Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Mackinac Center for Public Policy


The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS. Originally named the Michigan Research Institute, the organization was founded in 1987 as a state-level conservative policy think tank in Michigan. [1], [2]

The Mackinac Center describes itself as a “nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions.” [3]

Mother Jones reports that the Mackinac Center has been known as a vocal opponent of unions in Michigan, while receiving a large portion of their initial funding from the DeVos family. [34] 

Dick Devos has also served on the Center’s Board of Directors. Mother Jones has also described the Mackinac Center’s close ties to the Republican Party“The Mackinac Center has been tied at the hip with the Republican Party establishment for years,” Doug Pratt, public affairs director at the Michigan Education Association told Mother Jones. “It goes to their funding sources; it goes to their ideology.” [35]

The Mackinac Center was created with seed money from the Cornerstone Foundation, as well as $335,986 from various officials of Dow Corning and Dow Chemical. Their second-largest donor is Donors Capital Fund (DCF), which contributed at least $3,203,500 to the Mackinac Center between 1993 and 2013.

Donors Capital Fund and its sister organization, DonorsTrust have been described as the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement in the US.” They allow for anonymous donations, mostly from conservative individuals and foundations, to flow to organizations while hiding their identity through “donor advised funds.” [4], [5]

The Mackinac Center’s publications include MichiganScience and The MC (Mackinac Center Blog).

Academics have criticized the Center, saying that “Mackinac Center research is often of low quality and because of this it should be treated with considerable skepticism by the public, policy makers and political leaders. Much of the work of the Mackinac Center may have caused more confusion than clarity in the public discussion of the issues that it has addressed by systematically ignoring evidence that does not agree with its proposed solutions.” [6][4]

Mackinac Center & Climate Change Denial

The Mackinac Center regularly publishes articles questioning man-made climate change. The Center has questioned prominent climate policy consultants, and have historically cited the work of skeptical individuals and organizations such as the Cato Institute[20][21]

The Mackinac Center’s publication “MichiganScience” has covered the “Climategate” issue more than once. Henry Payne writes in Climategate reveals that some scientists have tilted decidedly toward dishonesty, vilifying their critics and manipulating data to “trick” the public and “hide the decline” in global temperatures. [22]

In 2001, researchers Peter Cookson, Jr. Ph.D. and Katie Embree Ph.D. of Columbia University, and Alex Molnar, Ph.D. of Arizona State University, reviewed the Mackinac Center’s research on education issues. They found that the Mackinac Center’s “reports tend to use social science language without proper social science methods in a way that gives the appearance of social scientific legitimacy to the Center‟s preconceived beliefs and ideas.” [4]
The study went on to say that “Center reports tend to use social science language without proper social science methods in a way that gives the appearance of social scientific legitimacy to the Center’s preconceived beliefs and ideas.”

Mackinac Center’s Nonprofit Status Questioned

Citizens advocacy group Progress Michigan released audio from an Americans for Prosperity “Citizen Watchdog Training” event which they claim shows the Mackinac Center has been involved in lobbying for Right to Work (RTW) laws in Legislature. [39]

According to a Progress Michigan press release, F. Vincent Vernuccio, the Mackinac Center’s Director of Labor Policy, “admitted to meeting with lawmakers to make a plan for ramming RTW laws through the Legislature.”

Lansing politicians have spent the last two years ramming through a right-wing wish list of attacks on middle class families through tax increases and cuts to education,” said Zack Pohl, Executive Director of Progress Michigan. “It’s clear that despite calling itself a non-partisan think tank, the Mackinac Center has been intimately involved in lobbying Republicans to get their legislative agenda passed – and the worst part is, they’re doing it without even a minimal amount of transparency or disclosure.”

While the Mackinac Center does not admit to lobbying to the federal Internal Revenue Service or the state of Michigan, emails obtained by Progress Michigan in 2011 indicated that “the Mackinac Center was actively seeking to influence the legislative process on a series of bills related to health care benefits for teachers and other public workers.”

In 2012, Congressman Sander Levin sent the IRS a letter asking them to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Mackinac Center after the emails were found indicating “a long-term plan to lobby.”

Progress Michican released a report on the Mackinac Center that further called the Center’s “nonpartisan” and nonprofit status into question. [37] According to the report, the Mackinac center had made at least wo payments payments categorized in official records as political contributions, one to the Michigan Republican Party and another to the Livingston County Republi-can Committee. [38]

“Both contributions are apparent violations of the Mackinac Center’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status,” the report reads. “Moreover, an analysis of campaign contributions made by Mackinac Center board members shows an overwhelming majority going to GOP candidates.”

Stance on Climate Change

Note: while the Mackinac Center for Public Policy does not appear to have an official statement on cliamate change, many of its staff members do present their own views on the topic (often in the Center’s own publications):

December, 2015

“The claim that 97 percent of climatologists (or climate scientists) agree that global warming poses a significant threat and is being primarily driven by human activities has become the centerpiece of the man-made global warming argument. This, more than all other aspects of the issue, is the big lie that must be challenged” — Jack Spencer, past Capital Affairs Specialist, Mackinac Center. [28], [29]

January, 2015

“One of the most widely believed urban myths of our time is that the oil (aka fossil fuel) industry wants to and works to undermine the belief in man-made climate change.” — Jack Spencer, Mackinac Center blog. [30]

October, 2014

“The alarmists screech and holler, but when their assertions and predictions are debunked, they are consistently allowed to move on to the next temporary circumstance they seek to exploit. It’s high time that they suffer the loss of credibility they deserve. News media and politicians have a responsibility to stand up and take notice when the claims of global warming alarmists are revealed to have been hogwash. Our society in general has a right to be told the true score.” Jack Spencer, Mackinac Center blog. [27]

March, 2010

“The rush to declare scientific proof of green doctrine and secure related research funds has led to a false cry of consensus.” — MichiganScience [7]

February, 2010

Daniel Hager, Mackinac Center Adjust Scholar, describes mainstream climate science as one of the “pseudosciences”, citing well-known climate change deniers Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling Jr.:
“Manipulation of statistics through selective use of base points is a treasured tactic in the pseudosciences. Climatologists Patrick J. Michaels and Robert C. Balling Jr., in their 2000 book “The Satanic Gases,” offer an example that would be amusing if it were not so chilling.” [36]

Mackinac Center & The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

The following is reproduced from a November 2013 report by Progress Michigan: [37]

“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 tem-plates 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. The coordinated agenda that ALEC and the Mackinac Center advocate for includes:

  • Attacking workers’ rights with the recent so-called ‘Right to Work’ law, pushing paycheck deception measures, calling for the repeal of the pre-vailing wage law and advocating for bills that cut public pension benefits
  • Blocking the bipartisan effort in Michigan to expand Medicaid and imple-ment the Affordable Care Act that would give access to affordable health-care to millions of Michigan residents
  • Defunding and privatizing Michigan’s public schools with voucher pro-grams and charter schools
  • Denying the science behind climate change and global warming, while also opposing the use of clean and renewable energy sources”


According to their website, the Mackinac Center “enjoys the support of foundations, individuals, and businesses who share a concern for Michigan’s future and recognize the important role of sound ideas.” [3]

The following is based on data compiled by the Conservative Transparency Project. Note that not all individual funding entries have been verified by DeSmog. [8]

See the attached spreadsheet for full details on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s funding by year (.xlsx).

Donor Total
Herrick Foundation $5,616,000
Donors Capital Fund $5,322,550
DonorsTrust $3,666,700
The Rodney Fund $2,645,331
Earhart Foundation $2,433,300
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $1,457,500
Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $1,454,000
DonorsTrust $1,429,800
Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation $1,233,600
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $1,085,151
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $955,000
The Roe Foundation $485,000
Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation $400,000
Orville D. and Ruth A. Merillat Foundation $395,000
State Policy Network $387,339
Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation $310,000
Walton Family Foundation $300,000
William H. Donner Foundation $215,000
DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative $210,000
Chase Foundation of Virginia $165,150
Hickory Foundation $150,000
JM Foundation $115,000
Sarah Scaife Foundation $100,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation $96,600
Schwab Charitable Fund $92,750
E L Craig Foundation $90,500
Castle Rock Foundation $75,000
Adolph Coors Foundation $60,000
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation $45,000
Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation $45,000
Reams Foundation $40,610
Exxon Mobil $25,500
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $21,500
Richard Seth Staley Educational Foundation $21,200
Atlas Economic Research Foundation $20,300
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $10,000
Aequus Institute $4,500
The McWethy Foundation $4,000
Huizenga Foundation $3,800
Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice $1,000
Grand Total $29,758,881

Mackinac Center 990 Forms

Mackinac Center Charitable Foundation 990 Forms

The Mackinac Center lists a “Charitable Foundation” with a separate EIN as a related, supporting organization:

ExxonMobil Funding

According to Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets project, the Mackinac Center has received at least $30,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. [9]

Koch Funding

Greenpeace also reports on the Mackinac Center’s Koch funding. The values below are based on publicly available 990 tax forms and data archived by the Conservative Transparency project. [10]

Year Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation Grand Total
2001 $10,000 $10,000
2005 $10,000 $10,000
2006 $10,000 $10,000
2007 $40,000 $40,000
2009 $19,151 $19,151
2016 $105,000 $105,000
2017 $401,000 $401,000
2018 $500,000 $500,000
Grand Total $1,085,151 $10,000 $1,095,151

Other Funders

The following is reproduced from an in-depth report by the Michigan Education Association (PDF) which further lists and describes Mackinac’s funders from 2002-2009: [4]

  • Aequus Institute — $1,000 | Free Market/Christian Science Advocacy.
  • Beach Foundation — $3,000
  • Bradley Foundation, Lynde and Harry — $472,500 | Electronic and radio component heirs.
  • Brandon Foundation, David A. — 2,500 | Former Domino’s Pizza CEO.
  • Bretzlaff Foundation, Hilda E. — $1,000
  • Broad Foundation, Eli & Edythe — $27,500 | Homebuilding and retirement.
  • Castle Rock Foundation — $50,000 | Coors founder’s son.
  • Chase Foundation of Virginia — $47,150 | JP Morgan banking heirs.
  • Chrysler Foundation — $225,000  | Automotive corporation.
  • Dart Foundation — $20,000 | Founder of Dart Container Corp.
  • DeVos Foundation, Daniel and Pamella — $50,000 | Amway founder’s son, CEO DP Fox Ventures.
  • DeVos Foundation, Dick & Betsy$70,000 | Gov candidate./former State Rep. Chair.
  • DeVos Foundation, Douglas & Maria — $55,000 | Current Alticor (Amway) Co-CEO.
  • DeVos Foundation, Richard and Helen — $90,000 | Amway founder.
  • Donner Foundation, William H. — $20,000 | Heirs of Union Steel Co. founder.
  • Dow Foundation, Herbert H. and Grace A.$2,055,500 | Dow Chemical founder’s widow.
  • Dunn’s Found. Advancement of Right Thinking $576,000 | Investment company founder.
  • Earhart Foundation, MI — $333,300 | White Star Oil heirs.
  • ExxonMobil Foundation, TX — $10,000 | Oil corporation.
  • Fisher Foundation, Max M. and Marjorie S. — $1,000 | Gas stations and real estate.
  • Gelman Educational Foundation — $10,000 | Gelman Instrument Company.
  • General Motors Foundation, Inc. — $30,000 | Automotive corporation.
  • Gerstacker Foundation, Rollin M. — $150,000 | Dow Chemical Chairman (retired).
  • Hanover Insurance Group Foundation, Inc. — $5,500 | Insurance corp. (includes Citizens).
  • Hansen Foundation, Robert and Marie — $25,000 | Cogen Technologies founder.
  • Heritage Mark Foundation — $7,000 | Christian causes, emphasis on evangelism.
  • Herrick Foundation — $1,950,000 | Tecumseh Engines founder’s son.
  • Hickory Foundation — $40,000 | Investment company founder’s former wife.
  • Hume Foundation, Jaquelin — $375,000 | Basic Vegetable company heir.
  • J. P. Humphreys Foundation — $40,000 | TAMKO roofing ,composite decking founder’s wife.
  • JM Foundation — $45,000 | Borden Milk Company heirs.
  • Kelly Services, Inc. Foundation, MI — $3,500 | Staffing corporation.
  • Koch Charitable Foundation, Charles G. — $50,000 Oil corporation heir, founder of Cato Institute.
  • Merillat Foundation, Orville D. & Ruth A. — $195,000 | Cabinet manufacturer founder’s widow.
  • Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation — $36,000 | Over-the-counter drug manufacturer.
  • Peters Foundation, Ruth and Lovett, OH — $525,000  | Procter & Gamble heirs.
  • Pope Foundation, John William — $4,500 | Variety Wholesalers retail chain founder.
  • Prince Foundation, Edgar and Elsa — $125,000 | Prince Automotive founder’s widow.
  • Rodney Fund — $744,500  | Detroit Forming founder/Mackinac Bd member.
  • Roe Foundation — $150,000 | Builder Marts of American / State Policy Network founder.
  • Scaife Foundation, Sarah — $50,000 | Mellon industrial, oil and banking heirs
  • Schiavone Family Foundation — $10,000 | Construction company investigated for organized crime connections.
  • Staley Educational Foundation, Richard Seth — $1,000
  • Strosacker Foundation, Charles J — $68,750 | Dow Chemical Board member.
  • Van Andel Foundation, Jay and Betty — $20,000 | Amway founder’s widow.
  • Walton Family Foundation $100,000  | Wall Mart heirs.

Key People

Board of Directors

Name 2012[12] 2015[11] 2016[45] Description
Clifford Taylor Y Y Chairman
D. Joseph Olson Y Y Y
Daniel Graf Y
Dulce Fuller Y Y Y
Edward Levy Y Y Y
J.C. Huizenga Y Y
Joseph Fitzsimmons Y Y
Joseph Lehman Y Y Y President
Joseph Maguire Y Y Y Treasurer
Kent Herrick Y Y Y Vice Chairman
Paul Gadola Y
Phil Jenkins Y
R. Kinnan Y Y
Richard Haworth Y Y Y
Richard McLellan Y Y Y Secretary
Rodney Lockwood Y Y Y

Board of Scholars

Name 2012[47] 2015[46] 2016[45] Description
Andrew Coulson Y Y Cato Institute
Annette Kirk Y Y Y Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal
Bradley Birzer Y Y Y Hillsdale College
Bradley Smith Y Y Y Capital University Law School
Burton Folsom Y Y Senior Fellow in Economic Education
Charles Meiser Y Y Y Lake Superior State University (ret.)
Christopher Douglas Y Y University of Michigan-Flint
Dale Matcheck Y Y Y Northwood University
Dan Crane Y Y University of Michigan Law School
David Felbeck Y Y Y University of Michigan (ret.)
David Hebert Y Y Ferris State University
David Janda Y Y Y Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine
David Littmann Y Y Y Senior Economist
Donald Alexander Y Y Y Western Michigan University
Gary Wolfram Y Y Y Hillsdale College
George Nastas Y Y Y Marketing Consultants
Glenn Moots Y Y Y Northwood University
Gregory Rehmke Y Y Y Economic Thinking
Harry Hutchison Y Y Y George Mason University School of Law
Harry Veryser Y Y Y University of Detroit-Mercy
Howard Schwartz Y Y Y Oakland University
James Sheehan Y Y Y Deutsche Bank Securities
Jason Taylor Y Y Central Michigan University
Jefferson Edgens Y Y Y Thomas University
John Grether Y Y Y Northwood University
John Pafford Y Y Y Northwood University (ret.)
John Taylor Y Y Y Wayne State University
John Walter Y Y Y Dow Corning Corporation
Jürgen Skoppek Y Y Michigan Supreme Court
Lawrence Reed Y Y Y President Emeritus
Mark Perry Y Y Y University of Michigan-Flint
Martha Seger Y Y Y Federal Reserve Board (ret.)
Michael Clark Y Y Hillsdale College
Michael Heberling Y Y Y Baker College
Michael Hicks Y Y Ball State University
Michael Winther Y Y Y Institute for Principle Studies
Ormand Hook Y Y Y Mecosta Osceola ISD
Paul McCracken Y
Peter Boettke Y Y Y George Mason University
Richard Cutler Y Y University of Michigan (ret.)
Richard Vedder Y Y Y Ohio University
Robert Crowner Y
Robert Hunter Y Y Y Senior Fellow in Labor Policy
Robert Sirico Y Y Y Acton Institute
Ross Emmett Y Y Michigan State University
Sarah Estelle Y Y Hope College
Stephen Colarelli Y Y Y Central Michigan University
Stephen Safranek Y Y Y Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
Theodore Bolema Y Y Y Mercatus Center
Thomas Bertonneau Y Y Y SUNY – Oswego
Todd Nesbit Y Y Ohio State University
Wayland Gardner Y
William Allen Y Y Y Michigan State University (Emeritus)
William Wilson Y Y Y The Heritage Foundation

Policy Staff

Name 2012[50] 2015[49] 2016[48] Description
Andrew Koehlinger Y Y VoteSpotter Project Director
Anne Schieber Y Y Y Senior Investigative Analyst
Audrey Spalding Y Education Policy Fellow
Ben DeGrow Y Director of Education Policy
Burton Folsom Y Senior Fellow in Economic Education
Chantal Lovell Y Media Relations Manager
Dan Armstrong Y Director, Marketing & Communications
Darryl White Y Vice President for Advancement
Derek Draplin Y Reporter for Michigan Capitol Confidential
Derk Wilcox Y Y Senior Attorney
F. Vincent Vernuccio Y Y Director of Labor Policy
Geneva Ruppert Y Y Communications Associate
Jack McHugh Y Y Y Senior Legislative Analyst
Jack Spencer Y Y Capitol Affairs Specialist
James Hohman Y Y Y Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy
Jarrett Skorup Y Y Y Policy Analyst
Jason Hayes Y Director of Environmental Policy
Jim Walker Y Y Vice President for Advancement
John Mozena Y Vice President for Marketing and Communications
Joseph Lehman Y Y Y President
Kahryn Riley Y Y Policy Analyst
Kyle Jackson Y Education Policy Analyst
Lawrence Reed Y President Emeritus
Lindsey Dodge Y Assistant Editor
Lorie Shane Y Managing Director of Advancement
Manny Lopez Y Managing Editor, Michigan Capitol Confidential
Michael Jahr Y Vice President for Communications
Michael LaFaive Y Y Y Director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative
Michael Reitz Y Y Executive Vice President
Michael Van Beek Y Y Y Director of Research
Patrick Wright Y Y Y Vice President for Legal Affairs
Paul Kersey Y Director of Labor Policy
Russ Harding Y Director of the Property Rights Network
Ted O’Neil Y Communications Associate
Thomas Shull Y Senior Editor and Publications Manager
Tom Gantert Y Y Y Managing Editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential

Other People

Below is a sample of staff and authors associated with the Mackinac Center. Many individuals are also associated with the Heartland Institute, Reason Foundation, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Property and Environment Research Center, and a variety of other free-market think tanks.

Name 2012[53] 2015[52] 2016[51] Description
Adam Thierer Y Y Y
Alan Philp Y Y Y
Andrew Biggs Y Y Y
Barry Lynn Y Y Y
Ben Lieberman Y Y Y
Bradley Smith Y
Brian Carpenter Y Y Y
Brian Crowley Y Y Y
Bruce Yandle Y Y Y
Bruno Manno Y Y Y
Charles Van Eaton Y Y Y
Chester Finn Y Y Y
Clark Neily Y Y Y
Clint Bolick Y Y Y
Craig Rucker Y Y Y
Daland Juberg Y Y Y
Dale Matcheck Y
Dane Skorup Y Y
Daniel Griswold Y Y Y
David Juday Y Y Y
David Littmann Y
David Ropeik Y Y Y
David Rothbard Y Y Y
David Tuerck Y Y
Devon Herrick Y Y
Diane Katz Y Y Y
Dick Armey Y Y Y
Donald Boudreaux Y Y Y Adunct Scholar[15]
Frederick Hess Y Y Y
Geoffrey Segal Y Y Y
George Landrith Y Y Y
Gerald Musgrave Y Y Y
Harry Hutchison Y
Harry Veryser Y
Herbert Walberg Y Y Y
J.C. Huizenga Y
Jack Spencer Y
James Gattuso Y Y Y
James Sheehan Y
Jarrett Skorup Y
Jason Clemens Y Y Y
Jason Hart Y
Jeffrey Tucker Y Y Y
John Blundell Y Y Y
John Charles Y Y Y Contributor[16]
John Chubb Y Y Y
John Coonradt Y Y Y
John Goodman Y Y Y
John Graham Y Y Y
John Hood Y Y Y
John Semmens Y Y Y
Jon Perdue Y Y Y
Joseph Bast Y Y Y Contributor[14]
Joseph Lehman Y
Kenneth Boehm Y Y Y
Kenneth Chilton Y Y Y
Kent Davis Y Y Y
Lance Izumi Y Y Y
Lawrence Reed Y
Leonard Gilroy Y Y
Lisa Snell Y Y Y
Lynn Scarlett Y Y Y
Margo Thorning Y Y Y Adjunct Scholar[19]
Matt Moore Y Y Y
Matthew Ladner Y Y Y
Max Schulz Y Y Y
Merrill Matthews Y Y Y
Michael De Alessi Y Y Y
Michael Hicks Y Y
Michael LaFaive Y
Michael Nolan Y Y Y
Michael Sanera Y Y Y Contributor.  [18]
Michael Tanner Y Y Y
Nancie Marzulla Y Y Y
Nick Dranias Y Y Y
Nick Gillespie Y Y Y
Paul Bachman Y Y
Paul Chesser Y Y Y Adjunct Scholar. [13]
Paul Gessing Y Y Y
Paul McCracken Y
Peter Boettke Y
Peter Glaser Y Y Y
Peter Hoekstra Y Y Y
Peter VanDoren Y Y Y
Randal O’Toole Y Y Y
Richard Devos Y Y Y
Richard Ebeling Y Y Y
Richard Haworth Y
Richard Stroup Y Y Y
Richard Vedder Y
Robert Bradley Y Y Y
Robert Crowner Y
Robert Hunter Y
Robert James Bidinotto Y Y Y
Robert Murphy Y Y Y
Robert Poole Y Y Y
Roger Meiners Y Y Y
Ronald Utt Y Y Y
Sally Pipes Y Y Y Adjunct Scholar[17]
Sandra Feldman Y Y Y
Scott Hodge Y Y Y
Sheldon Richman Y Y Y
Stephen Moore Y Y Y
Steven Hayward Y Y Y
Terry Moe Y Y Y
Theodore Bolema Y
Tom Bray Y Y Y
Wendell Cox Y Y Y


August 22, 2020

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center, wrote an article at The Hill claiming Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate “could mean the end to the affordable energy that makes modern American life possible” due to her statements on banning fracking. [59]

Hayes cited a string of tweets by fossil-fuel-proponent Alex Epstein about “the truth about fracking” to suggest that banning it would “put millions out of American workers back in unemployment lines already swollen by policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [59]

“In comparison to the Trump administration, which has prioritized deregulation and energy dominance, the former vice president and California senator have both committed themselves to heavily restrict fracking as they focus on climate change and renewable energy. If enacted, the Biden-Harris plan would reduce energy choices, increase prices and drive Americans back to international markets for essential energy supplies,” Hayes wrote. [59]

April 6, 2020

The Mackinac Center, represented by Jason Hayes, was signatory to an American Energy Alliance letter to President Donald Trump supporting the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule which would scrap federal fuel economy mandates under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. [58]

Describing CAFE, the letter contends: “Those families and individuals who prefer or need trucks, SUVs, and crossovers pay more to subsidize those who buy smaller vehicles or electric vehicles under the existing mandate. This significant, needless, and unjust cost is a very real regressive tax on American families that has made our country worse off.” [58]

March 23, 2020

As reported at DeSmog, Life:Powered sent a letter to Congress critical of the COVID-19 stimulus package for including “tax incentives and spending for unreliable ‘green’ energy
programs.” [56], [57]

The letter, to which the Mackinac Center is a signatory, concludes: [57]

“This is no time for political games. Climate change is not an immediate threat to humanity. Climate-related deaths have declined 98.9% in the last century, and humanity is growing more and more resilient thanks to the availability of affordable, reliable energy. On behalf of all Americans, we urge you to oppose any stimulus proposals that carve out special treatment for or bail out any energy companies and focus instead on stopping COVID-19.” [57]

The full list of signatories is below: [57]

Name Title Organization
Jason Isaac Senior Manager & Distinguished Fellow Life:Powered/Texas Public Policy Foundation
Myron Ebell Director, Center for Energy and Environment Competitive Enterprise Institute
Bette Grande CEO Roughrider Policy Center
Ellen Weaver President & CEO Palmetto Promise Institute
Isaac Orr Policy Fellow Center of the American Experiment
Bethany Marcum Executive Director Alaska Policy Forum
David T. Stevenson Director, Center for Energy and Environment Caesar Rodney Institute
Donald van der Vaart Senior Fellow John Locke Foundation
Jason Hayes Director of Environmental Policy Mackinac Center for Public Policy
John Droz, Jr. Founder Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions
George K. Rasley, Jr. Managing Editor
Becky Norton Dunlop Former Secretary of Natural Resources Commonwealth of Virginia
James L. Martin Founder/Chairman 60 Plus Association
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis President 60 Plus Association
Ken Blackwell Senior Fellow Family Research Council
Eunie Smith President Eagle Forum
Jenny Beth Martin Honorary Chairman Tea Party Patriots Action
Jon Caldara President Independence Institute
L. Brent Bozell, III Founder and President Media Research Center
Jason Pye Vice President of Legislative Affairs FreedomWorks
Jameson Taylor Vice President for Policy Mississippi Center for Public Policy
Carol Platt Liebau President Yankee Institute
Mike Stenhouse CEO Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity
Daniel Erspamer CEO Pelican Institute for Public Policy
Christian N. Braunlich President Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy
Todd Myers Environmental Director Washington Policy Center

May 9, 2019

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, represented by Jason Hayes, signed on to an open letter organized by the American Energy Alliance designed to fight against an electric vehicle tax credit. [54]

The American Energy Alliance has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Thomas Pyle wrote in a statement, quoted at The Daily Caller. There is no question that the electric vehicle tax credit distorts the auto market to no gain.” [55]

According to Pyle and others who signed the letter, electric vehicle tax credits “overwhelmingly benefit the rich.” DeSmog’s Koch vs. Clean project has systematically debunked this, among other well-rehearsed talking points and misinformation put forward by industry about electric vehicles. [55]

The letter cites research by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a group that has received over $600,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from “dark money” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

July 12, 2016

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, represented by Jason Hayes, was among 22 groups represented in a “Coalition” open letter pushing back against what the Heartland Institute describes as an “affront to free speech.” The groups are responding to the recent Web of Denial Resolution brought up in the Senate, calling out fossil fuel industry-funded groups denying climate change. [41]

According to the Climate Investigations Center, all but one of the open letter’s signatory organizations have taken money (totalling at least $92 million since 1997) from the “climate denial web” including Koch Brothers’ various foundations, ExxonMobil, and two “Dark Money” organizations, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. [44]

Championed by Senators Whitehouse, Markey, Schatz, Boxer, Merkley, Warren, Sanders, and Franken, the resolution condemns what they are calling the #WebOfDenial — “interconnected groups – funded by the Koch brothers, major fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal, identity-scrubbing groups like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, and their allies – developed and executed a massive campaign to deceive the public about climate change to halt climate action and protect their bottom lines.” [42]

The open letter addresses the senators, calling them “tyrants”:

“We hear you. Your threat is clear: There is a heavy and inconvenient cost to disagreeing with you. Calls for debate will be met with political retribution. That’s called tyranny. And, we reject it.” [43]

The full list of signatories and their respective organizations is as follows:

May, 2016

Writing in Michigan Capitol Confidential (one of the Mackinac Center’s “daily news” sites), [33] Tom Gantert writes that the recent efforts by a coalition of state attorneys general to investigate ExxonMobil’s knowledge of climate change. [31]

Gantert repeats the same “freedom of speech” argument used by ExxonMobil’s own lawyer, as well as the recently-created Free Speech in Science Project. He argues that the attorneys general are trying to “silence opponents of progressive theories” with the “threat of criminal prosecution.” [32]

“While these nonprofits and climate change dissenters are the current targets, one attorney warns the tactic represents a danger to political free speech that is protected by the First Amendment,” Gantert writes. 

June, 2011

The Mackinac Center appears to be pro-Hydraulic Fracturing in the state of Michigan, based on an article published in its MichiganScience magazine. [23]

Although the author admits that “The development of gas wells using hydraulic fracturing technology poses some environmental risk,” the article suggests that “state officials should resist the temptation to over-regulate the [fracking] process, which could result in the loss of valuable jobs and an additional source of energy to heat Michigan’s homes and power its factories.”

See DeSmogBlog’s own report on the environmental impacts of Fracking.

May 21, 2011

The Mackinac Center published a blog post on their website rhetorically asking readers if “90 percent of scientists really buy into global warming alarmism.”

Citing William Happer and John Christy as part of the “remaining 10 percent” that do not “buy into global warming alarmism,” the Mackinac Center’s blog post quoted Happer as saying “It is fashionable to believe in harmful global warming due to evil mankind … What could be a more worthy cause than saving the planet?” and Christy as saying “The problem is the degree of warming … Ninety percent would agree that mankind has some impact on the climate, but a lower percentage would say it was a dangerous impact.” [24]

March 17, 2010
The Mackinac Center convened a climate change panel titled “The Changing Debate on Climategate” moderated by Mackinac’s senior environmental-policy analyst Russ Harding. The panel also included Henry Payne, Shikha Dalmia of the Reason Foundation, and Paul Chesser of the Heartland Institute. [25], [26]

Mackinac Center Contact & Location

As of June 2016, the Mackinac Center listed the following contact information on its website: [40]

Mackinac Center for Public Policy
140 West Main Street
P.O. Box 568
Midland, Michigan 48640

989-631-0900 (Voice)
800-22-IDEAS (Voice)
989-631-0964 (Fax)
E-mail: [email protected]

Related Organizations

The Mackinac Center’s publications and related sites include:

Social Media


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  3. About the Mackinac Center: Purpose” The Mackinac Center of Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  4. Greg Steimel. “The Truth About the Mackinac Center” (PDF), Michigan Education Association, April 21, 2011. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.
  5. Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived July 23, 2015. URL
  6. Cookson, Molnar, Embree. Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice report. Let the Buyer Beware: An Analysis of Social Science Value and Methodological Quality of Educational Studies Published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (1990-2001). (PDF), September 28, 2011. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.
  7. Henry Payne. “Climate Science and the Inquisition,” MichiganScience, No. 12, March 4, 2010. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  8. Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed May 17, 2016.
  9. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Mackinac Center. Accessed February 28, 2019. URL
  10. Mackinac Center for Public Policy: Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,” GreenPeace USA. Archived March 14, 2017. URL
  11. Personnel,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  12. Personnel,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived March 3, 2012. URL
  13. Paul Chesser,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  14. Joseph Bast,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  15. Donald Boudreaux,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  16. John Charles,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  17. Sally Pipes,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  18. Michael Sanera,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  19. Margo Thorning,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  20. Search for Phrase “Climate Change,” Accessed November 12, 2015. URL
  21. Kent R. Davis. “Global Warming: Mother Nature Is Still In Charge,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, November 2, 1998. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  22. Henry Payne. “Climate Science and the Inquisition,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, March 4, 2010. Archived November 13, 2015. URL
  23. Russ Harding. “Hydraulic Fracturing: A look at the future of natural gas extraction,” MichiganScience, June 7, 2011. Archived November 14, 2015. URL
  24. Do 90 Percent of Scientists Really Buy Into Global Warming Alarmism?” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, May 21, 2011. Archived November 1, 2015. URL
  25. Henry Payne. “Panel: ‘The Changing Debate on Climategate’,” National Review Online, March 17, 2010. Archived March 22, 2010. URL
  26. Tom Gantert. “Changing the Climate on Climate Change,” Capitol Confidential, March 16, 2010. Archived March 23, 2010. URL
  27. Jack Spencer. “Caught With Their Swimming Trunks Down,” Mackinac Center, October 31, 2014. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  28. Jack Spencer,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  29. Jack Spencer. “Global Warmist Media Thought Police,” Michigan Capitol Confidential, December 23, 2015. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  30. Jack Spencer. “‘Big Oil’ and Climate ChangeL Debunking an urban myth,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, January 16, 2015. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  31. David Hasemyer and Bob Simison. “Exxon Fights Subpoena in Widening Climate Probe, Citing Violation of Its Constitutional Rights,” InsideClimateNews, April 14, 2016. Archived May 11, 2016. URL
  32. Steve Horn. “Exxon’s Lawyer in Climate Science Probe Has History Helping Big Tobacco and NFL Defend Against Health Claims,” DeSmogBlog, May 10, 2016.
  33. Tom Gantert. “State Attorneys General Wage War on Political Dissent,” Michigan Capitol Confidential, May 2, 2016. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  34. Andy Kroll. “Meet the New Kochs: The DeVos Clan’s Plan to Defund the Left,” Mother Jones, January/February 2014. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  35. Andy Kroll. “Behind Michigan’s ‘Financial Martial Law’: Corporations and Right-Wing Billionaires,” Mother Jones, March 23, 2011. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  36. Daniel Hager. “Climate Distortion 101,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, February 25, 2010. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  37. Who’s Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” November 13, 2013. Retrieved from Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog. URL
  38. New reports show power of corporatist groups like Mackinac Center to implement statewide policies/laws benefiting corporations,”, November 14, 2013. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  39. (Press Release). “Mackinac Center Admits to Lobbying Lawmakers,” Progress Michigan, January 29, 2013. Archived May 17, 2016. URL
  40. How to Contact the Mackinac Center,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived June 8, 2016. URL
  41. Jim Lakely. “#WebOfDenial Push by Senate Dems Exposes Their Hatred of Free Speech,” Somewhat Reasonable (Heartland Institute Blog), July 12, 2016. Archived July 14, 2016. URL
  42. Brendan Demelle. “Senators Launch Resolution, Speech Blitz Calling Out #WebOfDenial Blocking Climate Action, DeSmog, July 11, 2016.
  43. Coalition Letter to Senate Web of Denial Resolution (PDF). Retrieved from the Heartland Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSMogBlog.
  44. Cindy Baxter. “Front Groups Attacking #WebofDenial Senate Action Took Over $92M in Dark, Dirty Money,” Desmog, July 14, 2016. Originally posted at Climate Investigations Center. URL
  45. Board of Directors,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived August 1, 2016. URL
  46. Board of Scholars,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived October 13, 2015. URL:
  47. Board of Scholars,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived March 3, 2012. URL
  48. Policy Staff,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived August 1, 2016. URL:
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  50. Policy Staff,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived March 3, 2012. URL
  51. People,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived August 1, 2016. URL
  52. People,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived October 12, 2015. URL
  53. People,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived March 3, 2012. URL
  54. Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” May 9, 2019. Retrieved from The Daily Caller.
  56. Dana Drugmand. “Under Cover of Pandemic, Fossil Fuel Interests Unleash Lobbying Frenzy,” DeSmog, April 2, 2020.
  57. Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  58. CAFE-Coaliton-to-Trump-April-2020-9 (PDF)American Energy Alliance.
  59. Jason Hayes.”A Biden-Harris presidency would largely end oil and gas production,” The Hill, August 22, 2020. Archived September 8, 2020. Archive URL:

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