Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is worried about “dark clouds of corruption that thrive in the shadows that are allowed by our current weak ethics and transparency laws.”

Benson testified before the House Ethics and Oversight Committee on Thursday alongside her Democratic colleague Attorney General Dana Nessel, who said a Bringing Reforms in Transparency and Ethics Act proposed by Democrats is “a solid, earnest, serious effort towards the goal of ending corrosive forces in Michigan government.”

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Both women fixated on Nessel’s investigation into former Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield and his wife, Stephanie, pointing to the attorney general’s announcement she filed criminal charges against the couple this week for alleged financial crimes.

“The fact that the alleged financial crimes – including the egregious and flagrant embezzlement of taxpayer dollars and nonprofit funds for personal gain and enrichment – were able to go undetected for so long underscores a failure of our current laws to prohibit corruption in the state government,” Benson said.

There’s plenty of other examples, involving Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Benson, Nessel, and other Democrats.

The Detroit News reported in 2020 on how the “dark money group” Progressive Advocacy Trust spent more than $2 million to promote Whitmer in the 2018 election cycle by exploiting a legal loophole to avoid disclosing donors.

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The next year, Breitbart News debunked Whitmer’s claim that she arranged a secret four-day trip to Florida during the pandemic “at her own expense.” Whitmer’s chief of staff told MIRS News the flight cost $27,521 and was paid for by a dark money 501c4 nonprofit, with the governor supposedly reimbursing the nonprofit $855 for her seat, though Whitmer would not disclose who paid for her security detail or the identities of any other passengers on the trip.

In 2022, Benson’s husband Ryan Friedrichs, registered as a lobbyist with the State of Michigan to represent The Related Companies, just before Whitmer signed a fiscal year 2023 budget that included $100 million for a project developed by The Related Companies, according to Michigan Rising Action.

Questions still remain about Nessel’s luxury Caribbean vacation at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Turks and Caicos, reportedly paid for by the Traverse City law firm of Kelly Neumann, who The Detroit News reported had “overlapping interests with Nessel’s office, namely nursing home malfeasance and auto insurance claims.”

“If you’re not a lobbyist, lobbyist agent or anyone acting on their behalf, you can give gifts until the cows come home, even to the attorney general,” campaign finance expert Eric Doster told the news site. “And the attorney general can accept them. It might not pass the sniff test, but the state ethics act doesn’t apply to Nessel because she’s an elected official.”

Nessel refused to answer questions about whether she reimbursed Neumann for five-day getaway for her and her wife, at a cost of $8,629.65 a night for the three-story penthouse overlooking Grace Bay.

“On the rare occasion my family takes personal vacations, we pay for it ourselves,” Nessel posted to X after the News exposed the jaunt. “Not through a campaign committee, C3, C4 or at the expense of lobbyists. Our personal finances. We also do not vacation with those who do business with or have cases against the state of Michigan.”

“While we appreciate Attorney General Nessel’s commitment to paying for her own vacations, we also recognize that she has not denied any of the facts in the piece, including that the bill was paid by the law firm,” The Detroit News Publisher Gary Miles said in a statement. “It’s certainly possible that she did or will pay for her portion of the trip, but as of yet she has not given any indication, public or otherwise, that she has done so.”

The legislation promoted by Benson and Nessel on Thursday would create a “cooling-off period” that would prevent lawmakers and executives from serving as lobbyists for one year once their term ends.

While the bill has support from some, others pointed to transparency efforts introduced by Republicans last year that would create a two-year “cooling-off period” that never made it out of the committee, Michigan Advance reports.

Committee Vice Chair Tom Knuse, R-Clare, also noted that Democrats’ BRITE Act vetted Thursday includes exemptions for state employees, while the Republican legislation, House Bill 4270, does not.

“The biggest lobbyists in the state of Michigan are the departments. …They’re the ones that ask for the most money so we don’t need all these exemptions,” Knuse told reporters after the hearing.

Knuse also highlighted politicians profiting from book deals during the committee hearing, a reference to a reported seven figure deal Whitmer inked with Simon & Schuster for “True Gretch,” slated for release in July, according to the Advance.