Former Michigan GOP Lawmaker Who Lobbied Against Lobbyists is Now a Lobbyist

Former Michigan Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth speaks during a news conference last year in Lansing. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 14, 2023

Former Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth pushed for a two-year “cooling off” period before former lawmakers could go on to become lobbyists. But just four months after wrapping up his term, the ex-lawmaker is now registered as a lobbyist in the state of Michigan.

MICHIGAN—Former Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth has been labeled a hypocrite after it was revealed this week that the ex-lawmaker is working as a lobbyist, despite repeatedly advocating for new legislation that would’ve prevented him from becoming one.

Wentworth first announced plans to register as a lobbyist to the Michigan Information and Research Services last week. He launched his own consulting firm, J.W. Strategic Solutions, on Jan. 3 and formally filed paperwork to become a lobbyist on March 24, reports the Detroit News.

The move isn’t particularly uncommon. Eight of the last 12 House speakers have gone on to become lobbyists after leaving office. But during Wentworth’s time in Lansing, he was a vocal critic of the transition—and in 2021, he led a bipartisan package of ethics and transparency bills that called for a two-year “cooling off period” before ex-lawmakers could become lobbyists.

“The simple truth is people are losing faith in their government,” Wentworth said in a press release announcing the legislation to end the lawmaker-to-lobbyist pipeline. “We need to listen to what the people are telling us and start fixing the broken culture in the halls of government.”

Closing the “revolving door” of lawmakers moving on to become lobbyists has been a focus of many Michigan politicians over the years—namely because of the potential for impropriety from lawmakers who could use their office to benefit their future employers on the way out the door.

The proposed reforms ultimately stalled in the then Republican-controlled state Senate, and now Wentworth—who left office this year—is employing the same tactics he tried to prevent. 

His new career path evoked immediate criticism from his former political opponents.

“Hypocrisy doesn’t get any clearer than this,” the state Democratic Party said in a press release. “How can we trust House Republicans to put their constituents over their old friend?” 

Wentworth, in response, told the Detroit News that he has no current lobbyist clients with whom he also had a working relationship while speaker. He also said that he registered as a lobbyist “because I want to make sure I’m following the law in order to protect my clients and myself.”

At least four other lawmakers have also gone on to become lobbyists after leaving the Legislature last year—including former Republican Reps. Ben Frederick and Jim Lily. 

Another iteration of the lobbying reforms have been introduced this year by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake). It would require a two-year “cooling off” period before rank-and-file senators and representatives can become lobbyists. Committee chairs would need to wait an extra year.

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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