Secretary Benson calls on Legislature to require personal financial disclosure to promote greater transparency in government

TransparencyMARCH 14, 2019

As part of Sunshine Week, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson today (Thursday, March 14) voluntarily posted personal financial disclosure information online as a step toward restoring public trust in government.

“If Michigan residents are to have confidence that their elected leaders are acting in their best interests, they must know who else, if anyone, may be influencing their decisions behind closed doors,” Benson said. “One of the best ways we can restore the public’s trust in our government is to require our elected leaders to fully disclose any outside income, investments, travel or gifts they may receive as candidates or elected officials.”

“Michigan is one of only two states that do not currently require this type of disclosure,” Benson said, “and it’s basic information that our citizens have a right to know. I look forward to working with the Legislature to require this disclosure and have taken the first step in demonstrating its value by posting a completed disclosure form on our website today.”

Benson’s proposed financial disclosure form, completed with her own personal information, is available on the new Secretary of State transparency web page, which is accessible at Michigan.gov/SOSOpenGovernment or from the link on the home page at Michigan.gov/SOS. Benson launched the web page Wednesday, March 13, to provide more disclosure and gather key Department of State financial, scheduling, staff and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information in one place. Benson will continue to update the information and publish new elements online as they become available throughout her tenure.

The financial disclosure form Benson posted is modeled after the Ethics in Government Act Financial Disclosure Statement used by the U.S. Congress. The multiple-page document asks detailed questions about a range of financial interests, including assets and unearned income, financial transactions, earned income, liabilities, gifts, travel payments and reimbursements. The Ethics in Government Act was approved in 1978 in wake of the Watergate scandal. Every member of Congress and candidates for federal office complete a similar form.

“Moving toward greater transparency will require legislative collaboration and support,” Benson said. “At this moment I am calling on the Legislature to join me in this effort to bring more transparency to our government and pass legislation that will require all elected leaders to disclose their personal financial interests and investments. And I invite the public to join me in this call to action.”

Also during Sunshine Week, Benson held her first Restore the Public Trust town hall Sunday in Southfield in partnership with state Sen. Jeremy Moss and state Rep. Kyra Bolden to get feedback from residents.

Sunshine Week is a nonprofit effort launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors. It is an annual call to action for open government and freedom of information at federal, state and local levels.

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