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Posted on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 8:48 a.m.

Mackinac Center sparks uproar with FOIA of professor emails regarding collective bargaining, Rachel Maddow

By Cindy Heflin

A Midland think tank's Freedom of Information Act request for faculty emails regarding labor strife from the University of Michigan and two other universities has drawn fire from several organizations, the Detroit Free Press and other media outlets report.

Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, was outraged, the Free Press article said. Among other things, the FOIA request from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy sought emails containing her name.

Gregory Scholtz, director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance at the American Association of University Professors, said fulfilling the request could have a chilling effect on academic freedom, the Lansing State Journal reported.

The FOIA sought e-mails from labor studies departments that mention collective bargaining in Wisconsin, where workers have protested Governor Scott Walker's attempts to cut benefits, or the terms "Scott Walker," "Wisconsin," "Madison" or "Maddow," the State Journal reported.

  • Read the Detroit Free Press article.

  • Read the Lansing State Journal article.

  • Comments

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

    Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

    The Scam! So union members are forced to pay dues - and in public/State Unions the dues are withheld before workers even get their check. Those dues are automatically sent to Union Headquarters - where much of the take' flows to Democrat officials. Democratic officials then go and "negotiate" with Union officials to set Union wages/benefits/bonuses for workers - which in turn leads to more money flowing to union workers - which leads to more money flowing back to the Democrat Officials. The only problem is that this money is Tax money - my money - Michigan money. The State has run out of Tax money and the Union Cash Cycle is now breaking. As it should.


    Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 11:11 a.m.

    redstate is correct, but the next step will be for universities to no longer service email. Then professors can use "private" email systems while on work time with zero accountability to the freedom of information act or how they spend their time. It is only a matter of time and the more liberal universities will go to non-university email systems to avoid accountability altogether. Of course these university professors support FOIA, as long as it does not apply to them. Thankfully the Mackinac Center and the ACLU exist to protect our freedoms. Good work!


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 9 p.m.

    Let me get this straight. My tax dollars are paying for the email accounts and salaries of these professors. They are using my tax dollars to protest changing how much they pay for insurance and retirement. If this was the private sector and they were using company email for private business, they could be fired. So wasting time, money, and bandwidth is ok provided it is for the Democrats? Company provided email accounts are not to be used for personal business. These are not private accounts. Provided they use their personal accounts on personal time-bellyache all you want.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

    andys: I have no idea which comment upset you since I find no claim that Rachel Maddow is objective. In fact I am sure that she is an unabashed progressive. However, if Glen Beck states that "2 + 2 = 4" then I will agree with him even though I do not share his political orientation. I will not deny the facts. Please attack the message for factual inaccuracies and not for the character or ideology of messenger. Watch and listen with an open but critical mind since that is the way we learn.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 5:09 p.m.

    I don't know how you can hold up Maddow as some beacon of objectivity and still have credibility. I'm conservative but I'm not going to say that Hannity is objective. I agree with the post about Morning Joe, at least there is some balance, although it skews left. Let's take the partisan blinders off folks.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 4:55 p.m.

    Computers 101: Your business / work email is not private. Use a private email address for personal communications.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 3:06 p.m.

    Marshall Applewhite, JSA: If you really had watched any of the Rachel Maddow shows (9 pm ET, MSNBC) you could not honestly state that her audience is unsophisticated and that she is not a reporter or journalist. Her presentations are well-researched and replete with facts and references. In connection with her reports, she interviews well-respected authorities. She has encouraged those who she has criticized to join her in discussion on her program. Few have accepted but those who have were treated fairly and respectfully. Watch an hour of the Maddow show and an hour of the Beck show (or any other Fox host) and, to be truthful, you will have to acknowledge the superior quality of the Maddow show. If you want conservative republican ideology and misinformation, the Fox Network should satisfy you, IMHO.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 10:17 p.m.

    Maddow = Beck If you are a righty then Beck is your hero and does a well researched show If you are a lefty then Maddow is your hero and does a well researched show If you are neither, you giggle at both of them - they both present "facts" that only hold water with their particular partisans.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 4:53 p.m.

    I watch her show. She's just as biased as the rest. Not angry like Olbermann, though. She provides enough information to support her view. She doesn't provide correct counterarguments to her opinions, nor does she "fairly" interview guests of opposing opinions. Why do I watch her then? Well, although frequently wrong, she at least strikes me as more intelligent than the talking heads on Fox who are d*mber than rocks.

    Lynn Liston

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 2:43 p.m.

    It is sad that a law designed to protect the public interest by making accessible relevant communications and papers is now being used by radical right-wingers to intimidate educators and stifle open dissent and discussion, hence undermining the public interest and the Constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression. But given the efforts being undertaken to make this the Feudal State of Michigan and convert all our citizens to corporate serfs, I'm not surprised. I love that Rachel Maddow has them so frightened!

    US Patriots

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

    Of course they fear Rachel...she is telling the Truth and shedding light on this all-out attack on the middle class, the poor and the elderly by Tricky Rick and his elitist/ALEC hypnotized cronies. &quot;We will re-design Michigan...&quot; God Help us all! The Wisconsin GOP Committee is using the same McCarthyistic tactics on the professor who is flipping over the rock that ALEC has been hiding under. Speaking of ALEC and Mackinaw center and funding, here is a link to a list that lets it all hang out: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 11:24 a.m.

    Is it legal? If so, any wise person should expect that sooner or later they will recieve a FOIA. Are they paid with state or federal money? If so they should know their work can be subject to public review. It is moral and ethical? That I don't know. Is what they did with regard to Wisconsin moral and ethical? That I don't know. Let the lawyers sort it out, afterall we have more than 1,000,000 lawyers in the US, they need something to do.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

    Midland is such an interesting city. I currently attend Northwood University and have to say that the Mackinaw Center is quite involved in our campus. However, it is their right to use FOIA. They should use it with care.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

    The Wisconsin Republican party made a political blunder by issuing a similar FOIA for emails of a U. Wisconsin faculty member. Although legal under Wisconsin law, the clear intent for this is to embarrass the faculty member and intimidate other academics into silence. The blowback in Wisconsin against the Republican party action has been ferocious. So here in Michigan the dirty work of intimidation has been given to the &quot;non-partisan&quot; Mackinac Center which has a long record of carrying water for Republican and corporate interests. This FOIA request echoes the shameful witch-hunting episode in 1954 when 3 distinguished U-M faculty were dismissed for refusing to testify before a Congressional Committee on Un-American Activities. The so-called &quot;non-partisan&quot; Mackinac Center is funded by a host right-wing and corporate patrons. To learn who is funding them, see: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. To learn more about the Mackinac Center-Republican campaign to intimidate faculty see: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> This is part of the Mackinac Center's collaboration with Michigan Republicans to mount a fierce campaign of shock and awe to ram through legislation that will curtail union rights, limit unemployment insurance, weaken environmental and consumer protection, and create authoritarian Emergency Financial Managers in Michigan. Much of this right-wing legislation is based on models developed by the benign-sounding but secretive and anything-but-non-partisan American Legislative Exchange Council: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

    Excellent Mackinac Center, you will win, they are doing this on the taxpayers money. Nail em, and nail em hard ! Good Day

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

    Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

    If they haven't done anything wrong - why are you upset? If it is a &quot;fishing expedition&quot; so be it. Like Dems never FOIA anyone?


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

    @snoopdog &quot;they are doing this on the taxpayers money&quot; What is the &quot;this&quot; that they are doing? There is absolutely no evidence on wrongdoing on the part of any of the individuals who are subject to this FOIA request. This is a fishing expedition on the part of the Mackinac Center that is going to cost hours of work on the part of the faculty members and the FOIA officers at each of the insitutions involved.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

    And further: The intention of the Mackinac Center's FOIA campaign -- following from that of the Wisconsin GOP -- is clearly to chill free speech on Michigan's public campuses. They want ANY university employee who may publicly dissents to subsequently live in fear that vengeful GOP legislators or their well funded far-right allies will have their staff comb through university email archives in search of anything that might conceivably be construed as a technical violation. Paul Krugman nicely summarized the Wisconsin GOP's attempted intimidation of Prof. Cronon: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

    The FOIA request aimed at Cronon may well be legal. That simply means, though, that the Wisconsin GOP -- followed by Michigan's far right Mackinac Center -- has found a potentially effective way to turn the intent of FOIA legislation almost completely on its head. A legal means to facilitate access to the records of powerful public officials and elected bodies becomes transformed instead into an attack weapon wielded threateningly by the very officials (in Wisconsin) whom are supposed to be subject to the FOIA rules. Laws, by their nature, are a blunt and sometimes clumsy instrument for managing social ethics. Lawyers can make careers and fortunes through developing devious, successful ways to undercut the best of legislative intentions. A case in point is the federal campaign reform that followed the Watergate affair which inadvertently led to a noxious funding monster known as &quot;soft money.&quot; We ultimately have to rely on constant public vigilance and activism to maintain and protect the benevolent intent of our better laws in the face of bullying and avarice from corporations and the wealthy.

    David Briegel

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 3:58 a.m.

    All we have to do is follow the money. Unions are evil but corporations and the Chamber or Commerce that rent our govt right out from under us and under our very noses are noble patriots who only want better govt. Right!

    shadow wilson

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

    Yep, Maddow has no credibility...... <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

    Attacks on unions, attacks on the working class, attacks on education and professors... when are we going to fight back?


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:12 p.m.

    and the wheels on the bus spin round and round , round and round, round and round. And the wheels on the bus spin round and round, all through the town. Just like a warped record that says the same thing, over, and over and over. Good Day


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 5:58 p.m.

    When it is too late. That day is drawing near!


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 5:17 p.m.

    Regarding the question about getting a FOIA on University e-mails though, get used to it. E-mail conversations on a public entity's mail system must be open to viewing. If we don't accept the ability of even the worst organizations right to do it, we are not truly free and open. This may be a lesson for everyone involved that if you want privacy you had better stay away from communications in this forum and send these through an e-mail that would take a court order to open.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 4:50 p.m.

    Applewhite Can't believe you doubt the intelligence of Rachel Maddow's viewers. You must indeed be a Glen Beck fan. Figures...


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 4:26 p.m.

    Maddow is outraged? Who cares, she is not a reporter nor a journalist. All she does is spout off to those who already agree. The lefts version of Glen Beck.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:21 p.m.

    Ah yes we ll remember those times when Rachel barks at the camera close up. If Glenn did it Rachel must have to. Rachel reports facts, where Glenn uses he airways to destroy one settled truth after another. Just go to the mirror little doggie and recite &quot;I am the problem&quot;


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

    David, You still have not told me who Rupert's bimbo is. Furthermore, Glen Beck is not as smart as a below average carrot. It is worse than that. Yes, I voted for Bush and I would do it again before voting for Al Gore. Bad as he was almost anyone but a mass murderer is better than Gore. In the future you might consider trying to avoid being so rabidly partisan. I am an independant. I do not agree with many Democrats. I am not happy with most Republicans. They all lie to suit there purposes.

    David Briegel

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

    Snoop, he would only be smarter than a below average celery stick! And I will take Clinton's fiscal conservatism and ethics over Shrub's!


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:09 p.m.

    perhaps the lefts version of Glen Beck but Beck is smarter than your average celery stick ! Good Day


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

    A Rhodes Scholar means one attended a univeristy that Adam Smith skewered in 'An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations', and it wasn't pretty - it was almost like the modern University of Michigan. &quot;If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate, the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and in which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are, or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own. In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching. &quot; - Adam Smith I think that's about right, given there are 100s of professors with few duties relative to teaching.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 8:30 p.m.

    Sorry David, I don't even know who Rupert's bimbo is. The only &quot;news/commentaryshow I watch is Morning Joe. You ought to try it. It is much more balanced than anything on FOX or MSNBC in the evening. Being a Rhodes Scholar doesn't really a thing. I believ President Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar. Given his ethical difficulties are you sure you wouldn't like to try another approach?

    David Briegel

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

    You have obviously never watched a Rhodes Scholar in action. You probably prefer Ruperts bimbo's.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

    Big Brother = Big corporations Who pulls the strings? Koch? De Vos? Walton? They may buy their legislators and now their governor...but they can't buy my vote.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

    According to Rachel Maddow the other day, Charles Koch (of tea party fame) and Wal-Mart's Walton family are among the Mackinac Center's biggest funders. Maddow video (?): <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

    Correction, Philip Power, not Powers, is the founder of &quot;The Center for Michigan&quot; - but the rest of my spiel is true. These people have many avenues for their dissembling, the rest of us don't - we have to go through gatekeepers.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

    Just another conservative organization, that inspired Snyder's cuts to education. I peronally don't think they were deserving of national news. Now a days, bad publicity is good publicity for any group. Maddow has just helped their fundraising by bring them to national light.

    Basic Bob

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

    Wrong, a huge deficit inspired the cuts. The difference is progressives don't believe that budgets and deficits mean anything. You just leave those are for the next guy in office.

    Top Cat

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

    &quot;Rachel Maddow, the MSNBC host, was outraged&quot;..... When is she not outraged ? Someone should remind her that her candidate is still in the White House.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

    @Marchall, did you understand anything that Bush said in the 8 years he was in office? When he rarely did speak to the public, it was full of lies and deceit.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

    I'd rather have Ms. Maddow's candidate in the White House that the team of Geezer and Dingbat. Also I don't see what's wrong with stopping a tyrant from slaughtering the citizens he should be protecting and listening to.

    Marshall Applewhite

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

    @Bluefire Watch Obama's speech from the other night. You'll see what I'm talking about.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

    @Marshall Applewhite: huh?

    Marshall Applewhite

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

    &quot;Someone should remind her that her candidate is still in the White House.&quot; That would cause her to face the music about Obama and Libya. Liberals don't want people to be reminded that Obama is using the same justification for going into Libya that Bush used in Iraq.

    Marshall Applewhite

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

    To be honest, I really hope there aren't any university professors getting their news from Rachel Maddow. Her target audience is far less sophisticated than anyone we should have employed as a tenured university professor.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

    Yes, Rachael Maddow's viewers are far less sophisticated than Fox viewers, for instance. I saw a Fox anchor woman actually look up the definition of &quot;Ignoramus&quot; so now she even knows that! Think how completely she can now inform her highly intelligent viewers. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

    David Briegel

    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

    They fear Rachel Maddow! Hilarious and pathetic! A brilliant Rhodes Scholar is a threat!! I'm still laughing!


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 6:13 p.m.

    The question 1/2 bit is why do private corporations need to snoop in respected teachers emails? They are obsessed with her. If the GOP had t give towards the debt $1 they could have the US passing Clinton surplus by weeks end. The answer is they know their rivalry with the law abiding society is crashing to a screeching halt. They are the puresy of counter-republicans and KNOWS IT SHOWS.


    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

    Why is Maddow bothered, she can't even pronounce Mackinac.

    David Briegel

    Fri, Apr 1, 2011 : 3:44 a.m.

    Snoop, you could learn a LOT from Ms Maddow!


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 11:05 p.m.

    There is no mention of anyone &quot;fearing&quot; Rachel Maddow David, what article are you reading ? Her lousy show gets about 10 viewers a night. Good Day


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.

    Has the Mackinac Center ever disclosed who funds it?

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

    Sat, Apr 2, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

    The principles the Mackinac Center discusses and publishes stand on their own. The arguments they present are powerful, the facts are presented plainly. There is little to debate, which is why most have to attack the Center in other ways. Read their comments for yourself if you can. And if you can counter their facts - please do. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

    In other words the same Koch brothers who are backing Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, with the intent of gaining control of the state's public utilities - among other things. It's odd, but the previous governor, Jim Doyle, came from a political family that built its fortune in the energy business - Castle&amp;Doyle, purveyors of goal and fuel oil. Yes, I'm old enough to remember the coal bin, stoker and clinkers. I also remember when politics was still messy, but it was reasonably honest and worked for the citizens as opposed to small, monied interests.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

    Thanks Cash. No surprise concerning the names on that list. It always troubles me that an operation that is so secretive about funding sources gets quoted so frequently in the press. Just another way that the wealthy frame the discussion in the U.S.


    Thu, Mar 31, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

    The Mackinac Center does not disclose its donors. But a review of tax records shows that the group's funders include the charitable foundations of the nation's largest corporations and a host of wealthy conservative and libertarian benefactors. Between 2002 and 2009, the Mackinac Center's donors included the Charles G. Koch Foundation ($69,151), founded by the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, who, with his brother, David, is a major backer of conservative causes; the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation ($80,000), the charity tied to the son of the co-founder of Amway [6], the multibillion-dollar direct marketing company; the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, established by the parents of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who serves as the foundation's vice president ($195,000); and the Walton Family Foundation ($100,000), established by Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton and his wife, Helen.