Conservatives — April 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

State Policy Network affiliate Mackinac Center denied opportunity to influence the news you read by Progress Michigan


“Chalk one up for the good guys”

Last week, I posted a piece titled “Lee Fang exposes the State Policy Network & corporate domination of public policy”. In that piece, I wrote about The Nation journalist and investigative reporter Lee Fang’s work to show how the State Policy Network (SPN) was waging a multi-pronged war to influence legislation, policy and public opinion at the state level across the country. One of the things that Fang reveals is that SPN affiliates have started their own wire services to bring their skewed version of the news to readers all over America. Here in Michigan, SPN affiliate Mackinac Center for Public Policy has done just that.

Here’s what Fang wrote in his piece at The Nation, “The Right Leans In”:

[T]he Mackinac Center for Public Policy—the SPN affiliate in Michigan, with two recently opened media outlets, Michigan Capitol Confidential and Watchdog Wire Michigan—produced an array of content, from a Pinterest page to short videos on why the state should change its law governing labor unions.

The Mackinac Center has a history of providing their version of the news to cash-strapped media outlets. They hired Michigan Information Research Service (MIRS) journalist Jack Spencer back in 2011. Spencer now serves as the “Capitol Affairs Specialist” for Michigan Capitol Confidential which the Mackinac Center describes as “a news service of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy”. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, Spencer was providing content to MLive, publishing an anti-union “guest opinion” piece titled “Poll results suggest right to work will either help or have no impact on state’s economy”.

Thanks to my pals at Progress Michigan, however, today SPN and Mackinac Center lost a round in the battle to sway public opinion and government policy.

It started with an announcement earlier in the week that the news outlet MLive would be publishing analysis of Michigan legislation compiled by a group called “”. Progress Michigan was on it in a flash, publishing a piece titled “MLive & Mackinac Center, Sitting in a Tree”:

Today MLive began a new weekly series where they will “publish descriptions of bills and corresponding votes from the Michigan House and Senate as compiled by” MLive says is “a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and provides descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate.”

Sounds innocent enough, right?

Until you do some digging and realize that the editor of is Jack McHugh, who once wrote in an email to Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), “Our goal is (to) outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan, which in practical terms means no more MEA.”

It doesn’t take a lot of digging to know that is part of the Mackinac Center’s effort to sway public policy to conform to their corporatist, anti-union view of the world. Simply go to any page on their website and at the bottom, you’ll see this:

Sure enough, right there under “Publications and Sites” is a link to

The light that Progress Michigan shined on this offensive effort to politicize the news we read was apparently bright enough that MLive has had a change of heart. Today Progress Michigan reports that MLive will NOT be carrying MichiganVotes’ propaganda:

Following our blog post about MLive and the Mackinac Center yesterday, I have been notified by the Saginaw-Bay City editor that they will no longer publish bill and vote tracking information from the biased website.

After speaking with the regional editor, Rob Clark, I believe he was simply trying to provide his readers with important information about local elected officials – without fully considering the implications of getting that information from a special interest group like the Mackinac Center. Rob and MLive deserve credit for promptly and personally responding to our criticism.

Moving forward, the Saginaw-Bay City hub will now use internal resources to compile bill and vote tracking information for their readers. This is a time and labor-intensive task, but one that is well worth the effort.

At a time when so many media outlets are cutting back on news departments, it’s refreshing to see that MLive is investing in real reporters, and willing to make quick adjustments to improve its product.

Thanks to everyone who urged MLive to do the right thing.

As Progress Michigan Executive Director Zack Pohl wrote to me in an email, “Chalk one up for the good guys.”

I’m currently reading Lee Fang’s book, The Machine: A Field Guide to the Resurgent Right where he pulls back the curtain on efforts by corporate America to influence our elections, legislation and public policy at the state level. I’ll have a review of it prior to its release date of April 24th. All I’ll say for now is that it is an incredibly compelling read and something all progressive activists will want to get their hands on and their minds around once it is published.

Please support Progress Michigan’s efforts to hold the line against the corporate takeover of our political discourse. Click HERE and make a donation. As Tony Trupiano so often says, “If all you can give is five bucks, give five bucks. Everything helps.”