By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
Lobbyists reported treating state lawmakers and other public officials to $844,184 in food and drinks in 2015. That number, reported in the state’s food and beverage disclosure category, is a new high and more than twice the amount that was reported in 2001.
According to disclosures filed this month, 11 lawmakers benefited from more than $2,000 in lobbyist-paid food and drinks in 2015, and 35 benefited from more than a $1,000 in lobbyist-purchased food and drinks.
For perspective, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the per-capita amount spent on food for the U.S. for the entirety of 2014 was $4,576.
Under state law, however, it’s difficult to fully grasp how much individual lawmakers are getting in free meals each year and who’s buying all of those meals.
For 2015, lobbyists only had to list the name of a public official who received a free meal if that person received more than $59 in food and drinks in a month or $375 in a year from a specific lobbyist. That provides a way around disclosure.
The growth in lobbyist-purchased meals comes under a governor who once proposed limiting them altogether.
Before being elected in 2010, Gov. Rick Snyder proposed banning lobbyist-sponsored meals greater than $10, or $25 a month, as part of his ethics and transparency platform. That proposal obviously hasn’t come to fruition yet.
For 2015, the 10 public officials who received the most lobbyist-sponsored meals are listed below. A full list is linked to this page.
1) Rep. Scott Dianda (D-Calumet), $4,268
2) Rep. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), $3,536
3) Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), $3,205
4) Sen. Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights), $3,157
5) Rep. Mike Webber (R-Rochester Hills), $2,745
6) Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), $2,735
7) Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), $2,672
8) Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.), $2,500
9) Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights), $2,278
10) Rep. John Chirkun (D-Roseville), $2,055
Lobbyists also often buy lawmakers meals in group settings each year.
Below is a list of the 10 lobbyists who spent the most on food purchases for identified individuals and groups in 2015.
1) Governmental Consultant Services Inc., $48,979
2) DTE Energy, $30,596
3) Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association, $19,631
4) Michigan Credit Union League, $16,620
5) AT&T Michigan, $14,219
6) Midwest Strategy Group, $13,874
7) Consumers Energy, $11,607
8) Kelley Cawthorne, $11,467
9) Muchmore Harrington Smalley and Associates, $9,245
10) Michigan Association of Counties, $9,000
Photo credit: The above photographs came from the official legislative web pages of Rep. Aric Nesbitt, Sen. Arlan Meekhof and Rep. Scott Dianda, from left to right.