigan senators and representatives, and spoke to people associated with both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature. The result: a list of votes that raise questions about potential conflicts of interest.

Related: In Lansing, where potentially self-serving votes run ‘rampant’

Review the examples below and tell us what you think. Are these issues on which the lawmakers should have refrained from voting? Can you identify other votes in Lansing that may present conflict concerns? If so, write to Craig Mauger or Ron French.

Sen. Tom Casperson and logging

According to the official Senate biography of Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, he worked “27 years in his family’s log trucking business, including 12 years as its owner and operator,” before joining the Legislature. His family appears to continue to own Casperson & Sons Trucking. In 2016, he sponsored SB 706, which would prohibit local governments from requiring special permits for logging trucks, which are sometimes overweight. The bill passed the Senate in June and is awaiting action in the House, In 2013 he sponsored Senate Bill 78, that could have restricted the state’s ability to manage forests. It was vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Casperson’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Brandt Iden and bedbugs

In 2015, Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Twp., sponsored House Bill 4520. The bill is meant to clarify who is responsible when a rental property becomes infested with bedbugs. According to the House Fiscal Agency, the landlord would not be liable for damages arising from an infestation or from control or treatment, except in the case of gross negligence. According to his official State House biography, Iden “is currently the president of Identity Management & Consulting Inc., real estate management company.” Iden's office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Sen. Darwin Booher and his daughter’s pay

In 2015, Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, cited a potential conflict of interest as his reason for not voting on Senate Bill 56, a bill that changed the way judicial salaries are calculated. “My daughter (Kimberly Booher) is a judge in the 49th Circuit Court,” in Mecosta County, Booher explained to the Leelanau Enterprise in January 2016. But when Senate Bill 56 returned to the Senate for a concurrence vote, Booher voted for the bill. A statement from his office said Booher assumed he should recuse himself from voting the first time the issue came up because he was related to a judge. “Upon more careful review of the senate rule it was clear that the rule is intended to address those issues where the senator himself would benefit. Booher decided fulfilling his duty to vote as an elected member of the senate was the best course of action and did so rather than abstain,” the statement said. A Senate rule states members should not vote on bills in which they have a “personal, private or professional interest.”

Sen. Mike Kowall and online gambling

Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, sponsored Senate Bill 889 this year to allow online gaming and the issuance of online gaming licenses. As first reported by the Detroit Free Press, Kowall’s wife, Eileen, works for a lobbying firm that represents a company that owns online gaming websites. Mike Kowall told the Free Press that he was working on the legislation before his wife was hired by the lobbying firm and insisted that the bill wouldn’t financially benefit his wife.

Rep. Ken Goike and septic tank trucks

Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Twp., is the “owner of Goike Trucking and Excavating,” according to his official House biography. According to the company’s website, “Goike Excavating has been the top installer of septic systems in Macomb County.” In 2015, he sponsored House Bill 4734, which “would add septage waste vehicles performing emergency septic work to the vehicles granted an exception to seasonal vehicle weight limits,” says the House Fiscal Agency. The bill is in the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee. Goike’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Anthony Forlini and landlords

In the 2015-2016 session, which ends in December, Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Twp. has introduced three bills relating to the relationship between a landlord and tenant. One, House Bill 4038, allows landlords to deliver eviction notices by email. That became law in May 2015. Another, House Bill 5767, allows late fees to be awarded in summary action for possession of premises. That bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. According to a financial disclosure report Forlini filed to run for Congress in 2016, he has a financial interest in at least five rental properties that he’s currently receiving rental income from.

Forlini said he doesn’t view the situation as a conflict of interest. The legislation on email communications is supported by both landlords and tenants and wouldn’t benefit himself financially, Forlini said. But an analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency stated that critics found email notification of eviction “troubling,” because email addresses often change and not everyone checks email frequently. Forlini said he knows the rental business and saw an opportunity to fix a "problem in the system."

Rep. Jason Sheppard and historic preservation districts

Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance, is “a commercial real estate agent with Signature & Associates,” according to his official House biography. Sheppard co-sponsored and has touted a bill, House Bill 5232, which would make it more difficult to maintain and to create historic preservation districts, according to opponents. That bill is in the House Local Government committee. Sheppard’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Ben Glardon and auctioneers

Rep. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso, is the president of Glardon Auction Service, his official House biography says. In 2014, Glardon voted against bills, including House Bill 4683, that did away with a state registration system for auctioneers, meaning current registered auctioneers could face competition from unregistered auctioneers. That bill became law in June 2014. Glardon’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Rep. Mike Callton and chiropractors

Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, is chair of the House Health Policy Committee. He is also the owner of Nashville Chiropractic Center. In 2015, Callton’s committee took up and advanced House Bill 4712 to allow chiropractors to prescribe physical therapy services for their patients, a measure which if enacted could help chiropractors better maintain relationships with patients. The bill was supported by the Michigan Association of Chiropractors. The House has taken no action since the committee approved the bill in June 2015. The association also supported a package of bills that Callton helped sponsor to take on excessively high copays from insurance companies. Callton’s bill in the package is House Bill 5623. The bill is in the House Insurance committee. Callton said he understood why some people could see him voting on chiropractic policies as a conflict of interest.

Rep. Earl Poleski and accounting

Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, is a certified public accountant. In 2013, he helped sponsor bills that set equity and voting rights thresholds for corporations and limited-liability companies that want to practice public accounting. Poleski’s bill was House Bill 4654. It said 50 percent of a professional corporation’s equity and voting rights had to be held by those licensed to practice public accounting in order for the corporation to practice it. Poleski said he didn’t believe there was any conflict in sponsoring the bill because it didn’t give him specific advantages over anyone else. Poleski said his knowledge of certified public accounting helped him explain the proposal to his colleagues. It became law in October 2013.

Sen. Curtis Hertel and the Department of Health and Human Services

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-Meridian Twp., is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Health and Human Services Subcommittee, which works on the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel is a former employee of the Department of Community Health, which is now part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel’s wife, Elizabeth, is director of policy and legislative for the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel said the situation isn’t a conflict of interest because he makes voting decisions independently and isn’t biased by his ties. He said his constituents wouldn’t be surprised he’s working on health care related matters because he’s passionate about them and he’s not afraid to disagree with his wife. “I don’t mind sleeping on the couch if it means I’m right,” he said.

Rep. Edward Canfield and physician certifications

Rep. Edward Canfield, R-Sebewaing, is an osteopathic family physician. In 2015, he sponsored two bills, House Bill 5090 and House Bill 5091, that would amend the state insurance code so osteopaths would not have to maintain national or regional certification to get an insurance claim paid. Canfield said the bills wouldn’t impact him because he has a non-expiring certification. It could, however, impact his wife’s certification. Canfield said the bill is an effort to keep doctors practicing medicine by reducing the number of tests they have to take. The bill is in the House Health Policy committee.

Sen. Joe Hune and Tesla

Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, offered an amendment to House Bill 5606 in 2014 that strengthened Michigan’s ban on auto manufacturers selling vehicles directly to customers instead of through franchised auto dealers. The amendment was seen as a strike at the company Tesla. Hune faced criticism for the move because his wife, Marcia, works as a lobbyist for a firm that represents the Auto Dealers of Michigan. Hune told the Livingston Daily in 2014 his amendment “simply clarified that all companies would be treated the same as everyone else." The bill became law in October 2014.

Rep. Ken Yonker and landscape architects

In 2013, Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia, introduced House Bills 4686 and 4687, part of a package to repeal licensing requirements for landscape architects in Michigan. According to his official Michigan House web page, Yonker is “the founder and owner of Yonker’s Landscaping Inc.” Yonker’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. The bills died in the House Regulatory Reform committee.

Rep. Eric Leutheuser and auto dealer training

Rep. Eric Leutheuser, R-Hillsdale, “has worked at Leutheuser Buick GMC for over 30 years,” according to his official House biography. In April 2016, he introduced House Bill 5577, which would require the Secretary of State to create and fund training programs for certain auto dealers and would allow “mobility dealer endorsements” for dealers who sell vehicles designed for disabled individuals. The language on training programs has been removed from the bill. Leutheuser’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment. The bill passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

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David Marckini
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:16am
Seems really unbelievable, doesn't it. And I suspect that these people don't think that they're abusing their position, and that people like me see them as greedy and someone who should not be allowed to hold any public position.
John C. Stewart
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:29am
I agree with you
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 5:40pm
crooks, all of them
Tue, 11/01/2016 - 7:09pm
so tired of my representatives working for their personal interests or families! They don't remember they work for us!! I really feel like their all just sleezy and that's sad!
Mark Bertler
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:26am
Working as a lobbyist in Michigan for over 30 years, I came across conflicts of interest quite often with some being more glaring and self serving than others. After moving to California, and becoming an appointed government official, I found that i was subject to something called the Brown Act, (Ralph Brown, not Jerry Brown), which required me and all other elected and appointed officials in California to attend a training, every two years, on rules relating to public officials and open meetings, gifts, ethics, etc. While California my not be a model of ethical behavior among public officials, there is at least an opportunity to assure that every public official knows what the rules are which reduces plausible deniability and mansplaining.
Helen Yancy
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:16am
How can we make that happen here in Michigan?
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 1:04pm
The climate in Michigan at the present time would never get such a sensible solution passed. That is why our legislature is at the bottom of the approval heap. Sad.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:30am
This reminds me of a Mark Twain saying: Babies and Politicians should be changed often--- and for the same reason.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:25am
By any chance, are any of these 15 up for reelection this year? It might be nice for the voters in their districts to understand where their priorities lie.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 4:19pm
All 110 seats in the Michigan House or Representatives are up for grabs in this election. Well, the vast majority of those seats are safe, but we have an opportunity to vote at least. The state Senate seats aren't up again until 2018, along with the governorship. Also, some of these people are retiring due to term limits (2 terms (8 years) in Senate, 3 terms (6 years) in House). You can see the full list here, and read about who is considered "safe" and who isn't, here: https://ballotpedia.org/Michigan_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2016
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 10:46am
Yes, MI House & Senate ARE changed often (thanks Mr. Twain) - that is a big part of the problem...they spend too much time creating favors and connections and donors to get re-elected before term limits set in. This year it is the full House - time to vote them out if there are conflicts of interest [and other reasons]. The full Senate is up for re-election in 2018.
Tue, 03/21/2017 - 8:40am

Agreed, vote for them out!

Sun, 10/30/2016 - 10:55am
Here's a good rundown...by Bridge, of course on the MI House status: "In all, 42 state House seats are open this year, 38 of them due to term limits. Four seats are up for other reasons. Michigan limits state representatives to three two-year terms. Republicans hold a 62-45 edge in the House, which has three vacancies. If the Democrats win the two empty seats they previously held, they would need to pick up nine more to gain the required 56 seats for a majority." http://bridgemi.com/2016/10/democratic-gains-in-house-could-shift-debate...
Jeffrey Suhre
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:36am
A major Majority of these reported Conflicts of Interests appear to be coming from the (R) political in MI. Is it time for a Political Revoultion? By removng Control of 3 Branches of State Government by only one Political Party? This Opportunity is happening on Tuesday November 8, 2016.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:54am
What happened to the idea of "public Servants"? My impression is that Lansing is dominated by lobbyists and special interests with the public finishing dead last. What ever happened to folks like Millican and Levine?
william plumpe
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:07pm
I'm not an attorney but a well educated individual with an accounting background and an MBA who worked in government finance for 25 years. I will give you my professional non-attorney opinion of each case. Here are the first five. Before I do that let me explain my standards. There are direct benefits---where a legislator or a family member is getting a benefit in reduced cost or increased revenue for them or their business. If the legislator is actively promoting a law that gives a direct benefit and that law passes I would consider that a conflict of interest. To be very proper the legislator should recuse themselves before the issue is decided or not vote on the issue. An indirect benefit is as the above but the benefit is contingent upon something else happening or is a public health or safety issue. Under these standards I would be of the opinion that: Representative Caperson has a definite conflict of interest. He or a family member or an associated business gets a definite cost reduction if the bill passes. Representative Brandt on the other hand has no direct and obvious benefit unless one of his properties has a bedbug problem. It is a clarification of an earlier law not a direct benefit that reduces a cost or increases revenue. And is more directed to the issue of public health and landlord liability. Representative Booher---conflict of interest because a family member will increase personal revenue as a result of the bill. Representative Kowall---a tough call but no direct benefit so no conflict. Finally Representative Goike---the toughest call of all. A direct benefit but it depends upon how narrowly "emergency" is defined. If "emergency" is very narrow in scope say after a natural disaster like a tornado that would have connection to the public good and health and safety---then no conflict. If emergency is very widely defined so that almost any event involving Representative Goike's trucks could be construed as an "emergency" then probably a conflict. Again to be absolutely squeaky clean Representative Goike should recuse himself or at least abstain from voting. And there need to be stricter ethics rules that are codified and are enforced in regards to conflicts of interest. I'll do the other ten later.
Ron French
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:17pm
Thanks for your thoughtful reply! I look forward to seeing the rest.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:59pm
Darwin Booher is my state senator. It is interesting to learn that "upon more careful review" he concluded that his daughter must not be of a "personal interest" to him (as the Senate rule stated). You can bet that before the next election (and "upon more careful review, thanks to this expose), I am highly likely to have no "personal interest" in voting for him!
William Plumpe
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 8:06am
As I promised let's test the next five using the standards I established above. Fortini---a grey area but since no direct benefit in reduced expenses or increased revenue no conflict. Representative Fortini would be wise at a later date to try to fix the e mail problem noted. Sheppard---No obvious and immediate direct benefit so no conflict. Sheppard's experience as a commercial real estate agent could actually be helpful to give that side of the issue. Making the process more difficult might fix an oversight problem. Glardon---No direct, obvious and immediate benefit to him or his family so no conflict since the Representative is just advocating for his constituents which is part of his job. If any of those constituents tried to unduly influence his vote that is another matter. Callton---a tough call but no direct, obvious and immediate benefit so no conflict. And the change the bill supports might improve patient services and lower patient cost. There is a definite potential for benefit to the public. Poleski---a clear case of a professional setting reasonable professional standards according to the law. I assume the State Board of Accountancy concurs with Representative Poleski or at least has no opinion. I will do the last five tomorrow. These five show that how the change effects the public good is one important factor to consider. If the change has the potential to significantly improve the public good it is not a conflict. If the change is primarily to benefit a specific group that includes the legislator and has little or no public benefit it is a conflict.
William C Plumpe
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 5:30pm
OK. Here are the last five as I promised. Hertel---a tough call that would depend on the situation. If Hertel, his wife or a family member got a direct financial benefit as a result of Hertel voting for the bill or advocating for it then a conflict. Probably best for Hertel to abstain from voting. Canfield---no direct financial benefit but the bill might negatively effect the public good in terms of assurance of quality of care so if I were Representative Canfield I'd abstain from voting. Hune---another tough call. Since no immediate, direct, obvious and material financial benefit no conflict. But watch out though for dealings between Hune's wife and the ADM. Improper dealings could create a problem. But that is a separate issue. Yonker---not sure. Landscape architect is a professional, licensed designation different from a landscaper. Landscape architects with a degree in landscape architecture need to be licensed to protect the quality of work and maintain established professional standards. Landscapers are generally not licensed but could be. Leutheuser---I see no conflict but maybe the dealer should pay for training through the manufacturer who works with the Secretary of State to develop the training program. If the dealer perceives a possible financial benefit from the training then they should pay for it. Just goes to show that everything is not as cut and dry as it looks. But it is important that ethics standards are drawn up and put in place and operating. And that they are strictly enforced but that a certain amount of leeway is allowed. We don't want to impose so many rules that doing work and getting something done is severely hindered but we don't want to allow blatant disregard for the rules either. That is why I like the standard of direct, obvious and material financial benefit for the individual, a family member or an associated business enterprise. It is relatively straightforward and easy to evaluate.
Richard Cole
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:21pm
Wonderful reporting on an extremely important issue. Think its bad now? Imagine what it would be like with a "part-time" legislature in which it is an accepted practice to elect public officials who, obviously, must have a full-time salary in order to feed their families.
William Plumpe
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 1:46pm
Or even worse imagine Donald Trump as President and him advocating as President for very liberal laws for casinos. Being an active businessperson could involve Trump in all sorts of potential conflicts of interest even if his family runs the business and his shares are put in a blind trust. Just another of many reasons Trump is not fit to be President.
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 11:43am
William, I really appreciate your analysis, I think how you approach the assessment of conflict of interest would be a very good tool for voters to use when considering candidates. I think that turning this into such assessment tool would seem to fit the purpose of Bridge and be a valued service to readers. I encourage Mr. French and Bridge to explore your methodology/logic/criteria and convert it into a 'checklist' for voters. If nothing else, could you capture your approach in bullet points and put it into a reply to this comment. I would like to use your reasoning for the upcoming election.
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 11:48am
William, I apologize for mis-linking my request to your not one Trump. I meant to include it with the comments you were offering on the candidates included in the article. Please accept my error and apology and consider my request for the Michigan election process.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:31pm
So called Federalist Republicans want the ability to self-govern as a state when the feds do something they don't like, then they put all these restrictions on local governments when it's in their financial interest but not in the interest of communities. Pathetic.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:31pm
A sad but great article. Not surprising that Gov Snyder signs this stuff when it reaches his desk as Snyder sets a worse example than these legislators when it comes to ethical behavior. You should take a look at how Snyder with no legal authority has taken a couple of million in tax dollars to pay for his criminal defense. In 187 years no state official has ever used state funds for a criminal defense. State procurement law does not allow it, state law requires the AG to approve it, the State Ad Board does not have the authority to even confer it to the Governor to spend state funds for his personal benefit. Even Rod Blagojevich did not have this much chutzpah. Unlike civil litigation which the state does defend, by definition criminal activity is never within the scope of any state officials authority or job. That is why the legislature passed the legal defense fund act. A multi millionaire like Snyder who has been sued for insider trading and other actions could certainly find a way to pay for his criminal defense without charging taxpayers.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:32pm
This is very discouraging! Furthur it points up that our legislature should be part time as so many if these elected officials have other full time emoymebt not in Lansing even!!! We are one if inly 11 states that have full time legislatures! Sadly just as with congress our elected officials are not earning their tax supported salaries! Time for a change!
William Plumpe
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 1:56pm
Sorry but I do not agree. Part time legislators risk part time results. Part time legislatures are the lazy citizens solution to every problem. Making laws and running a State Government takes time and money. If you want better government advocate for more honesty and transparency not less working time. And require that legislators work a certain number of days a year and must attend a minimum number of legislative sessions. And stipulate when their vacations are and how long they are. Legislators work for voters and we should be able to set their work rules as long as those rules are reasonable. Say a maximum of three weeks vacation a year not including government holidays based upon seniority.
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 5:50am
We must also put stops in place for the punitive legislation coming out of lame duck sessions. All lame duck acts should be revoted in April of the new year and enacted only if they pass both votes. This would give both the people and legislators an opportunity to act appropriately on fast track legislation.
Sat, 10/29/2016 - 1:31am
William, How do you judge whether a state legislature is effective or not? Of the 50 states, 8 have full time legislatures [Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Wisconsin]. Which of those states is doing better than Minnesota, or growing more than Texas, or you pick the metric? I lived in Missouri, being part-time made then created a disciplined process for addressing proposed laws, they were submitted by a set date and discussion and voting done prior to the end of the session. Proposed new laws had to be well prepared; they were competing for slots on the voting schedule so the level of preparation influenced which made the schedule [a poorly prepared proposal would take up too much time so it would loss its place in the Que]. People have a tendency to fill space available, so it seems politicians seem to fill time available. Being part-time limits what is available and encourages discipline to get things done, it would seem our legislature could benefit from more discipline. As for running the government, it seems that running the government is the responsibility of the executive branch. I don’t know of any role Legislators have in the day-to-day decisions in running the government. I think we should let go of how things have been done and consider what needs to be delivered. What are the roles/responsibilities of legislators, what are the results they need to deliver, how can they most effectively deliver on expectations. As the saying goes, think outside the ‘box.’
William C Plumpe
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 7:11am
I think your reply demonstrates how the legislators have too much leeway in making their own work rules. I don't think part time legislature is a good idea---part time involvement means part time results and governing a State is important business. Same with term limits. Part time and term limits are a very passive rather than active form of oversight. They give the voter a feeling of doing something but really do not address the basic problems. I would suggest voters look at themselves like stockholders of a corporation at a stockholder meeting. The legislators work for us not the other way around so I think we as voters have the right and duty to set work rules like work vs vacation time and minimum performance standards. Term limits and part time are the easy way out for those too lazy to take on the responsibilities of governing. If we the people really want to govern then we have to be willing to do the work too. There are no quick solutions or magic bullets. Maybe groups of citizens who volunteer on a regular basis to attend Legislative sessions as objective observers and file a regular public report? There are plenty of lobbyists for special interests--- how about lobbyists for the most important special interest---the voters? I think Bridge Magazine is a great idea and moving in the right direction but needs more citizen support.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 6:29pm
William, You say ‘too much leeway’ and say nothing about results. My experience is that each job/role is created with a particular purpose/delivery of results. Experience shows that the more discretion given to those who have to deliver results the more effective they are, especially when the results are well defined and measured. Those who are more controlled, held the a ‘clock’ rather than results, will probably be on time and stay for the full time, but are less likely to take ownership of the results. I lean more to the results focus. How can you be so sure of results being full or partial if the results aren’t defined? How can you be sure if part-time legislators are only providing part-time results if of 8 of the 50 states having full-time and don’t seem to be much better places to live than the other states? It seems you feel term limits are detrimental to our state. What knowledge and skills do you believe that legislators can only gain by being in office for 6, 10, 30 years that a person such as yourself or even me couldn’t lean before entering office in a matter of months in office? I see the roles of legislators being more about asking the right questions, listening to the answers, and identify the most effective answers. I don’t see them as being the one and only creating the answers? What work rules do you believe the legislators need, safety and health rules, maximum hours with fixed break times, the right to union representation for negotiating with the voters? Do you believe their benefits should be negotiated with the voters, with the Governor, or a specially elected Board of management for State Legislators? It is interesting that you suggest that voters act like stockholders, would you see the Legislators as a Board of Directors, and the Governor and that organization as the company? If that were the case a Board of Directors meeting monthly for about a week and doing their homework in between meetings, would fit a part-time Legislature [as overwhelming company Boards are]. I could see the monthly approach be one that would allow people keeping their regular jobs. It could be similar to how employers allow employees time off to serve in the National Guard. Just like ‘citizen soldiers’ our legislators could be ‘citizen Representatives.’ I think more people would be willing to be active in governing if it wasn’t full-time and took them away from their families and careers for extended time. How many legislators do you think have less than an hour commute to Lansing, how many do you think maintain a year around residence/apartment in Lansing? How many voters do you think would see a job that requires that much time away as a barrier to running for office? What do you want from the legislators? I truly like your approach to the ethics issue and would like to better understand your thinking. If I wrote a few bullet points that describe what I think it is, would you give me feedback? How would you select the ‘lobbyists’ for voters, would that an elected office or one selected by the Parties, or by elected official such as County Boards? If you want more citizen participation then you should encourage voters to by creating a set of criteria they can use when assessing candidates and include engaging voters as one of the criteria. I can only guess at Bridge’s great idea is. As best I can tell the only thing Bridge does is create a statistical weighting survey on topics they have selected. That allows people to vent their frustrations, but as best I can tell doesn’t provide people or even readers with a means to participate in the development of new/innovative ideas for perennial problems/issues. A simple structured conversation as an article on Bridge might surprise you on how creative the readers and voters are, but that is another issue.
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 3:17am
Legislators didn't work full time this year..so i disagree with your conclusion that we the voters are lazy if we suggest they be paid as part timers. We pay them more than the Detroit public school teachers who work at least 180 days..
Fri, 12/16/2016 - 8:04am

You are correct. In order to process the information to make good decisions, they need the time to do so, period. Also, a part time legislative body tends to attract only people who can afford to work part time. It limits the pool. You're analyses reflect some solid, logical thinking beyond the typical surface skating I normally see. Nice job.

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:57pm
You should be looking at all the legislators who have 'loaned' their own campaign finance committees tens of thousands of dollars premised on the expectations that later campaign contributions will repay these loans. Those later campaign contributions, of course, come from lobbyists of all stripes and effectively go straight into the pocket of legislators. Several are 'owed' over $ 100,000 by their campaign committees. Think of them as vote vending machines. PA 269 (SB 571) of 2015 made this blatant form of corruption much easier to execute. This is a far more egregious interest conflict than anything reported in this article.
Ron Dzwonkowski
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 4:05pm
Good journalism here, underscoring the essential value of the Fourth Estate. Most of these appear to be blatant conflicts, plainly self serving and highly unethical if not illegal. That said, term limits has given us so many novice lawmakers that some of them honestly may not have any grasp of ethical restrictions. So I wonder, where is the leadership to say, "hey senator, your bill may have some merit and you may have some experience and expertise on this issue to aid our deliberations, but you really shouldn't be voting on it." Answer: There isn't any. This fosters an attitude of getting away with what you can while you can.
William Plumpe
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 8:17am
Read my analysis above. Ethics is a very difficult issue and there are blatant conflicts, gray areas and no conflict. To assume that anytime a legislator with some connection to the bill is in conflict is naive and impractical. Perfection is a noble goal but is not obtainable in reality. That is why we try to set and enforce reasonable rules. That is what the rule of law is all about. And what the Judicial system is all about. Humans are not perfect so there is no way the law can be perfect or that making the law can be perfect either. A certain level of error must be allowed in order to get anything done. It becomes a problem when that error becomes blatant and excessive. Then action should be taken as soon as possible to fix the problem and if necessary discipline the actors.
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 10:35am
Michigan already has term limits for legislators.
William C Plumpe
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 7:15am
Sorry but I do not agree. That's the lazy person's solution--- tighten the bolt without fixing the problem. Would you want your surgeon or police officer to be part time? Governing a State is serious and continuing business.
John Q. Public
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 12:23pm
Oh, would that the comparisons between cheese and chalk die a short but painful death. My neighbors do not get a say in who I hire as a surgeon, and if my expectations of the outcomes of his future performance change for the worse, I don't have to wait for an even-year November to end our relationship. The maladies of lawmaking aren't mitigated by making a legislature part-time, but at the same time neither are they eliminated by a full-time body. Far better is a limitation on what they are allowed to do, regardless of how much time they spend on it. A three-bill-per-legislator, per-term, limit would be a good start toward making them prioritize what it is they really want to accomplish, and would make it a lot easier for voters to evaluate them on that basis. I wonder how many lawmakers would want to be judged on the fact that, with all the problems in their district, one of their bills in a term was written to give tax breaks to billionaires.Throw in that every bill gets voted on, not just the ones that the committee chairs deem worthy, and you can choke some of the life out of politics as usual.
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 3:23am
Why do they have other jobs if theirs is full time? That in itself sounds like a conflict of interest to me.
John S.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 8:50pm
The concept of "conflict of interest" assumes that legislators are elected to pursue the public interest or more narrowly the interests of the constituents who elected them to office. Unfortunately, some legislators vote like they're in the pockets of the interest groups that give them campaign money or promise them a job down the road when they're term limited. A smaller number, like some of those identified here, have trouble looking beyond their own immediate financial interests. Who in the legislature is looking out for the common interests of all of the citizens of this state?
William C Plumpe
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 10:44am
In reality nobody and there never will be unless we elect robots or angels to the Legislature. To expect absolute perfection is naive and ridiculous. Ain't ever going to happen. And no matter what there needs to be some leeway to act or nothing would get done because legislators would worry too much about breaking the rules.
Barry Visel
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 9:09am
He who brings in the bedbugs should be responsible...problem is who decides who brought them in? Why are landscapers licensed in the first place...is there a public issue involved with landscaping?...I need more info to make a judgement on this one. Why do car dealers have a monopoly in the first place? I've often wondered how much we could save by buying direct from the factory.
William C Plumpe
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 10:48am
Interesting idea but the factories themselves would not want to deal with it. They just want to make cars not sell them. It also gives the overall company better control over quality and money and creates more jobs so more people can buy more cars.
Mary Hathaway
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 11:27am
I agree that landlords should be liable to pay for damages IF THEY HAVE BEEN GROSSLY NEGLIGENT in the matter of bedbugs. Landlords do not import bedbugs. Tenants do. And usually tenants don't realize they are doing it. Maybe they buy a nice-looking used sofa that contains eggs of bedbugs. Then they are angry because bedbugs invade their apartment. The tenant next door is angry for the same reason. The landlord hires an exterminator at considerable cost. Tenants are required to launder or dryclean all their clothes, and remove fabric hangings from their walls. Strip beds, launder all towels and dishcloths. Vacate the apartment while exterminator applies poison. All of this makes tenants angrier, so they decide to sue the landlord. What is fair about that?
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 11:48am
Under Bridge magazine's guidelines I presume anyone who taught school or has a relative in the teaching profession should be prohibited from voting on school issues (especially if they are public school teachers and it is a charter school issue), anyone who ever belonged to a union should refrain from voting on or advocating or opposing the minimum wage because it might help or hurt their union position, that a former municipal official should not never vote on revenue sharing because it might impact the money his former locality uses to balance his or her pension fund, a lawyer who is licensed should not vote on court issues since they might in the future appear before the court...I'm just playing devil's advocate as I get the article (although I did notice that the article is not balanced and slanted toward insinuations against Republicans. Alas, I suspect that any legislator has the potential to be called out on either side of the aisle and I'm sure they will be). It is, after all, a citizen legislature. Especially under term limits (a statute I abhor but it's the law nevertheless), you can't hardly expect to avoid lots of these conflicts. The Republic managed to survive exceedingly well all these years and probably will continue to do so regardless of these "conflicts". I'm consistently amazed that complainers ignore the simple fact that each of these individuals comes up for election every two or four years and democracy is really designed to let the voters in each district determine the qualifications of its officials in Novembers. Why focus on the negative? We have hundreds of lawmakers, and thousands of public employees who take their jobs seriously and want to do what is best for the public. I know it doesn't make news, but the good far outweighs the bad that critics love to dote on. It's a system that thrives on compromise and the best intentions of its people. Time to quit savaging people who volunteer to take on problems and try to solve them whether they're Republicans or Democrats, bureaucrats or public administrators, local or state.
William C Plumpe
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 7:24am
Legislators are different than individual voters because in a legislative democracy as in Michigan and the United States voters elect representatives to help run the government. This tends to concentrate a lot of power in the individual legislator so there are concerns about conflict of interest because an individual legislator has a lot more power to influence decisions than the average voter. And that is just the way the system is set up---not good or bad. And at present we are not a direct democracy. That is the major mistake populists make. The vote of the people is important but is not the only determining factor. And there are checks and balances in place to control rampant populism that disguises itself as democracy but is really despotism and the cult of the celebrity.
Joe Longo
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 12:12pm
Citizen Legislators
Keith Warnick
Sat, 10/29/2016 - 3:54pm
I was a local school board member for several years while my wife worked as a part-time paraprofessional. I abstained in voting on her union's contract that would have maybe given her a $.13/hour increase. About $150 per year. I saw that as a conflict of interest. I guess I see things through different glasses than our legislature.
Sat, 10/29/2016 - 7:50pm
First of all, I wonder if anyone else noticed these individuals are all white males who have one view of the world, while many of us who live in reality have had very different experiences and see the world differently. i would guess William is also a white male. Once again "ethics" is an area that Michigan ranks dead last. NO SURPRISE!! And then we have "amateur ethicists" who think because they have a finance background and worked in government, they are right. This state government needs a complete overhaul and I hope voters have been paying attention for the last 5 years and vote them all out.
William C Plumpe
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 7:28am
I never said I knew everything just that I had one studied viewpoint. Your anti-intellectualism shows how narrow and stilted your viewpoint really is. Deal with your anger and don't dump it on me or the voters of Michigan or the United States.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 9:36am
William, I am not angry, I am merely voicing my experice and reality. Yes, I have been made to feel "less than" by patrarchical, misogynistic men such as yoursel. I find it rather humorous you talk about anti intellectualism. There are many types of intelligence, one of which is "emotional" intelligence, which is sorely lacking in government in Michigan. As I have suggested to other readers, you may want to read a book by Rebecca Stolnit called, "men Explain Things To Me". It may help you understand.
William C Plumpe
Mon, 11/07/2016 - 4:01am
Ad hominem blanket attacks that question character without any proof only show how weak and baseless your argument is---you have nothing to support your position other than schoolyard bully tactics. You must be a Trump supporter. Not very rational.
Earl Newman
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 12:37am
Thank you for bringing these conflicts to public attention. This ort of thing is not the only thing journalism should do, but surely it is one of the best things journalism can do.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 8:45am
14 out of 15 lawmakers mentioned in this article are Republicans. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network's longstanding track record of criticizing GOP lawmakers while largely ignoring the conduct of Democratic lawmakers continues. If conflicts of interest are a really problem for lawmakers, it would be a bipartisan problem. The pre-election timing of this negative article is also probably not a coincidence. The partisan bias in this hit piece is very obvious.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 10:10am
Luckily Rich, 95% of the above commenters and 75% of Bridge readers are hard left Dems with the 25% on the right so putting this piece here doesn't really move the dial.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 11:50am
Rich, I "googled" the Michigan Campaign Finance Network and confirmed that their "non-partisan reporting" is backed by a board of directors that includes several former democratic state legislators. However, among a list of 60 supporters, I was surprised to find the names of three couples I happen to know who live near me in our very sparsely populated area of northwest Michigan. While "progressive" in their political orientation, they are not "financially flush," by any means. Several Foundations (known to contribute to many other non-partisan organizations -- perceived to be BOTH "liberal" and "conservative") were also among their donor base. Personally, I am grateful for SOMEONE performing the Fourth Estate/"watchdog" role that provides this journalistic role -- which Bridge has seemingly "stepped up" to do. Has a "republican-leaning non-partisan" group taken on this topic so that we can become aware of the "whole" picture that might include more democrats? I know, in the past, Bridge has tapped the Mackinaw Center for "editorial commentary;" is this something to which they might be able to offer a "fact-based" rebuttal?
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 9:58pm
So David you really think that the "Non Partisan" label really means someone something doesn't have a political agenda???
John Q. Public
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 11:42am
When a party holds the majority in both houses, a sizable majority of the bills that get kicked out of committee to be voted on by the entire chamber originates with a member of the majority party. It stands to reason that most conflicts of interest will lie with the party that introduced the bills. Were the Democrats similary scrutinized when they were last similarly situated? We'd have to go 35 years deep into the annals to find out.
Phil L.
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 8:36am
In 2015, H. & S. standing committees brought up for discussion 56.4% of Republican sponsored bills/resolutions and 16.7% of Democrat sponsored bills/resolutions. H-only committees discussed 57.1% R sponsored and 16.7% D sponsored. S-only committees discussed 53.6% R sponsored and 26.1% D sponsored. I don't have data from 35 years ago to crunch the numbers although I'd like to make the comparison.
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 11:00am
Thoroughly researched! Now do your job and draw the same innuendos about some democratic legislators "potential conflicts of interests" As if there aren't any. Oh, and nice job with the token appearance of Hertel, who happens to be my state rep and is guilty of NOTHING!
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 10:04pm
Or Just check with the Michigan Democratic Party and they will give you a completely non-partisan picture of the state's political leadership.
Glenn Ikens
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 12:14pm
Another unintended consequence of term limits. The constantly disparaged "career politician" is far less likely to have such conflicts, as his/her "business" is serving the constituency. The term limited politicians are always thinking of their business beyond their tenure as legislators.
Brian Polet
Sun, 10/30/2016 - 11:19pm
Not just legislators. Local politics as well. Holland City Manager Ryan Cotton has pushed a $13M Civic Center renovation without stating his conflict of interest before the council or recusing himself from the process. He owns a C-2 property directly adjacent to the said property above. He will surely benefit with millions pumped in next door.
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 9:54am
I find it incredible that every person listed but one is a republican. Impossible. Very biased report.
Tue, 11/01/2016 - 1:27am
Since Republicans hold a majority of seats, it only makes sense that they would have more potential conflicts of interest. Not only due to there being more Republicans, but the fact that their party is moving legislation forward while Democrats pretty much have no say. But 14 out of 15 - no, that's not biased reporting, those are simply the facts. Take off your partisan blinders. Berniecrats are mad as hell at the corruption in the DNC and surrounding Hillary. We're becoming Precinct Delegates and getting involved at party meetings, and at our own meetings. Both parties need to be held to account. In the case of Michigan, it's the Republicans who have failed to raise road funding revenue, have taken away local control, and who taxed seniors to pay for a (C) corp tax cut while GM profits are at record levels. It's Republicans who changed a law last-minute to block 350,000 signatures to get MI Legalize on the ballot. The people who attach phony appropriations to every law so the voters can't challenge it. Not even getting into the state-imposed horrors of the Flint Water Crisis. Michigan should be ashamed!
Tue, 11/01/2016 - 8:18pm
Interesting that this site has no democrats listed... theres lots of flaws to be talked about between both parties.
Wed, 11/02/2016 - 1:04pm
Frankly, as secretive and boldly opportunistic as our Michigan legislature has become--especially since Gov. Snyder took office--this should come as no surprise. However, some of this stuff eventually leaks out to the public on occasion. Is it any wonder that young people are apathetic about voting when our representatives and senators are not held to high standards? Or, as disgusting as this may be, are our representatives merely a reflection of us all?
Thu, 01/12/2017 - 1:59pm

Much of this would be not obscured if Michigan had up-to-date financial disclosure requirements for all public officials including, for instance, immediate online reporting of all campaign donations. Technically easy to do in the Third Millennium 30 years into the Internet Age.Not possible in the Michissippi worldview though...

Chuck Moss
Tue, 03/21/2017 - 9:55am

15 Examples: 14 Republicans, one Democrat.