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]

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 Mackinack 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]

Stance on Climate Change

While the Mackinac Center has not released an official statement on climate change, they have regularly published articles and commentary skeptical of man-made climate change.  For example, the following was published in a March, 2010 edition of the Mackinac Center's MichiganScience publication:

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


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 Conservative Transparency project has compiled data from publicly-available tax records. The following sums are based on data from 1993 to 2013. Note that not all individual funding entries have been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy.

See the attached spreadsheet for full details on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's funding by year (.xls). [8]

Donor Contributions
Herrick Foundation $3,666,000
Donors Capital Fund $3,203,500
The Rodney Fund $2,521,331
Earhart Foundation $1,808,300
Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $1,404,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $907,500
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $905,000
Ruth & Lovett Peters Foundation $822,500
Orville D. and Ruth A. Merillat Foundation $395,000
The Roe Foundation $390,000
Walton Family Foundation $300,000
Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation $275,000
State Policy Network $254,750
William H. Donner Foundation $215,000
Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation $200,000
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation $195,000
Hickory Foundation $120,000
JM Foundation $115,000
Chase Foundation of Virginia $105,150
Sarah Scaife Foundation $100,000
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $79,151
Castle Rock Foundation $75,000
Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation $45,000
Reams Foundation $40,610
*Exxon Mobil $30,000
Atlas Economic Research Foundation $12,000
DonorsTrust $7,600
National Christian Foundation $5,500
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $5,000
Aequus Institute $4,500
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $1,500
Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice $1,000
The McWethy Foundation $1,000
Grand Total $18,210,892

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

Greenpeace's PolluterWatch project reports that the Center has received at least $84,151 from Koch foundations from 1997 to 2010. [10]

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

As of November, 2015, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy listed the following personnel on their website: [11]

Board of Directors

  • Joseph Fitzsimmons — Member
  • Dulce Fuller — Member
  • Richard Haworth — Member
  • Kent Herrick — Vice Chairman
  • J.C. Huizenga — Member
  • R. Kinnan — Member
  • Joseph Lehman — President
  • Edward Levy — Member
  • Rodney Lockwood — Member
  • Joseph Maguire — Treasurer
  • Richard McLellan — Secretary
  • D. Joseph Olson — Member
  • Clifford Taylor — Chairman

Board of Scholars

Scholars with Academic Positions
  • Donald Alexander — Western Michigan University
  • Thomas Bertonneau — SUNY - Oswego
  • Bradley Birzer — Hillsdale College
  • Peter Boettke — George Mason University
  • Michael Clark — Hillsdale College
  • Stephen Colarelli — Central Michigan University
  • Dan Crane — University of Michigan Law School
  • Christopher Douglas — University of Michigan-Flint
  • Jefferson Edgens — Thomas University
  • Ross Emmett — Michigan State University
  • Sarah Estelle — Hope College
  • John Grether — Northwood University
  • Michael Heberling — Baker College
  • David Hebert — Ferris State University
  • Michael Hicks — Ball State University
  • Harry Hutchison — George Mason University School of Law
  • Dale Matcheck — Northwood University
  • Glenn Moots — Northwood University
  • Todd Nesbit — Ohio State University
  • Mark Perry — University of Michigan-Flint
  • Howard Schwartz — Oakland University
  • Bradley Smith — Capital University Law School
  • Jason Taylor — Central Michigan University
  • John Taylor — Wayne State University
  • Richard Vedder — Ohio University
  • Harry Veryser — University of Detroit-Mercy
  • Gary Wolfram — Hillsdale College

Scholars Outside Academia

William Allen — Michigan State University (Emeritus)

  • Theodore Bolema — Mercatus Center
  • Andrew CoulsonCato Institute
  • Richard Cutler — University of Michigan (ret.)
  • David Felbeck — University of Michigan (ret.)
  • Burton Folsom —  Senior Fellow in Economic Education
  • Ormand Hook — Mecosta Osceola ISD
  • Robert Hunter — Senior Fellow in Labor Policy
  • David Janda — Institute for Preventative Sports Medicine
  • Annette Kirk — Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal
  • David Littmann — Senior Economist
  • Charles Meiser —  Lake Superior State University (ret.)
  • George Nastas — Marketing Consultants
  • John Pafford — Northwood University (ret.)
  • Lawrence Reed — President Emeritus
  • Gregory Rehmke — Economic Thinking
  • Stephen Safranek — Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
  • Martha Seger — Federal Reserve Board (ret.)
  • James Sheehan — Deutsche Bank Securities
  • Robert Sirico Acton Institute
  • Jürgen Skoppek — Michigan Supreme Court
  • John Walter — Dow Corning Corporation
  • William Wilson — The Heritage Foundation
  • Michael Winther — Institute for Principle Studies

Policy Staff

  • Dan Armstrong — Director of Marketing & Communications
  • Tom Gantert — Senior Capitol Correspondent
  • James Hohman — Assistant Director of Fiscal Policy
  • Andrew Koehlinger — VoteSpotter Project Director
  • Michael LaFaive — Director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative
  • Joseph Lehman — President
  • Chantal Lovell — Media Relations Manager
  • Jack McHugh — Senior Legislative Analyst
  • Michael Reitz — Executive Vice President
  • Kahryn Riley — Advancement Officer
  • Geneva Ruppert — Communications Associate
  • Anne Schieber — Senior Investigative Analyst
  • Jarrett Skorup — Policy Analyst
  • Audrey Spalding — Education Policy Fellow
  • Jack Spencer — Capitol Affairs Specialist
  • Michael Van Beek — Director of Research
  • F. Vincent Vernuccio — Director of Labor Policy
  • Jim Walker — Vice President for Advancement
  • Derk Wilcox — Senior Attorney
  • Patrick Wright — Vice President for Legal Affairs

Professional Staff

  • Dale Anderson — Information Systems Administrator
  • Ilia Anderson — Graphic Design Assistant
  • Bruce Beerbower — Operations Administrator
  • Patricia Benner — Vice President for Operations
  • Isaiah Bierbrauer — Information Systems Developer
  • Kimberley Fischer-Kinne — Event Manager
  • Stephen Frick — Manager of Information Systems
  • LeAnn Hadley — Administrative Assistant
  • Beth Hanson — Operations Office Assistant
  • Gwendolyn Karl — Member Services Assistant
  • Julie Meyer — Database Manager
  • Sharon Millerwise — Administrative Assistant
  • Lorie Shane — Managing Director of Advancement
  • Kendra Shrode — Assistant to the President
  • Jonathan VanDerhoof — Graphic Designer

Past Board of Directors (2012)

As of 2012, the following additional Board Members were listed on the Mackinac Center's website: [12]

  • Paul Gadola —  Judge, Reagan Campaign Chair, Federalist Society.
  • Phil Jenkins — CEO of Sweepster Inc.
  • R. Douglas Kinnan  — Senior Vice President and C.F.O., Amerisure Insurance.

Past Board of Scholars (2012)

As of 2012, the following additional Scholars were listed on the Mackinac Center's website[12]

  • Robert Crowner — Director, Center for Entrepreneurial Stewardship, Acton Institute.
  • Wayland Gardner
  • Paul McCracken — Past director, Dow Chemical Co., Johnson Controls, Lincoln National Corporation, Sara Lee, and Texas Instruments.

Other People

Below is a sample of other staff members or contributors listed on the Mackinac Center's main “personnel” page as of November 2015[11]

Many of their staff members and contributors are associated with the Heartland Institute, Reason Foundation, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Property and Environment Research Center, and a vast variety of other free-market think tanks.

View the attached spreadsheet for a 
full list of the Mackinac center's 500+ staff members (.xls).



The Mackinac Center regularly publishes articles promoting climate change skepticism. 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.”

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]

Related Organizations

The Mackinac Center's publications and related sites include:


  1. Ted O'Neil. “Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Gala,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, November 15, 2013. Archived November 12, 2015. WebCite URL

  2. What Is the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  3. About the Mackinac Center: Purpose” The Mackinac Center of Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite 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.

  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. WebCite URL

  8. Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed November 13, 2015. 

  9. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Mackinac Center. Accessed November 12, 2015.

  10. Mackinac Center for Public Policy: Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,” GreenPeace USA. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  11. Personnel,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  12. Personnel,” Mackinack Center for Public Policy. Archived March 3, 2012.

  13. Paul Chesser,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  14. Joseph Bast,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  15. Donald Boudreaux,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  16. John Charles,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  17. Sally Pipes,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  18. Michael Sanera,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  19. Margo Thorning,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  20. Search for Phrase “Climate Change,” Accessed November 12, 2015.

  21. Kent R. Davis. “Global Warming: Mother Nature Is Still In Charge,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, November 2, 1998. Archived November 13, 2015.

  22. Henry Payne. “Climate Science and the Inquisition,” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, March 4, 2010. Archived November 13, 2015. WebCite URL

  23. Russ Harding. “Hydraulic Fracturing: A look at the future of natural gas extraction,” MichiganScience, June 7, 2011. Archived November 14, 2015. WebCite 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. WebCite URL

  25. Henry Payne. “Panel: 'The Changing Debate on Climategate',” National Review Online, March 17, 2010. Archived March 22, 2010.

  26. Tom Gantert. “Changing the Climate on Climate Change,” Capitol Confidential, March 16, 2010. Archived March 23, 2010.