FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 CONTACT: Leigh Fifelski

Tuesday, March 29, 2011                                                                                           (517) 999-3646


Right-Wing Front Launches Effort to Silence Free Speech, Strangle Middle-Class Fight

Mackinac Center FOIA targeting academics could stifle dialogue on Michigan’s future


LANSING – Groups across Michigan today warned citizens about an effort by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a front group for powerful right-wing conservatives, to silence the middle class and those who are standing up for ordinary families against powerful corporations and special interests.


“Wealthy corporations, right-wing radicals and their foot soldiers such as the Mackinac Center will stop at nothing to squeeze people who work hard for a living and silence those who fight on behalf of all families in Michigan,” said Progress Michigan Executive Director David Holtz. “People across Michigan are getting hammered by a tough economy, budget cuts, job losses and foreclosures. Now, they are at risk of having their voice taken away by a secretive, conservative front-group with deep pockets and no tolerance for those who dare disagree with them.”


National news media today began breaking a story that the Mackinac Center filed sweeping Freedom of Information Act requests to the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan, the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University and Michigan State University, which has a School of Human Resources & Labor Relations. The requests specifically seek emails from all labor studies faculty at each school.


The action appears to be an expansion of the tactics being used by the Wisconsin Republican Party against Professor William Cronin of the University of Wisconsin after he criticized that state’s governor in a personal blog.


The journalism site, Talking Points Memo, reported the following today about the Mackinac Center: The center does not disclose its donors but according to recent reporting by Mother Jones, Mackinac “is part of a network of state-based groups associated with the Heritage Foundation.” Past major donors to Mackinac Center, according to Mother Jones, have included the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation (the Wal-Mart Waltons), and foundations tied to two of Michigan’s best-known and wealthiest conservative political families: the DeVos family of Amway fame and the Prince family of Blackwater fame. The Mackinac Center has long pushed for several of the controversial proposals put forward by Gov. Rick Snyder, including one which would allow state government to step in when local municipalities face financial crises and declare, as one supportive legislator put it, “financial martial law,” including abrogating union contracts.


“The people of Michigan deserve a voice, especially at a time when politicians, and special interest groups like the Mackinac Center are doing everything in their power to distract Michigan residents from paying attention to what really matters,” said Linda Teeter, executive director of Michigan Citizen Action.  “This FOIA request is changing the subject from the fact that K-12 funding is under attack, unemployment benefits have been cut, and prisons and state police posts are being closed.”


“After the complete failure of its economic policies over the past decade, the Mackinac Center now seeks to cast a shadow of fear and intimidation over Michigan so that no one will dare question any state’s action denying persons their basic right to join with other folks to improve their working conditions,” said John Philo, legal director of Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice. “Along with a majority of Michiganders, we will be working to ensure that our Constitutional right to freedom of association and our human right to form and join labor unions prevail over the Center’s discredited agenda and repugnant tactics.”




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