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Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:55 p.m.

Sen. Rebekah Warren ranks No. 4 on list of Michigan lawmakers receiving lobbyist-paid meals

By Ryan J. Stanton

State Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, ranks No. 4 on the list of Michigan lawmakers receiving free food and beverages paid for by lobbyists.

Lobbyists spent more than $525,000 in the first six months of 2011 buying meals for state elected officials, according to an analysis by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Warren had a total tab of more than $1,800, according to data provided by Rich Robinson, the network's executive director.

The group's analysis shows that included $105.14 from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $972.02 from Governmental Consultant Services Inc., $61.25 from Kelley Cawthorne, $295.26 from the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, $364.28 from the Michigan Bell Telephone Co., and $3.26 from the Michigan Municipal League.

Warren could not be reached for comment.


Rebekah Warren

The more than $525,000 reported in the first six months of 2011 doesn't include some expenditures if they were less than $55 in a month. Some groups still report all spending anyway.

State Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, ended up further down the list with $925 in meals from lobbyists.

That included $66.43 from the State Bar of Michigan, $27.55 from Finkbeiner, $220.80 from Governmental Consultant Services Inc., $111.55 from Hemond, $162.56 from Hingst, $65.29 from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, $149.15 from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, and $121.60 from Mitchell.

State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, received $746 in meals from lobbyists.

That included $29.85 from Finkbeiner, $395.96 from Governmental Consultant Services Inc., $154.27 from Hemond, $12.21 from the Michigan Municipal League, and $153.80 from Wilson.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, didn't make the list. State Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, received $288.82 in meals, all from GCSI.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who represents part of Washtenaw County, was the top recipient. Data provided to shows him with a total tab of $2,865, which is slightly lower than previously reported figures.

That came from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Business Leaders for Michigan Inc., Government Consultant Services Inc., Hemond, Hingst, Kelley Cawthorne, Kheder Davis and Associates Inc., Meridian RX LLC, Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, Michigan Bell Telephone Co., State Bar of Michigan, and Muchmore Harrington Smalley and Associates.

Overall, the top three special interest lobbyists buying food and beverages for legislators were Kelley Cawthorne, AT&T of Michigan reporting as Michigan Bell, and GCSI.

GCSI is a lobbying firm that represents Washtenaw County, Ypsilanti Township, and the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in Lansing.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Martin Friedburg

Sat, Dec 31, 2011 : 1:57 a.m.

As part of delegations from the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, I had the pleasure of having working lunches with then-Rep. Warren two or three times over the past four years, during which we discussed details of installing new technology in reverse-vending machines (RVM's -- the machines into which we all feed our returnable pop cans, beer cans, etc., to redeem our deposits). At that time, and for many years prior, Michigan was paying out about $14,000,000 annually to redeem containers from neighboring states on which no deposit had been paid. Since unclaimed deposits are turned over to a state environmental fund, that means citizens of other states were, in effect, robbing Michigan's environmental fund to the tune of $14 million a year. Rep. Warren helped spearhead the effort to stop this by introducing technology into the RVM's that would differentiate between a container on which a deposit had been paid and one on which none had been paid. She worked hard and long to bring this to fruition. In the first year of partial implementation alone, Michigan has already saved several millions of dollars that would have otherwise gone to cheaters in other states. As added implementation continues, the savings to Michigan taxpayers will be additional millions every year. The cost of those working lunches? Less than $50 in total. The benefit to Michigan taxpayers? Millions and millions. If this is "pigging out at the trough", we should all learn to belly up......

Lac Court Orilles

Fri, Dec 30, 2011 : 11:46 a.m.

Let's see here . . . Who would I rather take out to lunch? Rick Olson or Rebekah Warren? Olson's just a rubber stamp Republican who always votes the party line and doesn't think. Warren is an interesting person who cares about people and will listen to you.


Fri, Nov 25, 2011 : 8:31 a.m.

The title of the article should read, Senate majority leader Randy Richardville is the #1 recipient of lobbyist-paid meals. It is truly a shame that he was not recalled. Do you suppose he will get his precious bill passed that allows High School students to carry guns?

Shane K.

Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

Is this news? Senate districts are far larger than House districts, so one could assume that Senators would be the recipients of more lobbyist funds. There are 38 Senate Districts, and anyone who looks at the map and knows anything about this state can easily see that the 18th (Warren's) district) is one of the more affluent, certainly in the top 10%. Why is anybody surprised at all that she's one of the most lobbied (in dollar terms) lawmakers? Isn't news supposed to be new? Not just something that everybody knows already. When she starts receiving a disproportionate amount of funds, or commits some sort of malfeasance, let me know. In other news, the sky is still blue, the earth is still round and I'm still unimpressed with the media.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

Funny how the same people who were screaming about lobbyists when this story was first published as a Republican story are now willing to excuse Warren because she's on the take, too. Corrupt politicians take bribes. Warren is corrupt, just like most of her fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Until we pass a law (good luck with that) making it illegal for a politician to accept a bribe, we will have corruption in Lansing.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

I would like to know why our government puts up with Lobbyists. They should be banned from any part of government. Oh I forgot most people in government are liars, cheats and work for there good and there pockets.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 5:25 p.m.

FREE LUNCH AND FREE WEIGHT CHECKUPS : If I am correct, I remember reading that Michigan Governor has recommended to provide wieght checkups for children and others receiving public benefits like Food Stamps. I would be happy if this benefit of free weight checkups is extended to all people who may receive free lunches and beverages. The former City of Detroit Mayor may have received a tip of $10, 000 inside the rest room of a restraunt and if his weight had been checked before meal and after the meal, they would have discovered this unexplained weight gain. It is always good to know as to how food and drink affects the body.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

You get what you vote for...Their " free " lunch is on your tab...


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

Unfortunately it doesn't seem to really work that way. Politicians are politicians and I'm thinking there aren't that many who are honest and not full of themselves. We don't really have a clue who we vote for.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 1:17 p.m.

Why bother to vote? These people are the ones making the decisions. How many politicians have tried lobbyist? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

that should have said &quot;turned into lobbyists&quot;.

Cathy Z.

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

Disgusting- hey, she doesn't respond to her e-mails either!

Monica R-W

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

Another fair and balanced story by Ryan. Ann has quite a journalistic asset this is young man. Keep up the great reporting on what's going on in Lansing!


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

Well she has earned her nickname in Capital circles &quot;Shrimpbowl Becky&quot;.

Silent Majority

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 3:46 a.m.

Rebekah Warren is exactly who we want and need in Lansing. The fact that she's had some free lunches from lobbyists and then voted against some of their bills really doesn't bother me. If this really bothers you then call on the GOP, which controls all 3 branches of government, to enact better campaign lobbying rules. She's right on all the issues and she's the most progressive Dem in the Senate. I really don't think this is much of a story.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 4 a.m.



Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 3:28 a.m.

I don't know what the policy is for legislators, but in the buasiness world, we had to sign a form which stated that, if we even thought about taking a lunch, going to a ball game, accepting any kind of gift or gratuity, we were automatically fired. And, if you did any work or game playing while on your job, you were walked to the door and told never to return. I walked around a business recently, not where I worked, and sure enough a guy was playing solitaire, and I pointed it out to my host, and the person was fired. Thats the way it should be. I hope the legislator is getting the message. If you play or take, you will be fired. There are simply too may people out there who really want to work and solve problems to let people get away with this kind of stuff. If I visit Lansing, and I do sometimes, I am going to check up on all legislators to see if there are any fooling around. You hear?

Buster W.

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

Someone has to be No. 4!

joe golder

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

When I here they're car pooling and packing their lunch I'll take them a little more serious!

Ron Granger

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

Is it wrong or illegal for a lobbyist to entertain a politician at a strip club? What about &quot;Hooters&quot;? I ask because I know sales people doing it in the private sector.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

So pretty much everyone here says &quot;so what&quot; this is small potatoes. Where does the small potatoes argument end? Of course we know there is corruption all the way to the top, but does that mean we just wink at the stuff like this? It's easy to say &quot;oh, go look at this problem over here...&quot; but the fact is that nothing is done about any of it, isn't it? We just smile knowingly, nod and forget about it.

John Q

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

The irony is that this is one of the few ways that corporate and special interest peddling is actually tallied in Lansing. This is the peanuts compared to the full course meal of peddling that goes on through campaign contributions, special interests giveaways and other goodies done by legislators to reward their friends. If I was a little more cynical, I would say that state legislators purposely put this out so that you'll focus on the little stuff and be distracted away from the real influence buying that goes on.


Mon, Nov 21, 2011 : 5:42 a.m.

You must be referring to the unseen union influence in the Democratic party.

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 7:50 p.m.

This is how lobbyists test the waters - see who they can purchase with the bigger checks. If you're willing to take a $50 lunch on someone else's dime, what will you do for $10,000? It's shameful how many of our legislators are on the take.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:27 p.m.

This is all just totally disgusting -- and we wonder who is running the city, state and especially the federal governments.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Check out <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> for the website promoting &quot;Governmental Consultant Services, Inc.&quot; one of the lobbying firms mentioned in this fine atricle.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

Never mind Ryan, I just read the last line, I missed it first time. It IS a public union effort. Go figure, the folks spending the most money are union employees on politicians responsible for their wages and benefits. How about that? Wall street isn't the only corrupt entity on the block!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:39 p.m.

Ryan, Governmental consultant Services, Inc. seems to be wining and dining the most. What does this entity do? Sounds like some sort of &quot;public union&quot; enterprise to me.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:01 p.m.

who cares! this is going on all the time. check out the big three, uofm, dte and the city of ann arbor. this is part of doing business. check out the rx reps. they bring lunch to the doctors offices all the time. pick on something that is worth picking on. this is not even close.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

The questions in my mind are: Why is this allowed, how can we stop this practice, what will it take, and who has the power to do it? Does anyone have answers to these questions?

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

It is just another way that access is bought by lobbyists... at all levels.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

So, just to be clear, in a month where a university president and coach were fired for protecting a child rapist, tear gas and pepper spray are being used on protestors exercising their First Amendment rights, and the Republicans in Lansing passed an anti-bullying law that outlines what constitutes legally-sanctioned bullying and has no hope of protecting children at risk, you all are up in arms about free lunches? Really? What's next, examining the provenance of the doughnuts in the lunchroom? I think we can file this under &quot;First-World problems&quot;.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:16 p.m.

Report what was spent ? Makes sense. Sensationalize it doesn't make sense. Not too many of us raise our hands when it's time to write legislation. Not many of us spend a lot of time learning what will affect the provider &amp; the recipent. Without detail I don't know if a $900+ cost is excessive or not. If the legislator is new expect more to be spent on them while they get up to speed. Ironing out what needs to be written, changed, or revised requires hearing from those affectived. Better maximise your day by being fed lunch or dinner. You can take your legislator out to lunch / dinner if you have something meaningful to bring to the issue I see most of these comments as being negative &amp; not knowing enough to understand the lobbying avtivity, Can it be abused ? Anything we do can be abused with the best of intentions. Like Health code violations it's good to know.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

&quot;and $3.26 from the Michigan Municipal League&quot;... Taco Bell?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

One of my favorite quotes was from someone who had just been elected to congress after a career outside of politics (I've forgotten who it was). The quote was &quot;I'm so new, I paid for my own lunch one day this week.&quot; And did we tell you the name of the game, boy. We call it riding the gravy train....


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

Republicans. Democrats. They are all the same. Unless they are restricted from accepting anything, votes will be bought.

Monica R-W

Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:47 p.m.

So true Gyre, so true!

Beth Wilson

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

I am so tired of politicians living off the public dole (Rebekkah, by the way, is married to Conan Smith, who is 3rd generation politician) who keep their pockets lined while everyone else starves. Mr. Smith just voted to keep ALL the County employee jobs safe and give administrators raises, while cutting nonprofit funding for critical housing and food programs and county services to homeless animals. When you and all of your family are living off public dollars you forget that the point of government is not self-perpetuation but prudent use of tax dollars. It's an inherent conflict of interest if you ask me.

Mr. Ed

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

Since she's getting a free lunch may be her husband Conan Smith can pay the County back.

Ron Granger

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.



Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:52 p.m.

Sen. Warren. I'm a lifelong democrat, but you lost my vote on this one unless you can explain yourself and why you are meeting with this many lobbyists.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

Senator Warren, I never pass up a chance to thank you for your experience, performance and integrity on our behalf. We sure got it right when we choose you to represent us.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

@Peter said: &quot;Government Consultant Services Inc.&quot; What a delightfully neutral way to name your bribery company. And a great way to hide who is really trying to influence your representative to instead be THEIR representative. We do have the best government money can buy!

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

There's no such thing as a &quot;free&quot; lunch.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:43 p.m.

Sen. Warren, this disturbs me somewhat. There's no such thing as a free lunch.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

I'm no fan of Rebekah (not by a long shot), but is $1800 in 6 months that big a deal? $69/week?, $10/day? I guess Subway was having those $5 footlong things, so yep, maybe excessive.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

i agree 100% with you. just knit picking is what people are doing. you broke it down so it is NO big deal.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9 p.m.

It's not simply the money. It's that this system of back-scratching does NOT put the constituents' best interest at heart.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:33 p.m.

I'm not quite sure what the intent of this article is or why R. Warren was headlined or why the listing is incomplete. Who came in 2nd, 3rd, others? Were any of the other officials asked for comments? A little digging would have provided a context for this information to make it pertinent such as looking at the particular pieces of legislation being worked on by the individual legislators during the period of time that lobbyists were giving their free food and beverages.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

I guess we all know why they try to become lifetime politicians. If they used the meals for 'hot and readys', and kept the leftovers, they'd never have to make a meal all year! (Though you might want to hit the gym with all that pizza) :)


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:22 p.m.

&quot;Government Consultant Services Inc.&quot; What a delightfully neutral way to name your bribery company.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

If they can be bribed by $50 a month in lunches we could all afford legislator or two. How much of our local tax dollars are going to Lansing restaurants?

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:07 p.m.

GCSI is a lobbying firm that represents Washtenaw County, Ypsilanti Township, and the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in Lansing.

Top Cat

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

As long as they can't eat and vote at the same time, perhaps best to keep feeding them.

Elaine F. Owsley

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:19 p.m.

I'd be too embarrassed to comment, too, if I had pigged out to that level. Any record of her record regarding matters important to these lobbyists?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

Re &quot;pigged out&quot;: I don't think Warren despicably gorged herself on cheap &quot;greasy spoon diner&quot; fare. She was likely wined and dined at some of the most expensive restaurants you will see in Michigan. Thus, the large aggregate amount for the six-month period.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Thank you for this very important article about &quot;free food and beverages&quot;. It is this type of conduct by Rebekah Warren that fuels the recall movement that has been promoted by the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus. I heartily endorse that recall effort. Rich Robinson, a U-M grad, has pushed for campaign reform legislation and ending abuses such as this in his capacity as director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Kelley Cawthorne, mentioned in the article, is a law firm headed by former Attorney General Frank J. Kelley who is raking in big bucks in lobbying fees. Warren was elected to the Michigan Legislature due to the political connections of her husband, &quot;Pay up Conan&quot; Smith, the son of Alma Wheeler Smith and the grandson of fomer A2 Mayor Al Wheeler. &quot;A heritage cannot be transmitted, it must be conquered.&quot; - French author Andre Malraux.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Great Malraux quote!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

come on get real.

Peter Baker

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Then I'm sure you'll hold Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe to the same standards, and work to get him out of office as well, seeing as how he accepted twice as much.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

The Michigan Municipal League was clearly trying to influence things with that $3.26 meal...

Charlie Brown's Ghost

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:18 p.m.

That one's probably just a coffee.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

I'm sure whatever she got from lobbyists was matched and given to Food Gatherers. Did that sound sarcastic?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

Sarcasm with a sliver of contempt. (I liked it)