By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – It was 20 years ago this month that a front-page newspaper article began to unravel an extensive legislative corruption scandal that led to felony convictions for 10 people, including a lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula. That Jan. 15, 1993, Detroit News article and dozens that followed also helped push one of the state’s most powerful politicians onto the Capitol sidelines, uncovered political influence in the awarding of state contracts and triggered tougher oversight of the House Fiscal Agency (HFA), the nonpartisan office that analyzes tax and budget issues for the House of Representatives. And for the first time in 14 years, the Auditor General’s office examined the HFA’s books, discovering that at least $1.8 million in public money had been stolen, misspent or simply couldn’t be accounted for. That first article about suspicious financial dealings at the HFA, “State fiscal watchdog under fire,” by reporter Jim Mitzelfeld was like a domino standing on end that, when tipped over, knocks down all dominos lined up behind it.