Monday, February 27, 2012

MacIver Institute - Anything But A "News Service"

MacIver Institute.

Such an innocuous sounding name.

The MacIver Institute, according to their "About Us" page, is:
The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is a Wisconsin-based think tank that promotes free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government.

John K. MacIver pursued the notion that ideas are the most powerful force in politics. Though he never held a government post, few Wisconsinites have had a greater impact on the public affairs of this state and the nation. John either founded or led many of the most effective business, civic, cultural and political organizations in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. An advisor to Presidents, college interns and business titans, John MacIver believed that good government could be good politics. In John’s honor, The MacIver Institute will produce a new generation of ideas to make Wisconsin great again.
Sadly, they don't live up to their self-proclaimed esteemed values. Last month, the Cap Times called them out on their continuing fantasy tale that somehow, maybe in some alternate universe, Scott Walker's budget is working. They also lambasted them for their false and egregious attack on the Government Accountability Board. Do read the entire thing, but I would simply point the gentle reader to this passage found at the end of the article:
But we do know that John MacIver, a Milwaukee lawyer and political campaigner who played an important role in electing moderate leaders such as former Gov. Warren Knowles, would be shocked by what is being done in his name. Closely tied to Tommy Thompson and George H.W. Bush, he was a classic mainstream Republican.

A frequent figure in the pages of The Capital Times from the 1960s until his passing in 2003, MacIver respected Wisconsin’s institutions — and the truth. A UW-Madison graduate who was always active in civic and state affairs, he frequently served on boards and commissions. And he is well recalled for his work with Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to create Wisconsin’s Commission on Judicial Elections and Ethics.

Younger Wisconsinites who may not remember MacIver should be aware that the institute that is named for him appears to be taking its lead from hyper-partisan out-of-state interests that have little interest in Wisconsin’s civic — and civil — traditions. That’s not the way John MacIver, an old-school Wisconsin Republican whose memory we well regard, operated.
A large part of the MacIver Institute, which was founded in 2009, is their "news service." Their news service consists of a glorified blog and the occasional press release. (Whoever heard of a news service that has to issue it's "articles" via press release?)

If one is to give credit to what they claim, one would think that it was filled with journalists, reporters and such. Well, let's look at just exactly who they are, shall we?

Cory Liebmann of Eye on Wisconsin has been on top of this since the beginning, and marks some of the founders in a must read piece.

One of the big names involved is Scott Jensen. Jensen was the Republican ring leader in the caucus scandal from ten years ago, the same one that has come up again with the ongoing Walkergate investigations. Jensen was originally found guilty, but was able to manipulate his way out of it. Jensen has also been involved with a group looking to profiteer by privatizing education and has had his fingers in the gerrymandering debacle that is in the hands of the federal court.

The original treasurer for MI was none other than Mark Block. Block has a long and sordid history in Wisconsin politics. Block was the leader of the Koch-funded front group Americans for (Koch's) Prosperity, whose purpose was to trick people into thinking that slashing their own financial throats would make the bleeding stop. Block had also been fined $15,000 and banned from politics for illegally coordinating with an "independent group" while he was campaign manager for former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox. Most recently, he worked with the womanizing Herman Cain in his failed presidential bid.

Liebmann also used a tweet by Block to tie in a couple more telling names: James Klauser and Michael Grebe.

Klauser is a long time Republican power broker with ties to the deep pocket donors. As a point of interest, he was all for Mark Neumann's campaign until he suddenly shifted gears and jumped over to Team Walker.

Grebe is the head of the notorious Bradley Foundation and is Walker's campaign chair.

Bill Osmulski is the only MacIver member that actually has any experience as a reporter. But according to Sourcewatch (which is also full of interesting tidbits about this group), he left journalistic ethics at the door when he got hired:
Former television reporter Bill Osmulski works for the MacIver Institute. In 2009 he was charged with obtaining interviews with two elected Wisconsin officials under false pretenses, by failing to disclose his affiliation with MacIver. Osmulski led the two officials he spoke with to believe he was conducting the interview for a local television station. When asked about the incident, Osmulski claimed he did not reveal his affiliation because the officials did not ask him for it, but Stephen Ward, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics, said reporters have a duty to disclose their affiliation and the purpose of their interview prior to conducting the interview. "You should be open about all your affiliations in advance," Ward said.
Another board member is one that the sorely-missed Illusory Tenant had field days with: James Troupis. Troupis is a Republican lawyer-for-hire who has been tied up with the gerrymandering scandal, as well as working for such characters as the three most disreputable members of the Wisconsin State Supreme Court: David "Chokehold" Prosser, Michael "Loophole" Gableman and Annette "Show me the money" Ziegler. Troupis was also the legal mastermind behind the idea that it was OK for the Scott Fitzgerald to issue arrest warrants for their political opponents, the Fab 14.

The president of this old boys club is Brett Healy. I would refer the reader again to Cory Liebmann, who covers Healy's past and points out that Healy had been Scott Jensen's Chief of Staff and had testified in the caucus scandal hearings.

Most interesting, Liebmann points out that Healy and Tim Russell, one of the "stars" of Walkergate, had at least one exchange of emails and set up a meeting, all apparently on county time. These communications and meeting between these two GOP operatives took place just before Walker officially announced his run for governor. Liebmann poses the question whether they might have had a political tinge to their conversations. I would add the question of whether this was the only occasion where this happened.

Lastly, but far from least, is MI's communication director, Brian Fraley. As one might suspect by now, Farley is entangled in a myriad of sordid and sinister ways.

Contained within the Walkergate complaint against Kelly Rindfleisch, we found that she first learned the skill of illegal campaigning during the caucus scandal. Her boss during that time and the person who ordered her to do illegal activities was Fraley:

Fraley also is the person who bought the ownership of the right-wing consultancy agency, the Markesan Group. He bought it from Jim Villa, who was going to work as Scott Walker's Chief of Staff, and whose name has been brought up as part of the Walkergate investigations, dealing with a possible pay for play scheme while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive.

The real jaw-dropper about Fraley comes from Sourcewatch:
The MacIver Institute's Director of Communications is Brian Fraley, who served as the Senior Vice President for State Affairs at America's Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C. Fraley was also the national Health and Human Services Task Force Private Sector Chairman for the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Yup, he was working directly for ALEC.

So, in an effort to sum up this rogues' gallery of Republican malefactors, we have a group with direct ties to the Koch Brothers, the Bradley Foundation, ALEC, WISGOP and Scott Walker's campaign. They've been caught repeatedly violating journalistic ethics and running with provably false information and have assailed the very democracy of the State of Wisconsin.

And yet they would have us believe that they're a nonpartisan news group that brings us objective, factual news? Hell, they make the guys at Wisconsin Reporter look like alter boys.

At least now when one sees one of their "reports," you will know exactly where they're coming from.

If the reader is need of some comic relief after reading all of the above (presuming that you've made it this far), they just came out with a real knee-slapper.

Despite their ties to the deep pockets of the Koch Brothers and the Bradley Foundation, they have published a post begging for help to stave off the attempts of unspecified, nameless oppressors who would stop them from their mission of usurping our state even further. The whole thing should sent the reader into convulsive fits of derisive laughter, but my favorite line is this:
We have no intention of backing away from the facts. The truth. The news.
Whenever someone confronts them with the facts, the truth and the real news, they don't back away, they run away.

But here's an idea: Instead of giving them one red cent, make a donation to the place that gives you the real story, the real truth that is verifiable and documented - right here at Cognitive Dissidence. You can use the link or just click on the button up on the right side panel.

And as always, whether you donate or just come to get the story, thank you for your support.


  1. Barre Seid was also involved in the school choice push from 2002, donating $25,000 to fund a post card mailing campaign.

    Mark Block is known for his advocacy of smoking, kind of like the previous mission of The Heartland Institute. He explains his more recent plans for educating Wisconsin here:

  2. Replies
    1. Indeed. He replaced Fred "Pain Meds" Dooley.

    2. Fact-check? Was there ever a statement that Dooley ever stopped working for them? I thought you said he was still employed as "Director of Diversity Sensitivity."

    3. No, John, no statement ever came from them regarding Dooley's fate.