By Ben Velderman
MIDLAND, Mich. – It’s been a really bad couple of years for the Michigan Education Association.
The MEA watched helplessly as state lawmakers have passed a series of reforms that have loosened the teacher union’s control over Michigan’s public schools.
Among the K-12 reforms is a law prohibiting schools from deducting union dues from employee paychecks, one that freed home health-care workers from forced unionization, and one that gives state appointed emergency financial managers the power to void union collective bargaining agreements.
The biggest blow to the MEA was the law that provides financial incentives to school districts that shop around for the best deal on employee health insurance. This reform has resulted in fewer customers for MESSA, the MEA-owned health insurance provider. For decades, local teacher unions used collective bargaining to drive business to the union-owned company, a practice that helped MESSA amass a considerable fortune which it shares with the union.
But reforms don’t just materialize out of thin air; they are introduced, analyzed and promoted by think tanks. In this case, the fiscally conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy deserves credit for laying much of the groundwork upon which Michigan lawmakers have built these reforms.
Now, the MEA is attempting to hit back at the Mackinac Center. The union has recruited Democratic U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, a loyal union friend, to request an IRS investigation of the Mackinac Center’s role in helping state lawmakers.
LivingstonDaily.com reports that Levin wants the Internal Revenue Service to look into an email chain between Mackinac Center legislative analyst Jack McHugh and Republican State Rep. Tom McMillin.
Levin, who sits on the powerful U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, is asking the IRS to determine if McHugh’s advice to McMillin constitutes lobbying, something the nonprofit denies doing.
Wikipedia describes a think tank as “an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, and technology issues.”
In other words, think-tank personnel are experts in certain fields. It’s hardly surprising that a lawmaker would seek advice from a group of experts before crafting legislation.
Levin’s request for an investigation seems like a classic example of “get evenism.” Levin’s once-powerful teacher union friends are reeling from a lousy couple of years. They obviously blame the Mackinac Center for their woes, and are attempting to strike back at their political opponents.
It’s unclear if the IRS will pursue this investigation. But if it does, taxpayers should ask themselves which is more troubling: a think tank expert who gives legislative advice to a lawmaker, or a lawmaker who sics the IRS on his friends’ political opponents.