Mackinac Center Dismisses Tourism Tax Suit After Resort Owner Sells Property

Center wishes former client well in retirement; leaves door open to future challenge

Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016

Derk Wilcox
Senior Attorney
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation announced today it filed a dismissal in the lawsuit it launched in June on behalf of a Michigan resort owner whose constitutionally protected free speech rights were violated by a regional tourism bureau. The bureau had taxed him to subsidize marketing campaigns he opposes.

The Center dismissed the suit after plaintiff George Galbraith sold his resort, The Landings on Indian River. Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox applauded Galbraith for having the courage to bring the case and wished him well in retirement.

“The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation thanks George for bringing this important issue to our attention and for being willing to lend his face and story to the fight for free speech,” Wilcox said. “We recognize the need for him to do what is best for himself and his family after the opportunity to sell the Landings came up and we hope he has a happy and prosperous retirement.”

In June, the Mackinac Center’s legal team filed the case against the Indian River Area Tourist Bureau and Steve Arwood, president of the Michigan Strategic Fund, in the State of Michigan Court of Claims. The bureau, and others like it throughout Michigan, levies a tax on each room rented in the region to fund tourism marketing campaigns. In the case of Indian River, the campaign amounted to an outdated website.

“An individual’s First Amendment rights are violated when they are forced to subsidize speech they disagree with,” Wilcox said when the lawsuit was originally announced. “Using the power of the government to force speech violates the right to free speech.”

Wilcox said the issue at the heart of the case — that the U.S. and Michigan constitutions protect a person from being forced to subsidize speech against his or her will — remains relevant.

“No one should tell individuals how to run their businesses or their advertising,” Wilcox said, echoing the sentiment Galbraith expressed when he contacted the Center about his case. “We would love to bring another case like this on behalf of another property owner who does not want to be forced to pay for marketing they may or may not need.”

Related Document: Complaint

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About the Mackinac Center for Public Policy
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan residents by promoting sound solutions to state and local economic policy questions. As a free-market think tank, the Mackinac Center is guided by its belief in free markets, individual liberty, limited government and the rule of law. Founded in 1988, it is headquartered in Midland, Mich. For more information, visit