In an astonishing piece of kettle-calling, the Mackinac Center counters the rising opposition to the Betsy Devos Department of Education nomination by alleging that her opponents are motivated by campaign contributions. Living in the right wing echo chamber, its understandable that the Center is deaf to the obvious truth: the Center supports the Devos nomination because she and her family bankroll their operations.
Ask a conservative think tank why it hides its funders, and you’ll get the preposterous argument that revealing their names will put their contributors in physical danger. The Devos’ funding role has never been admitted by the Center; it’s only come to light thanks to the work of its opponents, including the MEA.
In fact, none of the Mackinac Center’s pieces advocating for the Devos nomination admit to her role in the Center’s finances.
The real motive behind hiding their financiers is to avoid exposing the line that would be drawn from the money it receives to the conclusions reached by its “research.” A line, in this case obvious to the rest of us, that connects Betsy Devos to its work to get her nominated.
Like the President’s tax returns, there may be other reasons to keep these secrets: some think tanks appear to be hiding money from foreign governments.
Given the golden opportunity of seeing their leader installed in a position that could advance public school privatization in ways they could only dream of months ago, its no small wonder they fail to notice their own projection.
The Mackinac Center, at its essence, is anti-union. It exists to advance this cause on behalf of its funders, which, since it’s earliest days included the Devos family.
As the Center’s President Joe Lehman said: “The strategic idea we had in mind was defunding unions.” The Mackinac Center ally and Director of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, Scott Hagerstrom was even more direct: “We fight these battles on taxes and regulation, but really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.”
The Center’s cracker jack research reveals a large number of Democratic candidatess receiving an MEA endorsement. After the 2011-12 tsunami of laws designed to weaken unions, all sponsored by Republicans, passing with overwhelming Republican votes, and signed by Governor Snyder, it’s understandable (to the rest of us) that MEA members struggle to find Republicans who actually support public schools. Add to that the Devos effect on the Republican caucus.
So the chain of causality it alleges illustrates its own business model: Devos wants into the Trump administration, the Devos family finances the Center’s operations, so the Center attacks the nomination’s opponents.
The MEA stance on Devos is clear, as are its funders. The difference is, the MEA’s funders, its members, are out there in the open; the Mackinac Center’s financiers are still in hiding.