Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroiter Magazine > Carrying on the Levin Legacy: The Levin Center Promotes Bipartisan, Fact-Based Governing

Carrying on the Levin Legacy: The Levin Center Promotes Bipartisan, Fact-Based Governing

September 20, 2021
By James Martinez

Senator Carl Levin’s brand of public service focused on integrity, candor and bipartisanship, and he placed a premium on Congress’ responsibility to provide public and private sector oversight that put people first.

“I do believe that a politician has an obligation to identify injustice and try to eliminate or at least minimize it. And I do believe that politicians can write laws that will improve the lives of the people they seek to serve. And that is what I tried to do,” wrote the senator in his recent memoir.

Throughout his 36-year career in Washington, Senator Levin held key leadership positions on committees that led dozens of major investigations ranging from Enron to unethical practices in the finance industry to the 2008 financial crisis. He did not shy away from the difficult conversations and remained determined to bring accountability and thoughtful policy solutions to government.

That legacy is carried on today by the Levin Center at Wayne Law School, which focuses on promoting fact-based, bipartisan oversight by Congress and the 50 state legislatures. It also encourages civil dialogue on major public policy issues.

“We all have a responsibility to maintaining a fact-based public square without which our democracy can’t function and we can’t tackle major problems such as vaccines, climate change, and infrastructure,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center and a former state representative. “So, our focus on bipartisan, fact-based oversight is about raising the quality of legislative fact-finding and pushing to make lawmakers accountable for upholding basic norms of truthfulness and integrity.”

The Center, where the late Senator taught and shared his insights and experiences with students, offers academic coursework, training programs, symposia, and research. Its programming is designed to encourage future and current leaders to embrace their role in promoting honest and open government, maintaining the public trust, and holding public and private institutions accountable to high ethical and transparency standards.

“Bipartisan fact-finding, bipartisan investigations tend to be more thorough and in-depth,” said Townsend. “We have found that lawmakers and staff raise their game in an investigation when both parties have a significant role and bring their own perspectives to the work, rather than having a single-party echo chamber that begins the inquiry with a foregone conclusion.”

Upon Levin’s retirement in January 2015, Wayne State University and the Wayne Law School along with supporters, friends, and former staff established the Center, which includes bipartisan advisory board and staff. In his memoir, the Senator credited Elise Bean, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Eugene Driker, and Linda Gustitus with leading efforts to create the center.

James Martinez is a freelance writer and content creation consultant in Metro Detroit.