In 2016 alone, lobbyists provided Michigan lawmakers with $690,681 in food and drinks, according to a report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Twenty-five state legislators received more than $1,000 in free meals each. The top recipient was Mike Callton, a Republican who represents Michigan’s 87th District. He received a disclosed $4,047 from lobbyists, with Klint Kesto (R-District 39) following at $3,266. By comparison, the average American household spent $3,008 on eating out in 2015.
Governmental Consultant Services, a bipartisan lobbying firm based in Lansing, was the top purchaser for a third of Michigan’s legislature. Because of Michigan’s disclosure laws, it is not known what interest groups the firm was representing when it met with lawmakers.
Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, thinks all Michiganders should be concerned about how lobbying influences state politics.
“The more money that pours into campaigns, the higher the barrier is for the regular citizen to try and influence their government,” Mauger said.
He also thinks Michigan should be more transparent in disclosing ties between politicians and lobbyists.
“These women and men are supposed to represent their constituents, and the constituents don’t like the fact that many of them are getting more than a thousand dollars in free food from lobbyists, who are trying to influence them to represent their client's desires instead,” Mauger said.
The Center for Public Integrity currently ranks Michigan at the bottom of all 50 states for transparency and integrity, based on an absence of systems in place to deter corruption. The state currently sits at an “F” grade.