Michigan lobbyists and lawmakers, including a local legislator and his wife, are fighting efforts to release emails concerning car sales in the state.

The lawsuit was filed by electric car-maker Tesla and challenges the Michigan law requiring new car sales through a franchised dealership. However, it is also trying to reveal emails between Republican State Senator Joe Hune of Iosco Township and GOP State Representative Jason Sheppard of Temperance. Hune introduced a 2014 amendment to the law, which Tesla says was designed to maintain a monopoly for auto dealers on car sales in Michigan. Hune's wife, Marcia, is also a registered lobbyist employed by Government Consultant Services, whose clients include the Auto Dealers of Michigan. The Detroit News says Sheppard was subpoenaed because of 2016 statements that Michigan dealers and manufacturers do not want Tesla in the state. Under a protective order signed in March, the emails would be “for attorneys’ eyes only,” but lawyers for Hune and Sheppard argue their clients have legislative privilege and characterize the subpoenas as an attempt “to harass legislators who will not buckle to Tesla’s demands.”

Tesla claims the law unconstitutionally prevents it from using its preferred model of direct-to-consumer sales. But Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office, which is defending the state in the lawsuit, claims the 2014 revision to the law did not target Tesla and says Michigan has “long barred” automakers from owning or operating dealerships. Currently, Michigan consumers who want to buy a Tesla have to do so from the company’s website and then have the cars delivered to a retail store in Ohio or Illinois. (JK)