News Release: New Legislators Show Up Veterans by Providing Office Spending Transparency

Rookie politicians reveal names, salaries of staff

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

Contact: Kenneth M. Braun
Policy Analyst

MIDLAND -Michigan State Reps. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester, and Justin Amash, R-Grand Rapids, have set an example for all of state government by putting the names and salaries of their legislative staff online, said Kenneth M. Braun, director of the Mackinac Center's "Show Michigan the Money Project." Just over a month after taking office, each lawmaker placed a prominent hyperlink on their official Web pages to a detailed list of office expenditures that includes the names and salaries of their legislative aides. This likely makes the rookie legislators the first state officials to be so publicly transparent regarding who is working for them and how much they make.

"The majority of a legislator's office spending is on employees who can be powerful tools for both good government... and not so good," noted Braun, a former legislative aide. In a commentary on the Center's Web site, Braun pointed out that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's unprecedented hiring of friends and family on the city payroll — and the scandal that ensued — is just one example of why taxpayers should know who is getting public jobs and how much they are being paid.

The new legislators provided this transparency with such ease and speed that it puts to shame veteran state politicians, such as Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who have been talking about transparency for years but have not matched the rhetoric with spending details from their own offices. Last summer, when the Transparency Project asked the governor to put the names and salaries of state employees online, the governor's office replied in writing that "this level of detail provides little value to the taxpayer." The Lansing State Journal reports that it asked for similar information one year earlier and that the governor's office refused to even disclose how many employees were then serving on her or the lieutenant governor's staff.

"It took less than five weeks for two new legislators to show how easily transparency can be achieved," said Braun. "The time for empty transparency talk is over; this example should be followed by all of the state's elected officials."