Michigan For Sale

Who is Richard McLellan? As a longtime Lansing attorney, McLellan has spent decades helping big corporations cash in on all Michigan’s most precious assets.

The Mackinac Center was started in 1987 with funding from the little-known Cornerstone Foundation, created by McLellan, then an attorney with Dykema Gossett. Its initial effort was to privatize the Michigan Accident Fund, a state agency selling workers’ compensation coverage to businesses. The Accident Fund was privatized in 1994 under Gov. John Engler, and Dykema Gossett was awarded a $250,000 contract to guide the sale.

McLellan was also active in a 2000 statewide ballot initiative to legalize tax giveaways to private schools through vouchers. This was primarily funded (to the tune of nearly $6 million) by the DeVos family and Betsy DeVos’ brother Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater. The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by Michigan voters.

So what is McLellan’s reward for his hard work lobbying for taxpayer giveaways to private schools, privatizing important public services and attempting to flood Michigan elections with unlimited corporate cash?

He was recently tapped by Gov. Snyder to rewrite Michigan’s school aid act, the law that dictates how we fund public schools in Michigan. You read that right: Gov. Snyder has tasked the man who founded the Mackinac Center and worked with the DeVos family on trying to set up a voucher program in Michigan with deciding how our public schools will be funded. 

The project is being coordinated by the Oxford Foundation, a nonprofit whose 990 form from 2009 lists only three directors, including former Republican House Speaker Charles Perricone, who is also the Executive Director of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. 

What does McLellan do in his spare time? Well, the law firm that bears his name shares an address and two employees with a PAC that recently started airing a political attack ad slamming Pete Hoekstra and praising Clark Durant in the Senate primary. MLive notes the “theme nearly echoes a Durant campaign commercial…” In addition to being very hard to reach, it appears that the shadowy group may have violated campaign finance laws by failing to report contributions in a timely manner. 

One would think that a lawyer who is depended on for so much by our state’s Executive Branch would have a better sense of what is legal in campaign finance. But apparently, buying a Senate primary without full and timely disclosure of who is paying for it is more important than following the law. Richard McLellan may spend a lot of time hiding behind loopholes and shadowy nonprofit groups, but we’ll continue keeping tabs on him in 2012.

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