You Can Now Use a Credit Card for Michigan Attorney General’s FOIA Requests

No more writing a check, stamping an envelope, and mailing it to an address in Lansing for those paying for the Michigan Attorney General’s Public Records.

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office announced Wednesday that requests under the Freedom of Information Act can now be paid online with a credit or debit card. The idea came from the late Kelly Rossman-McKinney, who was Nessel’s communications director, after learning last year that a reporter had to deposit a check in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A forward-thinking public relations professional, Rossman-McKinney, 67, spent decades in Lansing politics. She began her career in 1979 working in the state capital before starting her own company, which merged with John Truscott in 2011 to form Truscott-Rossman.

In 2018, Rossman-McKinney unsuccessfully ran for a state Senate seat. Subsequently, she became Director of Communications for Attorney General Nessel. She passed away last November after a long battle with cancer.

“His advocacy for journalists and government transparency can now endure even after his death – a true testament to the impact Kelly had on all of us,” Nessel said in the announcement.

FOIA requests are often made by journalists, academics, researchers, and members of the public to access records maintained by public agencies.

A University of Arizona 2019 study using FOIA tracking website data MuckRock found that the average public record fee charged to journalists from 2014 to 2017 was $283 in Michigan, the 3rd highest of the 50 states.

In 2015 Michigan has received an “F” rating from the Center for Public Integrity on public access to information.

Michigan has also been slow to improve its public records laws in recent years, despite Governor Gretchen Whitmer signing a directive in 2019 to improve FOIA transparency that includes cutting high fees. Whitmer’s office, the lieutenant governor, and the legislature remain exempt from FOIA.

Related: Michigan Legislature leaves Sunshine Week in the dark without reforming transparency laws

Several bills related to ethics and transparency have yet to go through committee hearings, MLive reported in March. In addition, bills to create an Open Records Legislative Act and include the governor’s office in the FOIA have been poised for passage by the state Senate since last year.

Michigan AG’s online payment option is now available on the department’s website FOIA page. Applicants will receive an invoice explaining their payment options, which still include the traditional paper check. Cards accepted are MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover.

Learn more about MLive:

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