Trust me when I tell you that this is the most tangled web you have ever seen in your life.
Last week Michigan's Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation giving him what many have called “dictatorial” powers. The much despised EFM law gives Snyder the power to hand pick emergency financial managers (or emergency financial "corporate persons"), who then have the authority to take the following actions:
- Consolidate or dissolve local governments and dismiss the officials elected by the people.
- Consolidate or dissolve school districts, close schools, and dismiss elected school board members.
- Sell off public property. Public. Property. Parks, buildings, licenses, permits, and so forth. All of it.
- Privatize government services, with all that entails.
- Shred all contracts agreed to by local governments and schools, including union contracts.
Which people or what organizations are behind Snyder’s EFM law?
Andy Kroll at Mother Jones enlightens us:
Since 2005, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has urged reforms to Michigan law giving more power and protection to emergency financial managers, state-appointed officials who parachute into ailing cities or school districts and employ drastic measures to fix budgets on the brink of collapse. In January, the free-market-loving center published four recommendations, including granting emergency managers the power to override elected officials (such as a mayor or school board member) and toss out union contracts. All four ended up in Snyder's legislation.
"The Mackinac Center has been tied at the hip with the Republican Party establishment for years," says Doug Pratt, public affairs director at the Michigan Education Association. "It goes to their funding sources; it goes to their ideology."
But wait, according to a statement on their "Purpose" page, the Mackinac Center is non-partisan, emphasis mine:
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is 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.
Regardless of their claim to the contrary, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is highly partisan.
One need only read the articles on MCFPP's site to understand that their claim to be "non-partisan" is a whole lot of blatantly disregarded hooey. Even the titles of some of their recent articles give away their very partisan nature. And all of the article titles that I viewed indicate the same bias. Who exactly are they trying to fool?
MCFPP article: “Public Employees Public Sector Average Compensation Grows While Private Sector's Decreases”
MCFPP article: “101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan Reconsidering Michigan's Public Employment Relations”
MCFPP article: “Number of ObamaCare 'Noncollaborationist' Governors Growing; Gov. Snyder Should Join Ranks”
Which persons or organizations are funding the Mackinac Center for Public Policy?
The question of who is responsible for this outrageous subjugation of Michigan citizens has been answered. And as you might expect, the Koch brothers have their hands in it. So does Amway’s DeVos Family, so does Prince.In fact, Erik Prince is the foundation’s vice president. Andy Kroll at Mother Jones, emphasis mine:
The Mackinac Center does not disclose its donors. But a review of tax records shows that the group's funders include the charitable foundations of the nation's largest corporations and a host of wealthy conservative and libertarian benefactors. Between 2002 and 2009, the Mackinac Center's donors included the Charles G. Koch Foundation ($69,151), founded by the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, who, with his brother, David, is a major backer of conservative causes; the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation ($80,000), the charity tied to the son of the co-founder of Amway, the multibillion-dollar direct marketing company; the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, established by the parents of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who serves as the foundation's vice president ($195,000); and the Walton Family Foundation ($100,000), established by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen.
Political action committees and non-profit groups linked to some of these same donors also helped fund Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign and his push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public-sector unions. Koch Industries' PAC gave $43,000 to Walker's 2010 campaign, while Wal-Mart's PAC chipped in $15,000. Dick DeVos and his daughter, Elisabeth, also individually donated to Walker's campaign.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is crazy about privatization.
The Mackinac Center’s is a fervent advocate of privatization—its scholars support outsourcing everything from public school districts to Amtrak to state prisons—and backs anti-union legislation for Michigan. In 2007, the center published "A Collective Bargaining Primer," advocating against mandatory unionization and automatic dues deductions for public school teachers and other public employees. Collective bargaining for teachers, the Center claims, "has become a significant deterrent to educational quality." In other words, if you outsource as much as you can and kneecap the unions, the quality of education—and presumably city services—increases.
That position is in line with the beliefs of its donors. In 2009, Amway and Wal-Mart were among the 3,100 businesses that signed a letter opposing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would've made it easier for employees to unionize; that same year, Wal-Mart spent $7.4 million on lobbying, much of it to defeat EFCA. (The law failed.) The Koch brothers, meanwhile, fund an array of organizations opposed to unions, including the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation. With the Mackinaw Center, it seems, their investment is paying off.
Did the Mackinac Center for Public Policy create and push the ideas that resulted in Snyder’s new emergency financial manager law themselves?
No. The ideas themselves came from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Karen Olson of Mother Jones, 2002:
Republican Strategist Paul Weyrich, founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 -- a think tank to promote the ideas of the New Right. Weyrich also founded ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council in 1973 to coordinate the work of Religious Right state legislators. ALEC initially positioned itself as a counterweight to liberal foundations and think tanks, focusing on social issues like abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, but [ALEC] became a magnet for corporate lobbyists.
Hector Solon, Daily Kos diarist:
The origination and first thrust at the inception of ALEC dealt with ERA, abortion, and other specific social issues, but quickly moved on to a whole range of corporate driven agendas. There was a sizable group of wealthy conservatives who endowed this effort to put ALEC in place as a way to shape and direct legislation and pass laws friendly to their goals and with the specific aim of rolling back legislation they believe impedes their business operations.
The Heritage Foundation, created in the Era of Ronald Reagan, was having early success and Heritage’s early members saw that their creation of ALEC as a subgroup with a targeted task could be a valuable asset to put their ideologies and business goals into state laws. Because a number of the Heritage Foundation benefactors/underwriters were rich, money was not a limiting concern and their influence flourishes.
Not satisfied with the progress they saw as a result of their influence with federal officials and officeholders, ALEC has turned its attention more and more toward state government, which Newt Gingrich has identified as the “laboratory” for change. Currently, the coordinated thrust in Michigan and around the country is to pass legislation that impedes or cripples collective bargaining and attacks the level of income and benefits for public employees as a systematic way to cripple unions and any opposition, and to promote the interests of conservatives and big business in order to support Republican Party candidates for the 2012 National Election. Karl Rove has openly confirmed this game plan, enthusiastically. Michigan is one of the prime targets because of its history as the home of the UAW, and Wisconsin the birthplace of many reforms supporting the average worker employee in America, is in center stage of this National Republican Strategy.
ALEC in Michigan
Solon goes on to relate this more closely to Michigan’s troubles:
Ties with very powerful corporate special interests such as ecothe Koch Brothers (Koch Industries and a list of Koch Foundations) are in Michigan too, and have been for years. Why Should Michiganders care?
Koch Foundations fund the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and unless you have been hiding under a rock, that is the Heritage Foundation’s Michigan subsidiary closely and directly tied to the Amway Clan, Dick DeVos, failed candidate for Governor in 2006 and a long list of former Michigan Governor John Engler cronies.
Koch brothers and Heritage Foundation’s American Legislative Exchange Council have been deeply active in Legislation and their operatives have been around Michigan for years and there are scores of new bills and resolutions (maybe even Snyder executive orders influenced by ALEC activities) at work and being introduced in Michigan right now.
In truth, ALEC is a tax-exempt organization set up to help hundreds of big corporations and trade associations advance their legislative agendas in state capitals from coast to coast.
A partial list of some of the Michigan corporations and organizations that are members of ALEC:
Amway / Alticor (of course), Amisure-Michigan Mutual, AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Chemical Banking Corporation, Chrysler, Comerica, Consumers Power, Detroit Edison (DTE Energy), Dow Chemical, GM, Ford, Koch Industries (WI), Michigan Consolidated Gas, Nestle USA, Sara Lee Corporation, SBC, Upjohn Corporation, Windway Foundation (WI) and doubtless many more.
Really wanted to add Blackwater USA/Xe, but not yet double sourced. However, ALEC does provide services to defense related companies and international affairs related legislation, but "been there already" and that is another whole topic.
Although the better question may be “what are we going to do about this?”, for surely, this is as un-Democratic as anything I have ever seen in my life.
- March 29 update: edited headers for better clarity.