The State Policy Network (SPN) is made up of 65 state-based right wing think tanks, including Michigan’s Mackinac Center. It serves as a coordinator of the legislative priorities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):
Where ALEC connects lobbyists with state legislators and promotes corporate-drafted model legislation, SPN affiliates provide the ground support. After an ALEC bill is introduced in a state, the SPN affiliates create the appearance of in-state support for the effort, generating “studies” or “news” stories purporting to show the benefits of the legislation or drumming up a façade of grassroots support.
That process is in fast forward this week in Grand Rapids, where the Mackinac Center is hosting SPN’s annual meeting at (where else?), the Amway Grand Hotel. Among the many sessions is one devoted to helping think tanks justify keeping their funders secret:
This is a new tactic to defend secret funding: a newly-minted constitutional right to anonymous speech by spending money. This is an alternative to the long-employed “revealing our funders would put them in physical danger” cover story, or as previous Mackinac Center President Joe Lehman directly put it: “revealing our contributors would be a tremendous diversion.”
This sort of spin is important to the Mackinac Center. Without it, their long-standing advocacy of transparency would look two-faced. As is evidenced in an upcoming Lansing event:
Other sessions at the SPN conference offer help in turning public and legislative opinion, and show how the corporate culture colors every aspect of the SPN’s method:
- use the tactics of top sales people to selling [sic] public policy;
- state legislators from around the country answer questions on how to stand out and move your policies from ideas to action;
- connect our ideas with the worries of individuals;
- a mock interview while receiving [sic] personalized critiques and feedback on how to better tailor your message for TV;
- Combat Your Critics and Capture the Conversation: Taxes, Unions, and Education
Much more is available about this event from the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, in How SPN “Think Tanks” Will Spin ALEC’s 2016 Agenda.