Free the Lawyers!
October 4, 2013
Frankly, it never occurred to me that they weren’t.
In one of the more eye-popping, petty acts of retribution perpetrated by legislative Republicans, a bill will soon be introduced to end mandatory attorney membership in the State Bar.
The idea was hatched by the Michigan Freedom Fund, the same group that brought us Right to Work laws in Michigan in order to “free” union members from the yoke of paying union dues.
It has nothing—NOTHING—to do with the fact that the bipartisan board of the State Bar recently called for disclosure of all funding for judicial candidates, which Republicans see as a bald-faced political action.
No, Republicans are really pissed because they love freedom. Greg McNeilly, head of the Freedom Fund and former Executive Director of the state Republican Party, just can’t stand it when any group is forced into any membership anywhere.
But perhaps Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said it best: “I’m interested in anything that spreads freedom, that allows individuals to control their own lives and their own destinies.” Well, maybe not all individuals, like that time he cooked a plan with a House Democrat from the Grand Rapids area to switch parties and put a fake Democrat on the same ballot so that voters in the district would really have no chance in the election to determine their destiny in terms of who would represent them in the legislature.
Nor does the Speaker apply his destiny control mantra to women who seek to end a pregnancy or even those who seek birth control coverage to help avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Apparently, controlling your own destiny can’t be tossed around lightly to just anybody.
I can only guess how many thousands of Michigan attorneys have been lobbying legislators to free them from the confines of Bar membership, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of everyday citizens who are practically rioting because they don’t want to know who is funding the judges who make decisions about their everyday lives. Who would? The demand for disclosure ignorance from Michigan voters is almost deafening.
According to Rich Robinson, director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, almost $14 million of the $18.6 million spent on Michigan judicial races in 2012 came from undisclosed donors, most of it going to Supreme Court candidates. Of course, that $14 million was spent on so-called “issue advocacy” ads which politicians from both parties love to use and claim they have nothing—NOTHING—to do with targeting or supporting any particular candidate. Oh, puh-leeze.
Since both parties do it, I really don’t understand how calling for donor disclosure in these ads can be considered political. Indeed, it seems just the opposite. Is Republican “dark money” so far ahead of Democratic “dark money” that they’re willing to fight to keep it, even though it sometimes helps their opposition? Apparently.
But here’s something I do understand. The State Bar of Michigan serves an important purpose, perhaps most critical patrolling its own members, which of course Greg McNeilly says isn’t really true if you look at Geoffrey Feiger. McNeilly also points out that doctors don’t have to join any group, but are regulated by the State Board of Medicine. I don’t have numbers for this, but I’ve seen plenty of articles about attorneys engaging in poor and/or suspect practices lose their licenses or at least be suspended from practicing for a certain amount of time, but precious few doctors who lost their licenses or were suspended unless state or federal prosecutors went after them first on something like Medicaid or Medicare fraud. Indeed, I always thought it would be a good thing if the State Board of Medicine had the same kind of controls the Bar does.
Why, quibble though when that’s not really the issue? The issue is a demand to keep and increase the freedom to use unaccountable funds in Michigan politics, especially judicial races.
Unfortunately, I suspect this legislation will pass and that Governor Snyder, who claims little interest in it, will sign it after he is lobbied by many contributors to his secret NERD fund who may well also be contributing undisclosed dollars to judicial races.
I just don’t know how much more freedom Michigan can stand.