Just as we predicted Monday, having seen the Wisconsin Republican Party get away with using the Freedom of Information Act to target University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon, the FOIA is being used again, this time by a "free enterprise" think tank backed by conservative donors to target professors, this time in Michigan. TPM.com reports that The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has
made a broad public records request to at least three in-state universities with departments that specialize in the study of labor relations, seeking all their emails regarding the union battle in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, TPM has learned.According to professors subject to the request, filed under Michigan's version of the Freedom Of Information Act, the request is extremely rare in academic circles. An employee at the think tank requesting the emails tells TPM they're part of an investigation into what labor studies professors at state schools in Michigan are saying about the situation in Madison, Wisc., the epicenter of the clashes between unions and Republican-run state governments across the Midwest.
One professor subject to the FOIA described it as anti-union advocates "going after folks they don't agree with."
These "requests" were sent to Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan and the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University. A third FOIA was directed to Michigan State University, which has a School of Human Resources & Labor Relations. The requests specifically target the following search terms: "Scott Walker," "Maddow," "Wisconsin," "Madison," and "any other emails dealing with the collective bargaining situation in Wisconsin."
Why Rachel Maddow? Probably because of this video:
Conservatives talk a great game when they claim they are the only defenders of "freedom" (the following is typical Republican speak which is adapted to whatever social issues they happen to be promoting or reacting against)
while at the same time invading the freedom of speech of others–whether these professors have said anything objectionable or not is not the point. We live in a country where, as has previously been said, Americans are allowed to say ANYTHING, no matter how objectionable it may be (i.e. Westboro Baptist Church, white supremacist groups, etc). The fundamental right to freedom of speech is being impinged upon to the point where we are seeing it trampled in front of our faces–and what will the people of the United States do about it? I think the band Sugarland has a great idea: STAND UP. USE YOUR VOICE:
It is clear that the FOIA is going to be used as a weapon to silence academics, and that conservatives in America have made a stand against labor, against unions, and against anyone who doesn't agree with them.
It should surprise no one that the biggest major contributor to the Mackinac Center are, according to Mother Jones, "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, 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."
Perhaps it's time to start boycotting Amway, Walmart, and anything made by Koch Industries:
- Lycra Fiber
- Coolmax Fabrics
Georgia-Pacific paper and wood products:
- Quilted Northern toilet paper
- Angel Soft toilet paper
- Soft 'n' Gentle toilet paper
- Mardi Gras toilet paper
- Vanity Fair paper plate and napkins
- Brawny paper towels
- Dixie cups
- Plytanium plywood
As the misuse of the Freedom of Information Act continues by conservatives, I am reminded of the words of Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.