Emails expose Mackinac Center’s true purpose

State representative gets lobbying email from Center’s legislative analyst, who wants “no more MEA”

EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 28, 2011 — A Monday story in the Grand Rapids Press brought to light emails between State Representative Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and leadership from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, in which the Center’s senior legislative analyst, Jack McHugh, advocates for ending collective bargaining for Michigan’s public sector employees and “in practical terms means no more MEA.”

The emails from early June (available at www.scribd.com/doc/74052346/Mackinac-Center-Emails) show the intense lobbying role the Mackinac Center played earlier this year in the passage of a hard cap on health insurance premiums for public employees.  But these emails also clearly show the anti-union, anti-MEA bias that has been a hallmark of the Mackinac Center’s work for years – and the influence they have over politicians like McMillin, who was recently named as the new chair of the House Education Committee.

“The Mackinac Center likes to pretend it’s a non-partisan think tank, but the public deserves to know who they really are and what they really think,” said MEA President Steven Cook.  “For years, we’ve been saying that their real agenda is the elimination of collective bargaining rights and the destruction of unions – and now they’ve said it, in black and white.”

The Mackinac Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that, according to their most recent filings with the IRS, does not engage in lobbying activities.  These emails certainly call that assertion into question – something the Center’s deep-pocketed backers should take into account.

“Based only on the limited reporting requirements the Mackinac Center has to follow, we know that foundations representing conservative individuals and corporate special interests have given millions to the Mackinac Center to push policy positions and develop pseudo-science ‘research’ to back up their beliefs,” Cook said. “Politicians who have that faux-research foisted upon them should know what the Center’s real agenda is – and whose interests they’re representing.”

A great example of the questionable quality of Mackinac Center research came earlier this year when a report from the Economic Policy Institute on the economic impacts of so-called “Right to Work” laws highlighted the lack of appropriate social science controls in the Mackinac Center’s research on the topic.  The EPI research by Dr. Gordon Lafer (which can be found at www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-michigan-economy), controlled for more than 40 variables that could influence the results – the Mackinac Center’s work controlled for none. Similar debunking of Mackinac Center “research” is done regularly by the Great Lakes Center’s “Think Twice Think Tank Review” project.

“We hope there is a renewed call, in light of the disturbing language in these emails, for more transparency from the Mackinac Center about where their funding comes from and more critical analysis of the policy positions their research points to,” Cook said.  “And we sincerely hope that Rep. McMillin and others in the legislature think twice before deferring to the Mackinac Center’s ‘non-partisan’ expertise in the future.”

Contact: Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Public Affairs, 517-896-4465