Michigan Capitol Confidential keeps watch over government

Mackinac Center experts and attorneys are CapCon’s unfair advantage

Take a popular topic reported in the news, and chances are that most news sites in Michigan will take the same angles, with minor variations. The news source will often give you superficial information or seek out experts who will take the view they want readers to see.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is not what James Dickson, managing editor of our news site, calls “a repeater.”

We do not parrot information other news sites offer. When you click on our site, you will see unique news and views.

CapCon is the news site of one of the top think tanks in the nation, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Scholars at the University of Pennsylvania ranked it in the top 5% of 2,203 think tanks in the nation in 2021.

The Mackinac Center is a nonpartisan organization, focused on public policy in Michigan. It has spearheaded and won numerous public policy and legal initiatives, including successfully suing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her lockdown orders.

One reason for its success is that it employs some of the brightest minds in public policy. Their areas of expertise are health care, education, environment, and fiscal policy. Our experts are often recognized on national platforms such as The Wall Street Journal.

For example, Michael Van Beek, our director of research, found that there are 30 emergency powers laws on the books in Michigan.

Because the information Van Beek uncovered was so valuable, legislators are actively working to repeal or amend those laws to ensure they are not used as they were during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the governor shut lawmakers out of the decision-making process. As a result of CapCon’s direct access to the Mackinac Center, the findings were originally reported here.

Another example of CapCon’s work is our look at the heavy hand of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel during the pandemic.

In one Freedom of Information Act request, we asked for emails from the attorney general’s office about a restaurant owner, Marlena Pavlos Hackney, who was arrested even though the arrest violated COVID-19 court guidelines.

We found that Nessel grossly abused her power when she told her staff to ask Michigan State Police round up Hackney before she had a chance to appear on the Fox News Channel, where she could tell her story to a national audience.

Were it not for our FOIA, nobody would have ever have known that the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official tried to silence a citizen.

We not only provide unique angles, we have the support of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which can back us up when governments try to hide information that belongs to the public.

One offender is the University of Michigan, which violated FOIA law and refused to divulge information requested by Mackinac Center.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued, and U-M lost. CapCon reported when the university refused to divulge the salaries and bonuses it paid to employees. We were there to follow up when the university lost in court and was forced to hand over the information.

Our goals are to be an effective watchdog of government and equip readers with the tools they need to also hold their local, state, and on occasion, federal government accountable.

How did you find CapCon, and how can we better serve as Michigan's watchdog? Email me, at

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential.

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.