News Release: Sunshine Week an Ideal Time to Make Public Payrolls Public

“Show Michigan the Money” director encourages media to hold politicians accountable

For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kenneth M. Braun
Policy Analyst

MIDLAND - Elected officials demanding transparency of each other should match words with deeds by providing the names and salaries of those on their own public payrolls, according to Kenneth M. Braun, director of the Mackinac Center's "Show Michigan the Money" project. Braun is encouraging the media - old and new - to celebrate Sunshine Week 2009 (March 15-21) by holding politicians accountable if they don't practice what they preach.

"Most state government transparency advocates don't reveal the names and salaries of their own public employees," said Braun. "When elected officials give lip service to 'transparency,' reporters should ask them what they've done to bring it about in their own offices. Too many champions of transparency do not turn their sound bytes into substance when it comes to their own payroll."

Braun pointed to Illinois' then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich providing a job to the son of U.S. Sen. Roland Burris and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's "friends and family plan" hiring policy as evidence that  taxpayers need to know who goes to work for a politician who puts out a help wanted sign.

In a commentary published Monday, Braun writes that while the most important state spending detail is knowing who receives taxpayers' hard-earned money, transparency champions like Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Attorney General Mike Cox and most of the Republican caucus in the state House of Representatives still fail to provide the names and salaries of employees. The commentary also notes that though Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land provides the closest thing to a check register available from any state office, it still lacks employee salary information.

The exceptions are state Reps. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, and Justin Amash, R-Kentwood, new lawmakers who were the first to use their state Web sites to publish the names and salaries of their staff. Rep. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, became the third to do so on March 11.

Public employee names, titles and salaries are an important feature provided by the Missouri Accountability Portal ( This Web site, Braun notes, has been repeatedly upheld as a model by several Republican politicians who say Gov. Granholm has not done enough to bring spending transparency to Michigan government. Ironically, these same politicians haven't met this level of transparency in their offices.

"Michigan needs to follow Missouri's lead," said Braun. "We would be much closer if we held every transparency-talking elected official to the rare standard of those who put their offices in order first."