Michigan AG Testifies In Support Of BRITE Act

Michigan Government NewsLansing, MI - On Thursday, April 18, 2024, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, along with Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, testified before the House Ethics and Oversight Committee in support of the Bringing Reforms in Integrity, Transparency and Ethics (BRITE) Act, a package of bills to increase disclosure requirements for shadowy political funds, slow the revolving door of legislators-turned-lobbyists, and expand gift disclosures for elected officials.

In her testimony, the Attorney General called on the Legislature to close the gaps in Michigan campaign finance law that currently allow powerful interests to fund politicians through secretive means to avoid public disclosure of their influence seeking. Nessel criticized the current ineffective statutes as contributing to a culture of corruption, and giving bad actors a private highway to influence elections and public policy. 

“Dark money threatens the impartiality of elected officials in all branches of government, and as we have seen far too often, lends itself to political corruption,” said Nessel. “Democracy dies in the darkness. If we can’t stop the influence of special interest money we can shine a light on it, and the BRITE package before us today is a solid first step toward restoring the public’s trust in Michigan politics.” 

Nessel has been a strong advocate for improving standards of government ethics and transparency and prosecuting those who use positions of power for personal gain. Earlier this week, Nessel charged former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield with 13 felonies for allegedly orchestrating a scheme of self-enrichment against state, campaign, and non-profit funds. The Attorney General in recent months charged two individuals in connection to an alleged money scheme to use nonprofits to illegally hide donations to the Unlock Michigan ballot initiative

However, Nessel said in her testimony that the current statutes governing political funds and donor disclosures in this state were futile and the people of Michigan deserve a fully transparent and accountable system that doesn’t operate in the dark. 

“In all these cases, it is the weakness of these laws that has made it easy for people with ties to our government representatives, and big-monied donors alike to skirt the system for personal benefit, while also skirting any legal responsibility for their bad behavior,” Nessel said. 

Included in the legislative package are House Bills 5580, 5581, 5582, 5583, 5584, 5585, and 5586. Before the committee today were HBs 5583 and 5586, though AG Nessel was granted permission to speak to the entire offering. Nessel urged the body, with a newly restored Democratic majority, to establish these basic guardrails, telling the legislators on the committee “None of you here in elected office now created this unseemly state of affairs. You didn’t break our system or the public’s trust in government. But you now have the chance to repair it. I ask that you not squander this opportunity to do what’s right for Michigan.

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