News from Progress Michigan

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Contact: Jessica Tramontana, jessica@progressmichigan.org517-974-6302

Right-wing extremists tell Koch-funded group about lobbying activities

LANSING – Today citizens advocacy group Progress Michigan released audio from an Americans for Prosperity “Citizen Watchdog Training” where lawmakers and their right-wing allies bragged about the circumstances surrounding passage of RTW in Michigan. At the event, F. Vincent Vernuccio, the Mackinac Center’s Director of Labor Policy, admitted to meeting with lawmakers to make a plan for ramming RTW laws through the Legislature.

“Lansing politicians have spent the last two years ramming through a right-wing wish list of attacks on middle class families through tax increases and cuts to education,” said Zack Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “It’s clear that despite calling itself a non-partisan think tank, the Mackinac Center has been intimately involved in lobbying Republicans to get their legislative agenda passed – and the worst part is, they’re doing it without even a minimal amount of transparency or disclosure.”

In the audio file, Vernuccio can be heard telling the group from Americans for Prosperity of meetings he held with Rep. Mike Shirkey, Sen. Patrick Colbeck and others, specifically to discuss the possibility of passing RTW laws in Michigan.

While the Mackinac Center does not admit to lobbying to the federal Internal Revenue Service or the state of Michigan, emails obtained by Progress Michigan in 2011 indicated that the Mackinac Center was actively seeking to influence the legislative process on a series of bills related to health care benefits for teachers and other public workers.

Michigan law requires that any individual or corporation who lobbies must register with the Secretary of State and report lobbying expenditures. Lobbying is defined under Section 4.415 of Public Act 472 of 1978 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.”

In 2012 Congressman Sander Levin sent the IRS a letter asking them to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Mackinac Center after the revelation of a series of emails indicating “a long-term plan to lobby.” The Mackinac Center again checked the box on their 2011 Form 990 to the IRS indicating that they do not engage in lobbying activities.



Audio of Vernuccio speaking to AFP can be heard here.

Emails exchanged between Mackinac Center staff and state Rep. Tom McMillin laying out a plan for a forced statewide increase in teachers’ health care costs that was later adopted by the Legislature:

2010 Form 990 for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

2011 Form 990 for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

Letter from Congressman Sandy Levin complaining about the Mackinac Center’s improper tax exempt status after they engaged in lobbying in 2011:


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