News Story

'Special Interest' Campaign Rhetoric Doesn't Match With Reality

As a legislator, Mark Schauer voted to approve tax breaks and subsidies to plenty of favored businesses

Former Congressman Mark Schauer

Despite the gubernatorial election being more than a year away, Michigan voters already are being inundated with campaign promises and statements that often aren't tied to reality.

Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, for example, launched his campaign with comments directed at stopping "special interests."

"It's time to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the special interests,” Schauer was quoted as saying in an MLive story in May.

Rallying against special interests is a common political theme and a bipartisan complaint made by candidates. 

Gov. Snyder campaigned on extensively curtailing the state's economic development tools, many of which dole out tax breaks and incentives to government's favored industries, but he has fallen short of that, says James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

But Schauer doesn't have much room to criticize the governor. In his years as a state senator, Schauer had a long history of voting in favor of tax incentives for favored businesses. Schauer voted for one of the largest tax incentives the state has offered — the state's film tax credits program that has given movie production companies $213.8 million as of March 1.

Schauer voted to approve tax breaks and subsidies in scores of bills that targeted specific companies that varied from warehouses, groceries, technology companies and solar and wind companies.

In 2003, Schauer and the senate voted 38-0 to pass a bill that allowed a tax break for Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford for a new hotel and restaurant that was to be built adjacent to Ford Field.

In 2008, Schauer and the senate voted 35-1 to grant $40 million in subsidies to companies that do "energy technology projects."

Schauer’s campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.

Crony capitalism is a bipartisan problem in Lansing and Washington, said Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

"Each side has its preferred classes of corporate beneficiaries, and routinely scratch each other's back to deliver the boodle," McHugh said. "Moreover, as government grows the amount of political class self-dealing appears to be expanding even more rapidly. If regular people across the political spectrum could see just how self-serving the entire operation has become we would see tea partyers and occupiers marching on capitols arm-in-arm."

Sara Wurfel, Gov. Snyder's spokeswoman, didn't respond to a request for comment.


See also:

CapCon Coverage of Corporate Welfare

CapCon Coverage of the State Film Subsidy Program