No Evidence Michigan Business Owners Support New EPA Mandates

How to rig a poll in favor of President Obama's 'Clean Power Plan'

An environmental advocacy group is promoting what has all the markings of a rigged survey and presenting it as a poll that shows 68 percent of Michigan business leaders (owners, presidents, managers and so on) support President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

According to the storyline, the 68-percent figure was the finding of a survey of 403 Michigan business leaders conducted by California-based Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates on behalf of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a national group that bills itself as “The Independent Business Voice for the Environment.”

But the poll's methodology was not released and the group did not respond to a request for comment.

Who those 403 business leaders were or how they were selected remains a mystery. Whether the poll was a randomly selected group, a representative sample, or a prearranged list of business owners with certain political leanings and environmental interests could not be determined.

An Internet search reveals that Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates, often referred to as FM3, conducts numerous surveys of all sorts across the nation, many of which, like this one, supposedly measure support for environmental initiatives. These FM3 surveys display a remarkable propensity for finding that the initiatives involved enjoy popular support.

Michigan Capitol Confidential telephoned FM3’s office in Santa Monica, California, asking to speak with someone to find out the methodology of the Michigan Business Leaders poll. The response was that the best person to talk to was in the Oakland, California office and that the person would call back. So far, nobody has called.

“My first question would be, ‘Who was polled?’” said Amanda Fisher, assistant state director with the National Federation of Independent Business in Michigan. “The next thing I’d ask them would be, ‘What were your questions?’”

“There are well over 500,000 small businesses in Michigan, and our experience is that the majority of small businesses we represent do not agree with the recent EPA rules,” Fisher continued. “These rules will basically eliminate several power plants due to the cost of bringing them into compliance. That will only raise the cost of energy for small business in Michigan once again. As Michigan works to create a business environment that encourages job growth, unelected bureaucrats in the Entrepreneur Prevention Agency (EPA) continue to churn out policies that cost the average person as well as businesses more and more money.”

An article about the poll quotes Rachel Tronstein, president of Gardner-White Furniture Inc. in Auburn Hills, as an example of a business leader who enthusiastically supports the new EPA rules.

But according to Crain’s Detroit Business, Tronstein’s background is not simply that of a person running her family’s local furniture company. She formerly worked on renewable energy and energy efficiency at the Clinton Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

In addition, the article cites the following businesses as supporting the EPA rules: Brewery Vivant (an upscale beer establishment in Grand Rapids), Michigan Solar Solutions, J. Ranck Electric, Boyce Hydro, Michigan Biomass and Heritage Sustainable Energy.

By their names alone, most of these businesses can be identified as likely to have reason to support the EPA rules. What is not clear is whether these businesses were among the 403 in the FM3 survey. If they were included, one must ask: Is it more probable that they were selected from among the state’s half-million businesses by random chance, or is it more probable that they were recruited ahead of time to be participants?

Obviously it is very important to the environmental movement to create a widespread belief that its various schemes are seen by business owners as business-friendly. But it appears that the only way of producing evidence is to concoct it.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.