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Shilling for Big Oil: The Michigan Freedom Fund and gas prices in Michigan

March 28, 2022

On March 17, Tori Sachs, the Executive Director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, wrote an opinion piece that appeared in the Detroit News, entitled, Whitmer’s talk is cheap, but gas has never been more expensive. 

The Michigan Freedom Fund is a GOP front group, with a sole purpose of attacking the Democratic Party in Michigan. The Michigan Freedom Fund used to be run by the long-time DeVos operative Greg McNeily. Tori Sachs has only been with the Michigan Freedom fund for the past, although she has been a Republican operative for some time now. 

Sachs previously served as the executive director of Michigan Rising Action. Michigan Rising Action’s mission statement is as follows:

Michigan Rising Action is focused on holding liberal groups and their special interest networks accountable and advancing conservative principles. We’re fighting for limited government, lowering taxes, fighting government over-regulation that stifles freedom, free enterprise, strong national security, and shaping the public policy debate in Michigan. We hold liberal groups and their special interest networks accountable, fact-checking left-wing politicians whose policies would push the state in the wrong direction, and ensuring citizens have the most accurate, up-to-date information to drive a balanced policy conversation.

In addition to Sachs’ work with Michigan Rising Action, she got some attention because of her work with Better Future Michigan, a Political Action Committee that spent millions in the 2020 Election to purchase ad time to attack Senator Gary Peters, in his race against GOP candidate John James. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, during the 2019-2020 election cycle, Better Future Michigan spent a little over $11 million in political ads attacking Democrats and only $465,000 on ads promoting Republicans. 

As is evidenced by her work with these two GOP front groups, you can see why the Michigan Freedom Fund would hire her to continue attacking the Democrats, often with cheap shots or unsubstantiated claims.

This brings us to the opinion piece that that the Michigan Freedom Fund’s ED, Tori Sachs, wrote for the Detroit News. Sachs would have us believe that gas prices in Michigan are the fault of Gov. Whitmer, both because of her tax policy and because of her support of the lawsuit put forth by Attorney General Nessel against the Enbridge Line 5.

Gov. Whitmer’s veto of the GOP proposed tax bill is a weak argument, especially since it would not have primarily benefited low income and other working class families, but it would have benefited the wealthy and the business class in Michigan. 

As for the Line 5 argument, there are a whole lot more contradictions. First, while Gov. Whitmer supports the AG lawsuit to shut down the existing Line 5, the Enbridge-owned Line 5 is still in operation and pumping 540,000 barrels of oil per day. If the Governor had effectively shut down Line 5, then maybe that argument might have been reasonable. Secondly, Tori Sachs fails to acknowledge the real reasons that gas prices have gone up, which is primarily about price gauging from big oil. The Russian invasion has nothing to do with it. Third, the Michigan Freedom Fund ED fails to acknowledge the fact that the federal government provides massive subsidies to the oil & gas industry and that both Republican and Democratic politicians received huge campaign contributions over the years, as we pointed out in a recent article. These facts completely demolish the notion that Gov. Whitmer is to blame for current gas prices.

Lastly, the opinion piece by Tori Sachs also cites a study by the Consumer Energy Alliance, which claims, “Michigan families could pay up to $2.2 billion more each year for their gas and diesel” if Line 5 is shut down. Despite seeking to appeal to consumers with its name, the Consumer Energy Alliance is a front group for the energy industry. Besides the analysis provided by Source Watch on this group, just look at their Board of Directors and members are represented by, making it clear that they represent the energy industry and financial interest groups. 

In the closing paragraph of the opinion piece from the Michigan Freedom Fund ED, it states: 

Voters aren’t dumb, motorists aren’t rich, and the state’s gas and energy policy matters.  Stop the war against Line 5. Cut the income tax. Give motorists the break they need.

I mostly agree with the first sentence, but second sentence is not only ridiculous, it is misleading. 

Ultimately, such commentary from the Michigan Freedom Fund is consist with their whole history, exposing them as partisan hacks, but also shills for systems of power and oppression in Michigan. Shut down Line 5, stop subsidizing Big Oil and stop voting for candidates who take money from the oil & gas industry. 

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