Creeping FOIAzation in Michigan, and Defunding the Left

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 29 2011 1:03 PM

Creeping FOIAzation in Michigan, and Defunding the Left

Last Thursday and Friday, University of Wisconsin Prof. William Cronon asked why state Republicans were filing public records requests for his e-mails, speculating that they were trying to catch him in an ethics flap. The story went national, and quickly; Paul Krugman made it the subject of his last column.

The story also may have inspired Michigan's Mackinac Center to file requests for similar information from the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan, the Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University, and Michigan State University. According to Evan McMorris-Santoro, the information requests were filed on Friday and Monday, asking for ""all electronic correspondence (i.e., e-mails) carried out on computers to or from employees, contractors, etc."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Advertisement

"Scott Walker"
"Wisconsin"
"Madison"
"Maddow"
Any other emails dealing with the collective bargaining situation inWisconsin.

Go read McMorris-Santoro's piece; I've got calls out to find out a bit more. But here's some background. These labor centers at the universities have long been targets of the business community in Michigan, which sees them -- as the state's Chamber of Commerce president once said of the Wayne State center -- as "wholly owned subsidiaries of the UAW." In 2006, the Chamber filed a legal complaint against the center because it hosted a site promoting a minimum wage ballot initiative. In 2010, the Mackanic Center published a litany of problems with the labor centers, arguing that they were basically taxpayer-funded organizing hubs for the Left.

In addition to publishing studies extolling the virtues ofimplementing living wage laws, the LSC Web site also provides a "free" 225-pagedownloadable " activist'shandbook ," which is advertised as providing a "nuts and bolts guide" forcreating a living wage campaign.

To obtain a print version, readers are encouraged to send$15 to the Washington, D.C., offices of ACORN, the highly controversial community organizinggroup. The LSC handbook's co-authors are David Reynolds, an instructor at theLSC, and Jen Kern, a longtime ACORN employee.

In addition to these research areas, there is also a pagededicated to passingthe Employee Free Choice Act (aka " card check "), an LSC-producedmanual for public employee unions trying to defeatprivatization , and an offer to help assist local unions in " politicaleducation ." (Perhaps concerned about appearances on this last item, the LSCadvises, "Political action does not have to be a "dirty word" forunion members or local officers.")

When you hear Newt Gingrich talk about "defunding the left," this is one of the things he's talking about. This is the next stage, really, in the evolution of the conservative and libertarian think tanks that were created to combat the influence of state-funded public universities -- making it tougher for the public universities to host political operations. Ban taxpayer funding for ACORN and you kill that organization. Raise concerns about labor centers at universities, when the state is run by a new Republican governor and legislature, and you crack open the door to defunding those centers, too.

UPDATE: I talked to Merrick Masters, a professor at Wayne State and director of Labor @ Wayne, and confirmed the details of the request, though Masters said he had been advised by counsel not to say much more.

"The FOIA came earlier this week," he said, "and asked for us to provide emails from January 1 to March 25 2011, dealing with the terms: Scott Walker, Madison, Maddow, Wisconsin, and collective bargaining in Wisconsin. The counsel's office now is investigating how best we can retrieve the information, and how best to respond to it."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Alabama’s Insane New Abortion Law Gives Fetuses Lawyers and Puts Teenage Girls on Trial

Tattoo Parlors Have Become a Great Investment

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

Big Problems With the Secret Service Were Reported Last Year. Nobody Cared.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 2 2014 11:01 AM It Wasn’t a Secret A 2013 inspector general report detailed all of the Secret Service’s problems. Nobody cared.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 12:10 PM Women of America, Here Are the Cities Where You Can Find Marriageable Men
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 2 2014 11:07 AM Mapping 1890 Manhattan's Crazy-Quilt of Immigrant Neighborhoods
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 2 2014 12:37 PM St. Louis Study Confirms That IUDs Are the Key to Lowering Teen Pregnancy Rates
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 12:04 PM The Audio Book Club Debates Gone Girl, the Novel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 2 2014 11:41 AM Dropbox Recruiting Video Features Puppets and Data Privacy
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?