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This morning, I awoke to find Mount Pleasant under a Progress Michigan-appointed emergency manager

by: Eric B.

Tue Oct 29, 2013 at 15:09:14 PM EDT

Tim Skubick's latest column is a fine exercise in why people hate pundits like Tim Skubick.

Democrats continue to pile on the GOP governor for being less than forthcoming on who the donors are for the now infamous and now defunct Nerd Fund.

It shouldn't just be Democrats. It should bother everyone that the governor had a slush fund taking donations from secret sources and used to pay the salary of close policy advisers and some of the living expenses of the guy he tapped to fix Detroit. Being against those things should have all the partisan flavor of requiring public school buses to stop at railroad tracks.

Gov. Rick Snyder promised the big shooters that he would keep their names secret and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer and all Democrats are aghast that he has not come across with the names.

Again, see above. The NERD fund was used to pay some of the living expenses for Kevyn Orr, who is negotiating with Detroit's creditors. When did it become a partisan thing to ask if some of the people who donated to the NERD fund include some of Detroit's creditors?

Eric B. :: This morning, I awoke to find Mount Pleasant under a Progress Michigan-appointed emergency manager

Well turns out not all Democrats.

Progress Michigan, the self-appointed mouthpiece for all things liberal, has a curious, and its critics might add, inconsistent stance on all this.

No it doesn't, as we will soon see.

Executive Director Lonnie Scott says he is all about transparency and would support a state law to force all groups to disclose who the donors are and how much they coughed up.

The other day, when I heard this was a thing burbling below the surface, I went to Progress Michigan's website to see if, like the NERD fund, it was a 501(c)4. If so, since that's a federal designation, I'm not sure that the state can compel this. I'm also not sure if it's really a good idea, since this would mean catching non-political entities in the crosshairs. But, continue...

But when it comes to his own group leading the way, he moves to the back of the line.

“We’re not interested in that showing,” of our names he tells a somewhat puzzled Off the Record panel of capitol scribes.

What is puzzling about an advocacy group not wanting to release a list of names of people who gave it money, some of whom presumably don't want to be identified as donors to Progress Michigan?

Hold it. He wants the governor to disclose, but he won’t do the same?

Yes. That about sums it up. He wants the governor, who runs the state's executive branch and has the power to appoint emergency managers and other nifty things, to disclose donors to a fund the governor recently used to pay for things like emergency manager living expenses and policy advisers. He also doesn't want to disclose donors to his advocacy group, which has none of that power. How is it that Tim Skubick and the rest of the Capitol scribes are puzzled by this?


Actually here is what he says, and you figure it out. “I think he should disclose but I won’t call for him to release the names.”

Come again.

The unfortunate thing is that Lonnie Scott doesn't appear to be making his own case here. He shouldn't have to do it, mind you, because the difference between wanting transparency from a government executive and a private advocacy group is plenty evident to everyone who doesn't live in and cover politics for a living.

Pressed for some disclosures, he reports the “average contribution is twenty-three dollars” and while he does not know the exact figure, the highest donations run around a couple thousand dollars.

I separate this paragraph only to illustrate that our Capitol press corps spent time puzzling over this.

He explains his reluctance to show and tell by saying “there is no comparison between the Nerd fund and Progress Michigan.”

Why do Capitol scribes need the guy who runs Progress Michigan to explain to them the difference between a private advocacy group and the governor?

Mr. Scott argues the governor’s friends could get favors, jobs, or who knows what-all in return for their contribution. “We don’t have control over contracts” with our donors he points out.

It’s a fair point but begs the question.

It is not only a fair point. It's the only point that matters. The governor makes appointments to run state agencies and sit on regulatory boards, and he gets to name emergency managers whose responsibility it is to remake school boards and local governments. Progress Michigan sends out press releases. What quid pro quo could possibly exist for Progress Michigan that its donors would expect in return for giving it money? What possible public good would there be in learning who gives money to an organization that is very upfront with what it does, what its mission is and what it wants to achieve?

Some would argue, transparency is transparency and what’s good for the gov, should be good for everyone else. 

Palm, meet face.

The great thing about this last paragraph is that it means that when I later today submit a FOIA request to Kyle Melinn and John Reurink at MIRS to disclose their contract with Tim Skubick, they can't get all, "Private sector!" on me, because Tim Skubick and the rest of the befuddled Capitol scribes have just invalidated that.

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It is not only a fair point. It's the only point that matters.

Honestly, this is all that needs to be said.  And, I'm also disappointed that Lonnie couldn't articulate this, but Skubik shouldn't have been trolling like he was in the first place.  This is everything that's wrong with a lot of media.  They've forgotten either what truth is or what power is, and they sure as hell have forgotten how to speak that truth to that power.  

Progress Michigan isn't the "power" in this instance; it's not a state government, they aren't on trial.  This isn't a story about whether Progress Michigan should release anything.  It's a story about a governor who criticized the former one for transparency is living up to his own standards, or if he's just your standard hypocrite.  Why it's taking union lawyers to question this administration time and time again is beyond me, when the media should be doing this job.

Skubick, like virtually all members
of the chattering class, is far more concerned with retaining his access to the people in power than in making them uncomfortable. Part of that involves pushing the fair and balanced meme that both sides do it. He's more lap dog than watch dog.

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