Diary

RM Exclusive: Stem Cell committee exporting Michigan jobs, hundreds of thousands of dollars

Cross-posted on Right Michigan at www.RightMichigan.com.

“It’ll bring jobs.  It’ll bring jobs as dollars become available to do the research.  And if intellectual properties are developed from this research, which I’m certain they will be, that will bring more jobs.”

That’s the prognosis from Dr. Joe Schwarz, the one-time Congressman from Michigan’s 7th District and the current front-man for Cure Michigan, the Proposal 2 ballot organization asking voters to legalize taxpayer funded destruction of human embryos via a rewrite of Michigan’s current embryonic stem cell laws.  

Schwarz made his proclamation during a September 9th discussion of the ballot proposal on Detroit radio WWJ’s political roundtable program, Eye on Michigan Politics.  He echoed the oft-repeated claims of Prop 2 supporters who have taken a cue from Michigan’s 8.9 percent unemployment rate and public opinion polls that consistently rank the economy the top issue in the state, choosing to market their initiative in terms of job creation.  Only a week ago he wrote a guest column in the Observer and Eccentric that put a number to his broader statements, stating Prop 2 will create “8,000” Michigan jobs.

But while the campaign sells its issue as an answer to chronic joblessness, their walk doesn’t match the talk.  A review of the ballot committee’s “qualification” campaign finance filings with the Michigan Secretary of State indicates that while embryonic-stem-cell backers continue to spend major dollars advocating a Michigan job creation message, they’ve created plenty of new jobs already… in places like Arizona, Minnesota, Missouri and California.

When Schwarz made his claims he joined a chorus of Prop 2 backers who use the debate over public financing of the destruction of human embryos to paint themselves as job creators.  Liberal columnist (and hero of the Michigan left) Jack Lessenberry was an early champion of the “jobs” argument when in July he penned a propaganda piece titled, subtly, “Jobs depend on victory in stem cell debate.”  Even Jennifer Granholm has gone on the record promulgating their claims.

The Detroit Free Press and Crain’s Detroit Business followed with articles discussing the prospects of creating hundreds of new jobs, should Michigan eliminate the prohibition on taxpayer funded human embryo destruction.  (It was months later that the campaign upped their claims from the low hundreds to the many thousands.)  The articles discussed the alleged new jobs in terms defined by a study conducted by a liberal public policy front group, the Michigan Prospect.

Cure Michigan’s supporters refer to the Michigan Prospect report as an “independent” analysis and claim to have had no control over the outcome but records indicate the precursor to this year’s Prop 2 ballot committee, Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures paid $24,000 to fund the study.

As for their promise to create several hundred new jobs for unemployed Michiganders, the Anderson Economic Group’s chief economist, Patrick Anderson, suggests any such assurances are off the mark.  In fact, the vast majority of any new jobs would be filled by non-michiganders.

“I see minimal effect on new jobs in Michigan,” said Anderson.  “We’re talking about research activity that already goes on.  You not only can do stem cell research but we are doing stem cell research now.

“If there were any jobs that arose from this, the majority of them would probably go to people who are outside the state right now and many of them would stay outside of the state.  This is a very specialized narrow area and we don’t have a large pool of people in Michigan who can do this kind of work.  If in fact the taxpayers raised the money, a chunk of it is going to wind up going out of state, (too).”

Simply put, the unemployment rate among geneticists and the other scientists and assistants skilled enough to conduct stem cell research and living in Michigan is virtually non-existent.  

“The opportunities for Michigan to grow in this area are largely outside of embryonic stem cell research,” said Anderson.  “It’s because of all kinds of other skills that we have and if we want to grow jobs we ought to get out of an area where there are legal, moral and ethical restraints.  

“This is a very inferior route to go if you want to improve jobs in Michigan, and if it’s taxpayer funded I would argue it is a net job loss.”

That hasn’t stopped Cure Michigan from campaigning on the promise of new jobs for Michigan’s increasingly frustrated unemployed voters.  Armed with nothing but a bought-and-paid-for partisan analysis supporting their claims, while economists, industry statistics and common sense cover them in a heavy cloud of doubt there is only one place left to look for the truth of the committees promises; their own actions and employment decisions.

On September 18th Cure Michigan complied with Michigan campaign finance requirements and filed their qualification finance statement.  According to their own internal reports, the ballot committee billing itself as a Michigan job maker spent more than a few test-tubes full of cash exporting Michigan jobs to eleven other states, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York and Ohio.

Over the last nine months Cure Michigan has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars exporting Michigan jobs.

Victory Consultants of El Cajon, California received payments totaling over $30,000. Apparently there weren’t any political consultants with experience winning Michigan elections anywhere in Michigan.  Sadly, exporting jobs Michiganders can and should have done didn’t stop there.

Wilcox and Offutt Consulting, LLC received thousands performing web development for the Michigan campaign, from Nevada.  Coral Springs, Florida cleaning company Anago Franchising took home big bucks too.  Even temp services were exported to a company called Office Team, in Chicago, Illinois.  They saw over $10,000 poured into their business instead of a similar Michigan based company.

Many tens of thousands of additional dollars were spent hiring dozens of out of state “voter registrars” and petition managers to assist in the collection and verification of the petition signatures required for Proposal 2 to make the ballot.  

Then we start getting into the big dollar purchases.  

In their zeal to find the best ways to sell their proposal to Michigan voters, Cure Michigan brought on a Chicago based consulting agency to conduct focus groups. They spent nearly $35,000 on the Glengariff Group, Inc.  Apparently exporting Michigan jobs to Illinois is the best way to figure out how to convince Michigan voters you want to create jobs locally.

All of that before the campaign began in earnest.  Now that it has, the number of Michigan jobs and dollars exported to other states is becoming even more staggering.  

By now you’ve seen the television commercials. They’re all over cable these days and boy do they look pretty.  They look professional.  Well made.  Well messaged.  And they should… they’re the best out-of-state ads Michigan money can buy.  The wizard behind the advertising curtain is one Joe Slade White.

If that name sounds familiar it should.  Mr. White and his media firm have been doing Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s ads in Delaware for years and they did the Michigan Democratic Party’s ads in 2006.   The Joe Slade White Company is located in New York, New York with offices in Washington, D.C. and Texas.

Handling the purchasing of ad space and time on Michigan airwaves is Texas firm the Davis Group.

Telephone messages left with both the Davis Group and JSWCo regarding their work with Cure Michigan went unreturned but according to long-time press secretary and media consultant John Truscott (formerly of the Engler campaigns / administration and the DeVos for Governor campaign), the sorts of ads that are running on television today don’t come cheap.

“Especially in a Presidential election year, the cost to buy media goes up dramatically,” said Truscott.  “Just look at the website.  Joe Slade White produces very expensive stuff.”

Truscott, who has not taken a formal position in support or opposition of Proposal 2, pegs the production costs of a simple thirty-second advertisement in the thousands of dollars.  JSWCo’s location in New York only drives costs up further.  Also, the more complex the ad the more certain costs will reach into the tens of thousands per spot and the industry standard for the sort of work being done by the Davis Group is ten percent of the total media purchase.  In other words, over the course of the next four weeks, tens of thousands of additional dollars will be headed to both New York and Texas just to make their Michigan advertising campaign possible. Alternately, hundreds of thousands are expected to be spent in-state promoting the work of New Yorkers.

Undoubtedly Cure Michigan will continue advertising their proposal as a cure to what ails the state’s economy, despite the infinitesimally small jobless rate among those who stand to benefit the most.  Unfortunately for Michigan’s unemployed, the campaign and their spokespeople are putting their money everywhere but where their mouths are.