Who’s got the bill? Michigan lawmakers receive record amount of free food from lobbyists in 2019

Troppo, downtown Lansing| Susan J. Demas

A handful of state lawmakers have received record amounts of free food and drink from lobbying groups for the first seven months of the year. 

Brandt Iden

A data analysis done by the nonpartisan, Lansing-based Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which tracks money in politics, shows three House members benefited from more than $4,000 of food paid by lobbyists, as of July. 

State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo) was first with $5,682. Coming in second was Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.) with $5,325, followed by House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering).

MCFN looked back as far as 2009 and found that no lawmaker collected more than $4,000 in free meals and beverages in the first seven months of a year before 2019. 

The closest amount spent on an individual lawmaker in this timeframe was $3,586 on then-Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) in 2014. 

Both houses of the Legislature have GOP majorities. The top 10 list is composed of nine Republicans and one Democrat.

Meet Michigan’s top 10 well-fed lawmakers of 2019

NameAmount lobbyists spentTop-spending firm
Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo)
$5,682Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($2,555)
Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.)
$5,325Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($2,588)
House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) $4,142Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($1,593)
Rep. Mike Webber (R-Rochester) $2,368Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($426)
Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) $2,002Blue Cross Blue Shield ($437)
Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) $1,892Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($430)
Rep. Pauline Wendzek (R-Watervliet)$1,825Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($433)
Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance)$1,813Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($482)
Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) $1,613Governmental Consultant Services Inc. ($740)
Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) $1,400County Road Association of Michigan ($638)


Lobbyists reported spending $517,756 on food expenses from January through July of this year. Sixty-three percent of that amount is attributed to individual officeholders or groups of officeholders.

By Michigan law, lobbyists only have to disclose the individual lawmakers benefiting from these meals if the firm spends more than $62 a month on them or more than $375 a year. 

Of the 148 state lawmakers, lobbyists didn’t report buying any meals or drinks for six senators and 18 House members. But, as of July, 16 lawmakers received at least $1,000 in lobbyist-funded food. 


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