Created Equal: First-ever financial disclosures paint a cloudy picture of accountability in Michigan politics

Zach Gorchow of Gongwer News Service and Craig Mauger from The Detroit news join the show to discuss the integrity of Michigan’s political operations amid new financial disclosure laws.

A balcony view of the state senate chambers in Michigan's capitol building.

The Senate Chambers in the Michigan Capitol building.

Michigan’s top elected officials have submitted personal financial disclosures now required under state law.

The change comes following the passage of Proposal 1 in 2022, which required certain state elected officials to file an annual financial disclosure report describing things like the official’s assets, liabilities, sources of income, gifts from lobbyists and other positions held.

Michigan ranked last in the U.S. in a 2015 government transparency report from The Center for Public Integrity. While the law is intended to improve government transparency in the state, its effectiveness has been questioned by experts and some leading political figures in Michigan government. 

Zack Gorchow, executive editor and publisher of Gongwer News Service Michigan, and State Politics Reporter for The Detroit News, Craig Mauger, joined Created Equal on Thursday to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the new law.

Gorchow joined Cheyna Roth in a conversation with State Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks on WDET’s MichMash podcast last week, where Brinks said the state’s transparency laws need to be reviewed and improved upon. 

One Michigan politician who is facing punishment is former speaker of the state House Lee Chatfield, who has been charged with 13 counts of embezzlement. Chatfield’s case exposed a significant lack of accountability and a “culture of corruption” in Lansing, according to Secretary of State Joselyn Benson. 

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Zach Gorchow is the executive editor and publisher of Gongwer News Service Michigan. He says transparency in government is crucial.

“It’s all about conflicts of interests,” he asserts, pointing to the necessity of financial disclosures that should serve to safeguard the political process against corruption and bias. 

Craig Mauger is a state politics reporter for The Detroit News. He says there are critical flaws in the current system that could allow conflicts of interest to go unchecked.  

“There’s not a great system for punishing someone if they were to lie on this form,” said Mauger. There are no criminal penalties for non-compliance. 

Listen to Created Equal with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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