By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — The House Health Policy chair, the House Judiciary chair and a Democrat from the Upper Peninsula have consumed the most lobbyist-purchased food and drink over the first seven months of 2016, according to new disclosures.
Reports on lobbyist spending were due on Aug. 31. They cover the first seven months of the year and show that over that time period, Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), who chairs the House Health Policy Committee, received more lobbyist-purchased meals and drinks than any one else in the Legislature.
Lobbyists disclosed spending $2,357.18 on food and beverage for Callton. Among the health care interests purchasing meals for Callton, who gets to decide what bills to take up in committee, were Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan ($523.79), the Michigan Association of Health Plans ($188.26) and the Spectrum Health System ($62.00).
Second place in lobbyist-purchased meals went to Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), who received $2,313.44 in disclosed food and beverage. The multi-client firm Governmental Consultant Services Inc. spent nearly a $1,000 alone on Dianda at $973.41. Third place went to Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.), the chair of the Judiciary Committee, who received $2,192.64 in lobbyist-bought food and beverage.
Callton, Dianda and Kesto were the three lawmakers who received more than $2,000 in disclosed lobbyist-paid-for food and drink. In addition to them, nine others received more than $1,000. To see how much your representative in Lansing received in disclosed lobbyist meals and a ranking of all reported recipients, click here.
However, lawmakers are likely receiving much more free food and drink than the disclosures show. That’s because a lobbyist only has to disclose a lawmaker’s name if that lobbyist spends more than $58 on food and drink for the lawmaker in a month.
On top of that, lobbyists also purchase meals for lawmakers in group settings. Over the first seven months of 2016, lobbyists reported spending $102,105.40 on food and drink purchases for groups of public officials. For instance, Oakland University bought food for House members, Senate members and their staffers on Jan. 13. The meal cost $4,595.16, according to the university’s disclosure. The Michigan Retailers Association invited the entire Legislature to a meal on April 26. The event cost $4,466, according to the association’s disclosure.
The biggest spenders on group food and beverage were the Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association ($8,860.95), DTE Energy ($7,770.00) and Consumers Energy ($6,800).
Both DTE and Consumers, the state’s dominant electric utilities, have been working hard this year to influence reforms to state energy policy. Those reforms could see a vote in the Michigan Senate as soon as this week, according to the Detroit Free Press. Both DTE and Consumers also were among the overall top spenders on food and beverage for public officials for the first seven months of 2016. DTE was fifth of all lobbyists at $10,954.15. Consumers was 13th at $7,635.83.
Multi-client lobbying firms that represent a variety of interest groups and corporations spent the most on food and beverage for lawmakers. And under Michigan law, they don’t have to disclose what bills they’re talking about with lawmakers over the meals and drinks.
The firm Kelley Cawthorne reported spending the most at $53,718.27. Public Affairs Associates was second at $49,335.48. And Governmental Consultant Services Inc. was third at $28,938.75.
However, when it comes to spending in which the lawmaker receiving the free meal is disclosed, Governmental Consultant Services Inc. is No. 1. Governmental Consultant Services Inc. was the top purchaser of meals for 61 out of the 135 public officials who were disclosed as benefiting from lobbyist-bought meals in the first seven months of 2016.
In 2015, Michigan lobbyists spent more money than ever before on food and beverage for lawmakers at $844,184. With $451,455 spent over the first seven months of 2016, lobbyists are in position to challenge the 2015 record.
With Callton, Dianda and Kesto in the top three for lobbyist-purchased meals, the rest of the top 10 is as follows: Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) ($1,623.35); Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp.) ($1,611.23); Rep. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills) ($1,294.49); Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) ($1,267.91); House Appropriations Chair Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) ($1,172.00); Rep. Jim Tedder (R-Clarkston) ($1,112.55); and Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) ($1,107.93).