Why we emphasize transparency

Government works best when it’s watched closely. With outdated information, that can’t happen.

Last week we reported that Senate Bill 271, which would institute a 100% clean energy policy in Michigan by 2035, had gone through eight drafts since being introduced in April – and none of the drafts were available to the public.

Earlier this year, we published the CapCon Guide to Lansing. We assigned it to our readers as homework, and several of you embraced the challenge. Follow the steps in our guide and you, too, can see how our 148 lawmakers are spending their time in the state capital.

It was a good idea, in theory. But if the information the public has is not the information Lansing is acting on, representative government is structurally impossible.

This is a Lansing where lobbyists have the best information, lawmakers get theirs on a need-to-know basis – if at all – and the public gets what scraps make it into the newspaper.

“That’s just the way Lansing is,” you say? Congrats, you’re part of the problem. CapCon doesn’t emphasize transparency to be mean. We just happen to think that citizens should be able to follow the workings of the government to which they pay taxes. If you disagree, I’d love to know why, and what results you’d cite to show that our representatives don’t need watchdogs.

Lansing is, by the way, a 150-person club – including the governor, lieutenant governor and legislators – in which strings are pulled this way and that by 1,500 lobbyists.

If that sounds good, we should keep doing what we’re doing. But we should not be shocked when corruption emerges from corrupt conditions. This week, a former Michigan Speaker of the House, Rick Johnson, was sentenced to almost 5 years in federal prison due to bribe-taking as a medical marijuana regulator.

If “the way Lansing is” sounds like a problem, join us in saying so. Demand better from your representatives, and those running for the job. Remember this day, and remember these arguments.

2024 is coming. Candidates will be knocking on your door soon enough. If they don't value transparency, they support a status quo that is opaque. What will you do with this information?

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James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

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.