One Wisconsin Now Blog

Progressive Alert: MacIver Institute's Phony 'Reporting'

Over the past months, a staffer from the conservative MacIver Institute has been attending press conferences in Madison and Milwaukee, armed with a camera to take footage and attempt to get interviews with legislators and other elected public officials.


Be warned: The MacIver Institute is a not a news service. It is not a member of the traditional media. It is a right wing educational “charitable” organization and it is gathering footage to advance its conservative, anti-worker agenda.

Talking to the MacIver Institute is abetting the conservative movement in its efforts to ensure progressive values and issues are not a part of the public policy debate. MacIver has spent considerable time criticizing the 2009-11 state budget, the Recovery Act, reforming the health insurance industry and stopping global climate change.

MacIver is financed and run by leading conservatives, many with long ties to the Republican Party. Speaking on camera with the MacIver Institute helps the conservative movement by giving legitimacy to its faux “reporting,” as its “interviews” are regularly posted on the MacIver website.

WHO IS THE MACIVER INSTITUTE
The MacIver Institute is a conservative, pro-corporate organization founded in 2009 to advance conservative ideas and values. Its top staff is long-time Republican campaign strategists and its board of directors includes leading Republicans, most notably Mark Block, the head of Americans for Prosperity-WI, Fred Lubar, deep-pocketed Republican donor and Jim Troupis, lawyer to leading Republicans such as Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and ethically-challenged Supreme Court Justices Mike Gableman and Annette Ziegler.
 
Staff: MacIver’s top staffers include both the former Chief of Staff to Scott Jensen and former GOP state senate caucus head and campaign strategist for top Republicans including Attorney General JB Van Hollen.
 
Jensen Ties: Initially, MacIver attempted to distance itself from Jensen, stating through a spokesperson that the former Assembly Speaker has no “formal role” with the organization. An investigation by Eye On Wisconsin's Cory Liebmann revealed that the properties of several initial communications from MacIver included the electronic imprint of Scott Jensen. Milwaukee Magazine also talked with Jensen about his involvement and after a preliminary denial, the reporter wrote “Later, Jensen amended that he is a consultant and his ‘main client’ is Alliance for School Choices.” [Milwaukee Magazine.com, 3/10/09]

MACIVER METHODS
MacIver has begun dispatching a new staffer, former Rock County television reporter Bill Osmulski, to events to film events and create conservative propaganda pieces as “news reports.” These “reports” are put onto the MacIver website and available for public consumption.  

ISSUE TARGETS
MacIver hews to the standard conservative lines and its talking points are echoed in the arguments of the state’s leading Republican elected officials.  It has referred to the 2009-11 state budget as “$12.8 billion of bad” and “driven by politics and devoid of principle,” has called health insurance reforms at the federal level “budget busting” and has criticized cap and trade. Its top target though, has been the federal Recovery Act and the use of those funds by the state legislature. In repeated postings on its website, MacIver attempts to make the case the legislature and the federal government failed in efforts to solve the economic crisis created by the failed policies of the Bush administration and that the legislature and federal government have failed to create much-needed jobs. [MacIver Institute Website]

CREDIBILITY
Immediately after it hired its phony news “reporter,” MacIver was plunged into controversy when it was confirmed the MacIver staffer had gotten an interview with two elected officials by allowing the two elected officials “to  think he was just interviewing the two politicians for a local television station, all three men confirmed...” [Wisconsin State Journal, 9/5/09]

CONSIDERATIONS
One Wisconsin Now supports healthy and vibrant public policy discussions and this rightfully requires public officials to regularly talk with the media. This does not apply to the MacIver Institute, an ideologically-driven organization, created to advance a policy agenda, in this case an ultra-conservative one.

The good news is MacIver can only film and put on its website what an individual says on camera. Any progressive who suddenly finds a MacIver camera thrust in his or her face should consider responding with a smiling response of “I am not interested in speaking with Scott Jensen’s right wing think tank.” As MacIver has been less-than-forthright about Jensen’s potential involvement in its operation, it would be interesting to see if they would post this video on their website.