Conservatives — April 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Congressman Sander Levin asks IRS to look into tax filings of right wing “policy house” Mackinac Center for Public Policy


If you’re going to take over our state, you at least need to file the paperwork

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has long been the “policy house” for far-right conservatives in Michigan. Much like the national American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), their purpose in life is to create anti-union, pro-business policy and to assist in getting legislation passed that makes their policy law. In the process they work diligently to shape public dialog and the opinions of lawmakers in pursuit of their goals.

This is not a secret. They do it publicly and are brazen in their efforts.

Michigan Representative Sander Levin sees what they do as lobbying, which it is. He has proof and is now asking the Internal Revenue Service to look into the tax filings of this non-profit group which claims they do no lobbying. Congressman Levin sent the IRS a letter asking them to investigate.

Here’s an excerpt:

As required by federal tax law, the Mackinac Center annually files Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 (Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax). On its 2010 IRS Form 990, the Mackinac Center answered “no” to the question, “Did the organization engage in lobbying activities?” As described below, I am concerned about the response to this question.

Last year, when the state legislature was considering legislation to modify health insurance for public employees, Mackinac Center staff exchanged a seried of emails with the Chairman of the Michigan State House Education Committee, Representative Tom McMillan, regarding these legislative efforts and longer-term legislative goals.These emails (copy attached), now part of the public record, indicate back and forth dicussion on the pending legislation. […]

In addition, the emails contain additional statements that illustrate a long-term plan to lobby. Specifically, the emails state:

“The political environment has changed. Assuming House Republicans don’t lose their majority, this doesn’t have to be the last bite at the apple.”

“Our goal is to outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which in practical terms means no more MEA.”

The Mackinac Center has been working quietly but publicly over the past 25 years toward their goal of destruction of public unions, the privatization of as many government services as possible (education, public safety and public works), and toward the wholesale diversion of taxpayer money into for-profit enterprises. Their goals truly represent a theft of funds intended for the public good. They have spent the past 25 years setting policy, assembling legislation, rules and allies, in preparation for the day when they would have control over the state House, the state Senate and the Governor’s office.

That time is now.

“Our goal is to outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which in practical terms means no more MEA.”

A well-established right wing policy house communicating directly with the chair of the Michigan State House Education Committee, a group of legislators that has led the way in systematically dismantling nearly every aspect of collective bargaining and union membership for teachers in Michigan. Communicating, in fact, their long-term goal of outlawing collective bargaining for ALL public employees: teachers, firefighters, police officers and the many people that provide services we pay our taxes to receive. This group of lawmakers has gone on to create legislation, signed into law by a cooperative and complicit CEO governor, that has reduced wages, cut benefits, diminished pensions for teachers and, in general, spat upon and demonized the once-proud career of being an educator.

I don’t know how you can suggest that what transpires in those emails (and in much of the other things they do) is not lobbying. If it is is lobbying as Rep. Levin and any reasonable assessment of the situation suggests, the Mackinac Center needs to start being much more forthcoming in their tax filings.

Non-profits are allowed to engage in some lobbying efforts. However, it can not make up a “substantial part”. It’s worth the IRS having a look at what the Mackinac Center does because to many, including me, it seems like a “substantial part” of their activities IS lobbying.

And if that is the case? Then the Mackinac Center for Public Policy needs to start paying taxes on all that corporate funding they receive.

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, used with permission]