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State officials going after campaign finance regulation, ethics reforms

By Kaitlin Washburn

Michigan Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

This week, Republican state house lawmakers are making moves to limit incoming Democratic state officials.

In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers passed bills that would weaken the power of the new Democratic governor and attorney general.

Over in Michigan, lawmakers — inspired by Wisconsin’s tactics — — are trying to strip control of campaign finance issues from the incoming Democratic secretary of state.

A PAC was recently created in Missouri that wants to circumvent parts of Clean Missouri, a ballot measure on redistricting, campaign finance and lobbyist gifts strongly supported by Missouri voters. State lawmakers are also taking issue with certain aspects of the new law, including new open records requirements.

In Michigan, the secretary of state has authority over campaign finance issues. However, on Thursday, the Republican-held State Senate passed a bill put forward by conservative lawmakers that would move that authority to a bipartisan committee.

Under the new bill, the governor would appoint six lawmakers, three Republicans and three Democrats, to a committee that would oversee issues related to campaign finance. Opponents worry this will lead to gridlock, while proponents consider it to be a fair process.

Jocelyn Benson, the incoming secretary of state, denounced the bill as a “hyper-partisan move.”

The proposed legislation would “make Michigan a national punch line by effectively ending enforcement of the campaign finance laws they are required to abide by,” a spokesperson for Benson told The Detroit News.

Supporters of the bill claim it will be a fair political process and will promote “purity of elections,” according to The Detroit News. One state senator, who helped draft the bill, rejected the notion that it was made to limit Democrats’ power.

The decisive legislation awaits a signature from outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who hasn’t publicly said whether he’d approve the legislation.

Missouri

In Missouri, voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment One — or Clean Missouri — a measure that would dramatically limit lobbying activities, lower contributions to state legislature candidates and reshape the state’s redistricting process.

However, a political action committee was recently formed to go after parts of the new measure. The PAC, called “Fair Missouri,” will support “measures to reform Missouri redistricting,” according to documents filed with the state’s ethics commission.

In an interview with a Kansas City TV station, an attorney for the PAC said the language of the measure is misleading, and Missouri voters were “duped” by Amendment One.

A Missouri state representative also came out against Clean Missouri. The Amendment also has a requirement that will make legislators subject to Missouri’s open records law, the Sunshine Law. Certain legislative records and proceedings will now be made public.

State Rep. Jean Evans claimed that this provision will mean that personal emails from her constituents will now be public. However, Politifact Missouri ruled that claim mostly false.


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