Progress Michigan Plagiarized Portions of Report on Mackinac Center

Report copied passages almost verbatim from Mother Jones story

BY:

A liberal activist group appears to have plagiarized portions of a new report attacking a prominent free market group.

The report was one of a series focusing on the State Policy Network, an affiliation of state-level conservative think tanks. Progress Michigan focused on the Mackinac Center, an SPN-affiliated group in the state.

Passages from the report are nearly identical to portions of a 2011 Mother Jones piece on Mackinac.

Progress Michigan wrote:

Since 2005, the Mackinac Center has promoted changes to Michigan law giving more power and protection to emergency financial managers, state-appointed officials who take over cities or struggling school districts and have broad powers to fix budgets on the brink of collapse.

That passage is nearly identical to Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll’s:

Since 2005, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has urged reforms to Michigan law giving more power and protection to emergency financial managers, state-appointed officials who parachute into ailing cities or school districts and employ drastic measures to fix budgets on the brink of collapse.

Progress Michigan:

In 2009, Amway and Walmart were among the 3,100 businesses that signed a letter opposing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would have made it easier for employees to unionize. That same year, Walmart spent $7.4 million on lobbying, much of it to defeat EFCA.

Mother Jones:

In 2009, Amway and Wal-Mart were among the 3,100 businesses that signed a letter opposing the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would’ve made it easier for employees to unionize; that same year, Wal-Mart spent $7.4 million on lobbying, much of it to defeat EFCA.

Progress Michigan also appears to have lifted passages from a prior report by the Center for Media and Democracy, which released a paper on Wednesday focusing on the national SPN organization, on a different one of its state affiliates.

In its Mackinac report, Progress Michigan writes:

Mackinac and ALEC’s Shared Corporate Agenda: The Mackinac Center is an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill. Over the years, Mackinac staffers have proposed numerous bills at ALEC task force meetings, where elected officials and private sector members (like corporate lobbyists and special interest groups) vote as equals behind closed doors on templates to change the law. Under ALEC’s public bylaws, its state legislative leaders are tasked with a “duty” to get those bill introduced into law.

A report on the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute released by the CMD in March contains nearly identical language:

Goldwater & ALEC’s Shared Agenda: The Goldwater Institute is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-funded bill mill. Over the years, Goldwater staffers have proposed numerous bills at ALEC task force meetings, where elected officials and private sector members (like corporate lobbyists and special interest groups) vote as equals behind closed doors on templates to change the law. Under ALEC’s public bylaws, its state legislative leaders are tasked with a “duty” to get those bill introduced into law.

Kroll and Progress Michigan did not return requests for comment.

Progress Michigan is itself a state affiliate of ProgressNow, which collaborated with CMD on the series of SPN reports.

While members of the “Progress” network have attacked SPN affiliates for an alleged lack of transparency, they themselves do not disclose their donors nor does Progress Michigan.

“The Mackinac Center holds its research to a high standard and encourages rigorous critique of it,” Mackinac spokesman Dan Armstrong said in an emailed statement. But “plagiarism is a serious offense and should never be considered credible.”

Progress Michigan updated its report after the Washington Free Beacon brought the plagiarism to light, claiming its initial report “inadvertently left out two citations.” It now includes attribution to Mother Jones, but the plagiarized passages remain and are not in quotation marks.

The initial version of the report can be found here.

Lachlan Markay   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Lachlan Markay is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He comes to the Beacon from the Heritage Foundation, where he was the conservative think tank's first investigative reporter. He was also a contributing editor for Newsbusters.org. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, and the Washington Examiner. He graduated from Hamilton College in 2009, and currently lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @lachlan. His email address is markay@freebeacon.com.

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