LANSING, Mich. — Michigan winners of multistate lotteries — such as the Lapeer man who won a $337 million Powerball jackpot — could choose to remain anonymous, under a bill that passed a state Senate committee Thursday.
Sen. Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights, said publicity surrounding such windfalls makes winners too vulnerable to scam artists and violent criminals, not to mention grasping third cousins.
"The reasons range from the mundane to the fatal," Rocca said. Not only are there "relatives popping out of the woodwork," but "there are cases throughout the country of people being shot and actually killed."
The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee that Rocca chairs passed his bill Thursday in a 6-0 vote with bipartisan support. The bill now moves to the full Senate.
But the change faces opposition from the Michigan Lottery Bureau. It says taking away the publicity generated by winners such as Donald Lawson, 44, who in August opted for a lump-sum $224.6 million payout, would depress ticket sales.
Patrick Clawson of Flint, a legal investigator who advocates for open government, told the committee that Rocca's proposed law would violate a requirement of the state constitution that all state financial records be open to public inspection.
"What we're talking about is public money," Clawson said.
"If they want to keep their names (from being) disclosed, let them play the Mafia numbers racket."
Rocca rejected the constitutional argument and said winners of lotteries confined to the state of Michigan, as opposed to multistate lotteries such as Powerball, already have the option of keeping their names secret.
Rocca noted that a $30 million lottery winning was cited as the motive in the 2010 murder of a Plant City, Fla., man found buried under a concrete slab.