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article imageOp-Ed: GOP's scholar targeting campaign alive and well in Michigan

By Bill Lindner     Mar 30, 2011 in Politics
The Republican fishing expedition for emails from scholars and historians who might oppose the dystopian legislation being used by many states to destroy unions, poor populations and senior citizens is alive and well in Michigan.
The GOP's attempt to smear and scare those who speak out about their ongoing agenda to destroy public unions, such as Wisconsin scholar and historian William Cronon, is alive and well in Michigan. A Michigan lobbying organization masquerading as a free enterprise think tank, backed by some big names in national conservative donor circles, has reportedly made a broad public records request to at least three in--state Universities with departments that specialize in the study of labor relations attempting to get all their emails associated with the union battle in Wisconsin, its Republican Governor Scott Walker, and, surprisingly, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.
Michigan professors subject to the request filed under Michigan's version of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by an employee at the conservative Mackinac Center For Public Policy (MCPP) think tank as part of their fishing expedition into what labor studies professors at Michigan state universities are saying about the situation in Wisconsin, say the request is extremely rare in academic circles.
But, as history is again revealing, Republicans think they can scare people who oppose and repudiate their lies by smearing and trying to scare those who don't agree with them. Unfortunately for them, more people are awakening to the immoral and unethical reality of today’s Republican Party.
The MCPP, based in Midland, Michigan, submitted the FOIA requests to the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan, the Douglas A Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University, and the School of Human Resources & Labor Relations at Michigan State University (MSU). MCPP is specifically seeking all email correspondence carried out on computers to or from employees, contractors, etc. containing terms, or derivatives of: "Scott Walker, Wisconsin, Madison, Maddow, and any other emails dealing with the collective bargaining situation in Wisconsin" for a period beginning January 1, 2011 to March 25, 2011 from all labor study faculties at each school.
MCPP Funded by Corporations and Lobbying Groups
On its website, MCPP describes itself as "a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues. The goal of all Center reports, commentaries and educational programs is to equip Michigan citizens and other decision makers to better evaluate policy options."
Mackinac claims it’s dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens, but refuses to disclose its donors, who aren't Michigan citizens at all. In fact, a recent Mother Jones report reveals that MCPP is part of a network of state-based groups associated with the Heritage Foundation -- a "think tank" that belongs to the Koch brothers. Past and present MPCC board members include Robert Teeter, former GOP strategist and campaign manager for George H.W. Bush, Margaret Rieker, former vice chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, and Joseph Lehman, former vice president at the Cato Institute in Washington, which is also part of the Koch brothers lobbying group. The Koch brothers are billionaires with several agendas that include getting rid of -- among other things -- public-sector unions, collective bargaining rights, minimal social services for the needy, and much oversight of industry, especially environmental regulation. Needless to say, the quality life for Michigan citizens won't be improving any time soon.
Between 2002 and 2009, donations to MCPP have included $69,151 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation; $80,000 from the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, the charity tied to the son of the co-founder of Amway; $195,000 from the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, established by the parents of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who serves as the foundation's vice president; and $100,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, established by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen. The Devos and Prince families are two of Michigan's best-known and wealthiest conservative political families. Other corporations and lobbying groups that donated to MCPP can be found at Source Watch.
MCPP has pushed "reforms" to Michigan law giving more power and protection to emergency financial managers -- state-appointed officials who can employ drastic measures to allegedly fix budgets on the brink of collapse. Four of the "reforms" pushed by MCPP, including abrogating union contracts, ended up in the dystopian "financial Martial Law" recently implemented by Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder. The dystopian legislation passed by Snyder and company allows the Michigan state government to break up unions, dissolve entire local governments and replace them with appointed "Emergency Managers," and fire elected officials unilaterally with no input whatsoever from voters of the cities it dissolves. All it takes is the stroke of pan from Snyder to declare a financial emergency to invoke those powers so he can hire a private company to take the city over. Snyder's corporate coup d'etat benefits his corporate cronies, not the citizens, and effectively destroys any semblance of Democracy. The intent of the bill is obvious. So far, 65 "Emergency Mangers" have been trained, and Michigan is preparing to train 150 more.
MCPP's Broad Records Requests Sparking Controversy
Snyder's financial Marshall Law also financed $1.8 billion dollars in tax cuts for corporations and the rich while attacking funding for education and social services and imposing new taxes on workers and the elderly. If Snyder's dystopian legislation was actually about fixing Michigan's budget like he claims, there wouldn't be almost two billion dollars-worth of tax cuts. Cutting taxes doesn't decrease deficits. It increases deficits at the cost of taxpayers.
MCPP is known for FOIAing state workers, including teachers and professors. In February, MCPP reportedly criticized Michigan State for not fully complying with a FOIA request for emails surrounding a plagiarism scandal involving MSU faculty. MCPP recently requested emails for a public school teacher looking for any mention of the possibility of a strike. Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan. The request was denied, which lead to an outcry from the MCPP and the Michigan Press Association.
Jarrett Skorup is the research associate whose name appears on the MCPP's FOIA request. He told Talking Points Memo (TPM) that he helped write and file the FOIAs at the request of his bosses, but he doesn't know what they would be used for in the end. He suggested that MCPP was looking for chatter about the Wisconsin labor situation from state professors paid to study labor relations. Skorup's boss refused to comment on the FOIAs.
The broad records requests have sparked controversy over the motivation of these "think tanks," but the requests are legal. Consequently, as turnabout is fair play, the public can demand similar information from these "think tanks." A copy of MCPP's FOIA request can be viewed at TPM. Anyone can tweak this letter to write to Michigan Republicans, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heritage Foundations and a host of others to get information on all kinds of things, including collusion with corporations, money received, affiliations, etc. MCPP's fishing expedition may or may not amount to anything, but it's time for a closer look at these GOP and corporate lobbying groups and their underhanded tactics being used to screw the rest of us.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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