In a forum tonight at Cooley Law School a panel consisting of former Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, Michigan Campaign Finance Network Executive Director Rich Robinson, and interim Wayne State Dean Jocelyn Benson addressed the topic of "Money in Politics." Benson made a passionate plea for a state constitutional amendment to require immediate and full disclosure of the source of all campaign electioneering expenditures. Robinson described the outsized role that "dark money" has come to play in Michigan races, with special emphasis on judicial campaign funding. (Note: The State Bar of Michigan supports full disclosure of electioneering expenditures in judicial campaigns.) Ken Sikkema offered the practical and skeptical perspective of a veteran politician, especially lamenting the way in which third-party expenditures have weakened the role of candidate committees.
What all the panelists agreed upon was the need for full campaign finance disclosure.
There was no consensus about the extent to which money in Michigan politics has been corrupting. Ken Sikkema in particular defended Michigan legislative politics as relatively scandal-free, especially as compared with, say, New York. Coincidentally, today's Washington Post Wonkblog says that studies show a correlation between a state's corruption and how remote its state capitol is, specifically “isolated capital cities are robustly associated with greater levels of corruption.”
Photograph: Dave Parker (2006), interior of Michigan Capitol Building