(Editor's Note: The following is an edited version of an item that appears in the November/December issue of Michigan Capitol Confidential.)
The following is the text of a recent e-mail sent to Michigan Capitol Confidential. A reader reports confronting a Republican state representative about his spending record as reported in the article titled "Are We Nuts?" from the July/August 2008 issue of Michigan Capitol Confidential. The lawmaker allegedly responded that we had reported his vote incorrectly, causing the reader — whose name we have blacked out to protect his privacy — to write us and demand an apology.
From: [name redacted]
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2008
RE: July/August 2008 Issue
Dear Michigan Capitol Confidential:
This evening I had the occasion to talk to State Representative [name redacted], at an [name redacted] Republican Club Event. I questioned him about your article in the above listed issue of your newspaper.
You stated that State House Representative [name redacted] voted yes in favor of a K-12 budget that overspent estimated revenue by $32.2 million.
I asked Representative [name redacted] why he voted yes on this matter. He told me that your reporting on this matter is incorrect. He stated that he definitely voted "No".
I believe that you should make an apology to Representative [name redacted] for your error, especially at a time like now, reelection time.
Thank you for your follow-up as to this matter.
Sincerely, [name redacted]
We replied to the e-mail, saying that we appreciate and encourage fact-checking of our stories and want our readers to keep both this paper and the lawmakers informed about their thoughts regarding what they read.
But the truth of the matter is that the lawmaker in question did vote as we reported, at least according to the Journal of the House of Representatives, the official — and thus far uncontested — record of the event. He was one of five Republicans voting to approve a spending level that was $32 million in excess of estimated revenue for the school aid budget.
We bring this to your attention because it marked the beginning of a trend. A few days after mailing the Sept./Oct. 2008 edition, we received a phone call from a reader who said she spoke to a Republican senator about his decision to vote in favor of an amendment that would have — in the opinion of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce — turned ownership of groundwater "over to the government." As before, the confronted legislator allegedly denied the act; this time, according to our caller, telling her that "you can't believe what you read" in Michigan Capitol Confidential.
Once again, we checked right away and verified that Michigan Capitol Confidential and the Journal of the Senate both agree on how the senator in question voted. In this case, the legislator was one of two GOP senators to vote in favor of the amendment, with the other 18 Republicans in the Senate voting against it.
These stories and other feedback indicate that a lot of you are talking to your elected officials about what you're reading in these pages. Of course, we want to know all the juicy details about that! So we're going to start a little contest.
If you reference what you've read in Michigan Capitol Confidential while writing a note to a politician or in a published letter that appears in one of Michigan's newspapers, then we want a copy. If the politician writes you back, we want to see that as well.
Please send your entries to:
Michigan Capitol Confidential
140 West Main Street
Midland, MI 48640
(PLEASE remember to include your OWN name and address.)
We'll start publishing some of these entries, along with your name, in forthcoming issues of Michigan Capitol Confidential. The most creative and thoughtful ones, as judged by our staff, will win a framed, original print of the editorial cartoons that adorn our front page.
So have at it. We can't wait to see what YOU have to say for a change!
Kenneth M. Braun
Senior Managing Editor
Michigan Capitol Confidential