When the Mackinac Center for Public Policy staff laughed off the public disclosure yesterday of an email chain involving them, a powerful Republican lawmaker and a desire to destroy unions, the rest of us might not have gotten the joke.  I can help with that. 

Here’s why the Midland-based, hard-right Mackinac Center might think more evidence of its war on workers is ha, ha funny:  They are sitting on $7.5 million in assets with an annual payroll of $2.2 million, according to their 2010 IRS tax returns.  

That war chest, funded by the likes of Exxon, the Koch Bros and the DeVos clan, has allowed the Mackinac Center to hire 41 people—a virtual army of “policy analysts” and pseudo-journalists who churn out tens of thousands of right-wing messages that advance a breathtakingly narrow anti-environment, anti-government, anti-worker agenda.  Corporate media devours these messages, often uncritically, and the public is left without any real way of evaluating their accuracy or the political agenda behind them.

There are exceptions, of course, and yesterday’s news coverage of the email disclosure offered a more balanced picture of the Mackinac Center.  The coverage painted a picture of the Mackinac Center that diverted—however briefly—from their branding as a non-partisan, free market think tank and a somewhat neutral observer. 

The truth is that the Mackinac Center is an advocacy organization, no matter what they say about themselves.   Corporate CEOs and others who govern them have strong ties to the Republican Party.  While they conceal much of their funding, we know they have received money—lots of it—from Exxon, the Koch Bros, the DeVos clan and numerous other corporations.   We also know that they have a political agenda closely aligned with their corporate masters, which is why state Rep. Tom McMillin—chair of two state House committees—was revealed in the email disclosures to be taking direction from them on legislation to cut benefits for middle-class workers.  McMillin, maybe the most far-right Republican in the Legislature, is a member of ALEC, the corporate-funded operation that provides “model” legislation for friendly lawmakers. 

It may be too much to expect any investigative journalism focused on the Mackinac Center. But it may not be too much to ask reporters to quit referencing the Mackinac Center as a “free market think tank” and to describe them for what they are:  a right-wing or conservative advocacy group. 

Eric at Michigan Liberal suggests the Mackinac Center’s b.s. is so deep and wide that small efforts like these to rescue truth from the muck won’t made much of a difference. 

There is something to say, however, for refusing to let truth become someone’s idea of a joke.

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