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Michigan lawmaker-to-lobbyist ban would close ‘revolving door’ in Lansing

House Ethics and Oversight Chair Rep. Erin Byrnes, D-Dearborn, sitting down
House Ethics and Oversight Chair Rep. Erin Byrnes, D-Dearborn, testified in support of a state financial transparency package she’s been working on for “the better part of a year.” (Bridge photo by Jordyn Hermani)
  • Michigan House panel considers one-year cooling-off period for public officials leaving office to become lobbyists
  • Some question whether one year is a long enough time between roles
  • The bills are part of a larger package from House Democrats aimed at reforming state government ethics laws

LANSING — The Michigan House is debating a one-year cooling-off period before public officials leaving office can become lobbyists, an ethics reform plan even some supporters say could go further. 

Landing a job as a lobbyist soon after leaving office “creates the specter of impropriety,” Attorney General Dana Nessel told lawmakers Thursday, urging passage of the plan. 

“And when you are sitting there and you are potentially voting … and then you immediately go and work for whoever that entity is, the public loses trust and faith.”

Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, both Democrats, were among a handful of people to testify in support of two bills within a larger, seven-bill transparency package from House Democrats called the BRITE Act.

people sitting in a room, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson back is turned to the camera
Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson threw their support behind a House bill package aimed at reforming the state’s “toothless” ethics laws. (Bridge photo by Jordyn Hermani)

The other bill debated Thursday in the House Ethics and Oversight committee would enable the secretary of state to seek a court order to stop alleged campaign finance violations once a complaint is filed. 


The proposal for a cooling-off period would apply to the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and any member of the Legislature looking to immediately leave office and become a lobbyist.

Most states already have a ban on quickly moving from lawmaker to lobbyist, a practice referred to as a “revolving door,” according to data from the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures

The length of that ban varies by state but typically lasts anywhere from six months, like in North Carolina, to two years, like in Louisiana.


In the last several years, a host of Michigan Democrats and Republicans have registered as lobbyists just days after leaving office, a practice reform advocates say creates an appearance of impropriety.  

While none were accused of wrongdoing, it took former Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley just three days after office to register as a lobbyist when going to work for the Small Business Association of Michigan in 2019. For ex-state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, an Ann Arbor Democrat and former minority floor leader, it took less than a week.

Former House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, registered as a lobbyist in 2023, three months after leaving office. Former House Speaker Rick Johnson, a LeRoy Republican recently convicted of accepting marijuana board bribes, registered as a lobbyist in 2005 four days after leaving office.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have proposed longer lobbyist cooling-off periods of at least two years, and some reiterated that position Thursday. 

Two years is “a good number” to hold lawmakers, said state Rep. Tom Kunse, R-Clare, who is also proposing a one-year ban on legislative staffers going to work as lobbyists. “They’re the people that (we) go to for questions,” he said. 

Still, Kunse said he’d likely vote for the less aggressive ban proposed by Democrats, noting: “We’re looking for progress, not perfection.”

Benson also endorsed a two-year ban during her own testimony and urged lawmakers to consider an even longer ban “for those in leadership” positions within state government.

The legislative hearing occurred just days after Nessel charged former House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, with a litany of financial crimes for allegedly using money from political nonprofits to pay his personal credit card, fund trips to Florida and the Bahamas and write checks to relatives.

The larger ethics package proposed by Democrats also includes a bill that would require political nonprofits to disclose any ties to government officials.


But House Ethics Committee Chair Erin Byrnes, D-Dearborn, said the package was “not designed with any one person in mind” and “took us the better part of the year” to write. 

“I do think that this package really gets at the core of making sure that folks in this space are held to the highest possible standard, and we are the ones to hold ourselves accountable,” she said.

“We have a really unique opportunity, and in some cases challenges, on that front, but I think we’re well suited to address that.”

Committee members did not vote on the legislation Thursday.

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