Democracy Tree readers are already quite well versed on the chicanery of the Koch brothers and their sham group, Americans for Prosperity. But now a new, out-of-state, multi-million dollar organization is interfering with local issues — demonstrating a particular interest in Michigan’s small town politics.
The Free Congress Foundation, a 501(c)(3), and their 501(c)(4) political action arm, Free Congress Action, are tampering with local ballot initiatives. These organizations are run by former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, a hardline Republican who also maintains a blog at his other organization, American Opportunity.org. Its content is little more than an aggregation of news and editorial clippings critical of President Obama, speculation about Benghazi, Keystone XL Pipeline screeds, along with other issues that keep the low-information Fox viewers constantly foaming at the mouth.
Gilmore advocates for lower corporate taxes, increased military spending, and more guns, guns, guns. He’s currently on the board of the National Rifle Association, is a former chair of the Republican National Committee, and he also chaired the Congressional Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction, aka the Gilmore Commission. His 2008 presidential bid fizzled miserably — and six years later, he’s still got a bad case of sour grapes.
His Virginia-based conservative think-tank, Free Congress Foundation, recently rolled into the Great Lakes state with the intent of killing local millage proposals. They dislike spending tax dollars on public works issues, such as libraries, zoos, schools, and roads, and instead favor tax breaks for corporate “job creators”. Read their Reaganomics redux trickle-down tax plan here.
If lowering corporate taxes was truly the formula for achieving universal employment, this nation would be awash in jobs. Corporations, along with their chief executive officers, already enjoy obscene tax breaks, coupled with the rampant exploitation of loopholes, they frequently pay no taxes at all, all while raking-in generous subsidies for the pleasure of underpaying employees and outsourcing jobs. They are pushing our workforce to the brink and beyond.
Michigan citizens bear the burden of that corporate greed through reduced revenues for their communities. And now we learn that these outside parties wish to additionally block local initiatives that would self-fund projects important to residents.
The affluent community of Birmingham, Michigan recently got slammed with third-party mailers and robo-calls from Free Congress that played a role in killing a millage proposal to support their public library.
On May 6th, Birmingham voters rejected a $21.5 million bond proposal for the Baldwin Public Library. City Commissioners admit that the request would have likely failed without the outsider campaign, but they expressed concern over losing local control of their democratic process. The Observer & Eccentric quotes Commissioner Gordon Rinschler:
“We have to recognize the game has changed. We are not Birmingham anymore – we’re somebody in Virginia with a multi-million dollar budget that’s going after bond issues all over Michigan because Michigan is a battleground state at the national level for Congress and Senate, and there’s going to be money pouring in here until that part’s resolved.”
“I think there were people voting in that thing who didn’t even know what the heck it was – all they knew was to vote no. Somebody called me and said the liberals are picking my pocket so I have to vote no.”
An out-of-state corporate campaign to hoard even more tax dollars from residents is the last thing Michigan’s communities want or need. Revenue sharing has plummeted over the years, and given what meager funds are left to spread, municipalities are being pitted one against another fighting over scraps under the one-size-fits-all “best practices” requirement of the Snyder administration. His $1.8 billion big business tax gambit failed to create jobs, yet it certainly has left a painful dent in the state’s revenue-sharing and infrastructure budget.
Adding insult to injury, Snyder signed a law that makes it more difficult to collect overdue taxes from the very corporate bigwigs who benefited from his tax-cut largess. Public Act 3 of 2014 shields those officers from being held responsible for unpaid corporate taxes. It was rubber-stamped into law without being properly scored. The legislative fiscal analysis failed to provide an estimate of its impact on state revenues. From the House Fiscal Agency report, which lawmakers and the governor relied on to make their determination:
“Additional taxpayer appeals would have an indeterminate effect on state revenues, while the elimination of the statute of limitations could reduce state revenues by an unknown amount.”
Once enacted though, both the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies reported it would nick Michigan residents about $280 million over the next three years. We also learned that the predicted budget “surplus” was grossly exaggerated, leaving Michigan communities and residents further impoverished.
Gov. Snyder is the last person in Michigan who should be allowed to utter the words “fiscal responsibility”.
In a recent Detroit Free Press Op-ed titled Without Changes, the State is Setting Up More Cities to Fail, Snyder’s municipal finance policy was taken to task by the paper, along with none other than Flint emergency manager, Darnell Earley, who had this to say:
“Since 2011, we’ve made the difficult decisions to reduce expenditures. You reach a point where there’s no place else to go with that.”
“The municipal financing mechanism is definitely in need of overhauling, and cities need to be made a priority in discussions at the legislative level as the Legislature puts the budget together. As has been proven, cities are creatures of the state, and the state should look very closely at those things that are broken and do whatever they can to fix them.”
You know it’s bad when an emergency manager admits the Snyder plan is failing.