FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, Nov. 28, 2011
Contact: David Holtz, (313) 300-4454
Lawmakers should honor transparency if group truly is not lobbying
LANSING, MI – Progress Michigan called today on the state Legislature to release all emails and other communications between lawmakers and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, including those of a lobbying nature, in light of the center’s admission that its goal is to “outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan.”
“Right-wing politicians have long relied on the Mackinac Center for their talking points and warped data to prop up their anti-worker agenda,” said David Holtz, executive director of Progress Michigan. “This peek behind the curtain confirms that the Mackinac Center is not only advocating for hard-right policies, but this supposed non-partisan think tank is also intimately involved with Republicans in the mechanics of legislation. And it is doing so without the kind of transparency they routinely demand of others. Lawmakers should release all their communications with the Mackinac Center to prove that they are not being influenced by a group that has no business lobbying at the Capitol.”
The Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt, charitable organization that describes itself as “a research and educational institute.” While it is not registered as a lobbying organization with the state, a series of emails obtained by Progress Michigan indicates the Mackinac Center was actively seeking to influence legislation regarding health care benefits for teachers and other public workers. The emails involved communications between six Mackinac Center staff members and Republican State Rep. Tom McMillin between June 1 and June 8. McMillin is the Chair of the House Education Committee, appointed after the recall of former state Rep. Paul Scott.
State law requires any individual or corporation who lobbies to register with the Michigan Secretary of State and report lobbying expenditures that exceed certain spending thresholds. State law defines lobbying as “communicating directly with an official in the executive branch of state government or an official in the legislative branch of state government for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.”
Moreover, on its 2010 IRS tax forms, the Mackinac Center specifically indicated it does not engage in lobbying. Tax-exempt charitable organizations like the Mackinac Center who lobby are required to inform the IRS about lobbying and there are restrictions on how much lobbying a charitable organization can undertake without risking loss of its tax-exempt status.
Progress Michigan has sent letters to the House and Senate requesting that, in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act and Mackinac Center’s own history of advocating for transparency by state government, legislators release emails between themselves and their staffs and the Mackinac Center.
“The Mackinac Center seems clearly to have a lobbying agenda, and in his communication Representative McMillin did not object to its goals of destroying collective bargaining for teachers and other Michigan workers,” Holtz said. “Apparently Republican lawmakers have not heard the message from Ohio voters – a message that Michigan residents also have sent loud and clear: that collective bargaining is a basic right for every worker. Citizens deserve to know which elected officials and leaders are working with the Mackinac Center to destroy this right and the values we cherish in Michigan.”
NOTE: PDFs of the emails and the Mackinac Center’s 2010 federal tax return have been posted online.