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Who are the candidates talking to?

June 4, 2010

Today, the Grand Rapids Press ran a front-page article about yesterday’s Gubernatorial candidate debate during the Mackinac Policy Conference, which took place on Mackinac Island.

The article followed the usual election coverage format, with about half the content on candidates making verbal jabs and the other half devoted to candidate positions on the state budget, business tax and gas tax. In other words, nothing new was shared by candidates that the public has not already heard.

What was more interesting about this article was the fact that this was yet another debate hosted by the business sector. The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted this debate as part of their 3-day policy conference held each year on the Great Lakes island.

The conference featured sessions on topics such as Michigan’s economy, Michigan as a trade portal, investing in commercial health care, education reform, Michigan’s prisons, and the shift from traditional industry to high tech. Virtually every panelist for these sessions were from the business and private sectors, with only one labor representative.

There were also panels that featured “business and legislative leaders,” as well as a “conservation” session featureing Michigan members of Congress. The day also features several keynote speakers such as Newt Gingrich, US Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Sergio Marchionne with the Chrysler Group LLC and Valentino Castellani, a former Mayor of Turin, Italy.

The policy conference was funded by corporate sponsors such as AT&T, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Meijer, Chase Bank, DTE Energy, Dow Chemical and a whole host of other businesses representing the commercial health, banking and insurance sectors.

The point of all this is to say that the Gubernatorial debate took place within the context of this 3-day business conference, which featured “300 attendees who were charged a $200 contribution to the chamber’s political action committee.” It seems that the participation of the candidates was to win over elite sectors of the state, sectors that can provide significant financial support for any candidate, which agrees to represent their interests.

The real story of the debate was not so much what the candidates said, but who was in the audience and what interests they represent.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2010 5:54 pm

    Mr. Smith, I would like to link to this article in an article on candidate Virg Bernero, who recently visited the Upper Peninsula after the debate at this conference. Your points are interesting and clarify some of his statements about the conference, but please edit the English in your writing so the sentences are clear. Only then would I want to link to it.

  2. June 11, 2010 6:07 pm

    Michele, feel free to link to this article and anything else we publish. You don’t need permission.

    Thanks, Jeff

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