The Mackinac Center's hard-hitting examination of the Michigan film incentive subsidy program thrust the Center onto the national stage when Communications Specialist Kathy Hoekstra trained her camera on Michigan film producer Michael Moore.
The video was part of Hoekstra's dogged pursuit of a program where a government agency picks winners and losers in the marketplace, by offering millions of dollars in tax refunds for moviemakers.
When Center Fiscal Policy Director Michael LaFaive noticed that Moore's latest release, "Capitalism: A Love Story" was partially filmed in Michigan and eligible for the tax incentives, Hoekstra began to dig. She quickly discovered that someone associated with the movie had applied for the subsidy.
This proved troublesome for Moore on two fronts. First, Hoekstra unearthed video from July 2008 in which Moore openly criticized the program, saying of the big moviemaking companies that can qualify for Michigan tax refunds, "Why do they need our money, from Michigan, from our taxpayers, when we're already broke here?"
Second, seeking taxpayer subsidies also conflicted with the movie itself. In "Capitalism: A Love Story," Moore goes to Wall Street and demands that corporate officials whose companies received bailout money from the federal government return the money to the American people.
Hoekstra exposed Moore's conflicting positions in a three-and-a-half minute video that went viral almost immediately upon release. At the time of this writing, the video had been viewed more than 14,000 times. A vast array of leading national Web sites picked up the story, including Fox News, Newsbusters, American Spectator, Big Hollywood, National Review Online, the Daily Caller, HotAir, the Baltimore Sun and the Conservative News Service. The story even landed on one of the world's most-read celebrity Web sites, Perez Hilton.com. Fox News' Glenn Beck mentioned the story on his program.
WJR talk personality Frank Beckmann interviewed Hoekstra about the story, as did Ron Jolly of WTCM in Traverse City. Newspaper coverage included The Detroit News and The Flint Journal, which editorialized "... you have to admit it's ironic that someone who made a movie criticizing the government for allowing big business to feed at its trough went so far as to apply for some slop himself."
Michigan Capitol Confidential also reported on the story. Managing Editor Ken Braun noted in a commentary that because of Moore's unwillingness to talk to the media, "the predatory interviewer is looking very much like his old prey — former General Motors Corp. CEO Roger B. Smith — in 1989's 'Roger & Me.'"
While Moore and his people have been mum on the story to this point, the intense scrutiny could prove to save Michigan taxpayers money. Hoekstra discovered that the application for the refundable tax credit on behalf of "Capitalism: A Love Story" is only halfway complete. In order to receive a refund, a round of paperwork must be filed after a film is finished. So far, the Michigan Film Office has not seen the post-film paperwork.
However Moore proceeds, Center investigators and analysts will continue to keep a close eye on the Michigan Film Office and its taxpayer handouts to filmmakers. As Moore said in his film: "We want our money back."