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FOIA

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy says their Freedom of Information Act requests for information regarding labor studies at Wayne State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan is part of its “regular” activity.

Ken Braun is the man behind the FOIA requests and the Senior Managing Editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, the Mackinac Center’s newsletter. In a posting on the Center’s website, Braun said the requests were made because:

"We were interested in determining whether the LSC and the labor faculty at Michigan’s other two large public universities had actively employed university resources to enter the political debates. At a minimum, we thought a FOIA investigating professors’ emails on these subjects might demonstrate whether state officials should ask questions about this use of tax dollars for public universities. In the worst-case scenario, we knew these emails might suggest that the faculty had acted illegally, because certain political uses of university resources are prohibited by Michigan law. ”

Kate Davidson, of Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project, has been taking a look at the controversy and, in a story posted today, explains:

“Michigan academics aren’t the only ones under scrutiny.  Last month, the Republican Party of Wisconsin requested emails from William Cronon, a historian critical of Governor Scott Walker’s push to weaken public sector unions. 

In both states, the lines got drawn fast.  On one side: an apparent concern about the use of public resources for political advocacy.  On the other: fear of academic intimidation and reprisal in a politically charged climate.”

You can read Davidson’s full story on the state and national implications of various FOIA requests, and hear directly from the Mackinac Center's Ken Braun, on the Changing Gears’ website.

Thought Police

Mar 31, 2011

Several listeners have asked me why I haven’t commented on the battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.  Well, there’s a good reason for that.

Which is, that we’ve got more than enough in Michigan to wrestle with to keep us all occupied. That doesn’t mean, as one of my devoted admirers e-mailed me, that I am a “gutless wonder.”

Matter of fact, I would like to get an inch or two off my gut. Seriously, I have a hard time accepting that anyone should lose their collective bargaining rights in America, no matter who their employer.

But I have an even harder time with anyone trying to suppress anybody’s freedom of expression in any way.

Which brings me to a very ominous development I first read about on the political blog Talking Points Memo, a story which involves Michigan and the Wisconsin mess.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based think tank best known for supporting free-market economics, is asking, under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, for all the emails by labor studies professors at our state’s three major public universities -- Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State. 

All the e-mails, that is, that these professors have sent regarding the union strike in Wisconsin, that state’s governor, and, oddly enough, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Why are they asking for these e-mails? The managing editor of the Mackinac Center’s newsletter wouldn’t say. But some fear the center wants to use them to attack liberal professors for using state resources for what could be called improper political activity.

That, or cow them into not expressing their points of view.

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