Lawmaker Lobbies Against Lobbyist
A registered lobbyist for a state of Michigan agency who has access to politicians while they vote has one politician crying foul and others saying it is an unfair advantage.
Jim McBryde, is listed as a registered lobbyist with the Michigan Secretary of State, and his employer is listed as the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
He is allowed access to the floor during deliberations despite a rule that bans lobbyists.
The MEDC has been embroiled in series of unpleasant news stories throughout the year.
This spring, the governor announced a special tax break that would be awarded to a company run by a man who turned out to be a convicted embezzler.
Though that deal ultimately fell through because of his re-arrest, a recent report from the Michigan Office of the Auditor General uncovered $150 million in questionable special tax favors that may have been awarded to unqualified recipients over a five-year period.
Leon Drolet, director of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said the MEDC having its lobbyist prowling the House chamber gives government an unfair advantage over private lobbyists.
"The guy who works for NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) or the Chamber of Commerce is banned from being the floor, but the government lobbyist, he is allowed sit next to a politician moments before they are pushing a button to vote and whisper in their ear," Drolet said. "The lobbying rule doesn't seem to apply to them."
The lobbying rules are a bit unclear with regard to the MEDC.
State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, sent a letter to House Majority Floor Leader Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, asking for clarification on McBryde's status. McMillin said Angerer has not responded.
A spokesman from Angerer's office acknowledged receipt of an inquiry from Michigan Capitol Confidential, but hasn't responded.
Mike Shore, spokesman for the MEDC, said there are two rules that apply to McBryde.
Former legislators who are not lobbyists and "directors of Michigan departments and the governor's legislative liaisons" have access to the floor.
As of May 2010, McBryde was listed on the MEDC organizational chart as a vice president of government affairs with a salary of $99,128. The MEDC has no "director" title in its organizational chart, but Greg Main is listed as the CEO and president.
But McBryde is registered with the state as a lobbyist for the MEDC, and a rule states, "Any person who is a lobbyist or employed by a lobbyist shall not be admitted on the floor of the House at any time."
When that was pointed out to Shore, he wrote in an e-mail: "Mr. McBryde is on vacation so I cannot speak with complete certainty but must assume he received the exception specified in sec 4."
In the past, former legislative officials say MEDC lobbyists were removed from the House floor.
Jim Murray, who was deputy chief of staff when Rick Johnson was Speaker of the House, said in an e-mail that it was not "uncommon" to ask the governor's representatives to leave the floor.
"The Governor's staff and Department representatives are allowed on the floor as a courtesy," Murray wrote in an e-mail. "On more than one occasion I requested the MEDC leave the floor. No altercations were ever had but you can imagine that Jim McBryde didn't like it. The House Sergeants assisted me in keeping the authorized people on the Floor. ... In general when we asked the MEDC to leave it was because they were a "quasi-governmental" agency which allowed them to accept corporate funds to cover salaries and such. They really weren't any different than any other corporate lobbyist that is asked to influence members from the lobby not the House Chambers. We particularly enforced this when MEDC took a position against legislation the membership was trying to pass."
Bob LaBrant, the registered lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, said he had no problem with McBryde being allowed on the floor.
"The person who handles legislative affairs for various state agencies is allowed on the floor," LaBrant said. "He represents an agency in the executive branch of the state government. I don't think there is anything unusual about that, it happens all the time."
The world of Lansing government is filled with lobbyists. There are 1,405 lobbyists that work for 1,377 agents, according to the Secretary of State.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.