Category Archives: Podcasts Library

PAC Man (Guest: Bob LaBrant)

Another huge week in Michigan politics:

Joining the conversation is a legendary figure in Michigan politics, Bob LaBrant.

LaBrant served the Michigan Chamber of Commerce for 34 years, heading the political and legal programs. He is known nationally for his help in organizing corporate, association and chamber political action committees. 

LaBrant has been active in the redistricting process in Michigan over the past four decades. He was the primary architect of Operation Redmap – the successful 2010 effort to take control of redistricting by winning control of the Michigan Legislature. As a result of his efforts, Republicans were able to gerrymander the state to maintain control of the Legislature and congressional delegation for most of the last decade.

Throughout his career, LaBrant aggressively pursued campaign finance legislation, Department of State rulings, campaign finance complaints and political litigation. And, as a longtime friend of Bob’s, I can say that even his most ardent opponents … including Mark … respect Bob for both his incredible political talent and his impeccable integrity.

His role in the 2010 Michigan gerrymander is part of his excellent book “PAC Man: A Memoir”, a revealing look at the real world of contemporary Michigan politics.

Big Lie, Bigger Conspiracy (Guest: Jocelyn Benson)

A coordinated effort to steal the presidential election — by the Trump campaign. Republicans in Michigan and four other states sent forged certificates to Congress “awarding” their electoral votes to the losing candidate, Donald Trump. We’re joined by Michigan’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, to discuss the plot along with failed efforts to pass federal voting rights legislation.

Benson is Michigan’s 43rd Secretary of State. She is a former dean of Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan, a co-founder of the Military Spouses of Michigan and a board member of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. Benson is considered one of the nation’s leading experts in election law, and is author of State Secretaries of State: Guardians of the Democratic Process. Benson was elected as Michigan’s Secretary of State in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office since Richard H. Austin left 24 years earlier.

Secretary Benson graduated magna cum laude where she founded the now-annual Women in American Political Activism conference and was the first student to be elected to serve in the governing body for the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts. Benson received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School where she was a general editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. Prior to attending law school, Benson worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center as an investigative journalist researching white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations. Benson has also worked as a summer associate for voting rights and election law for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and as a legal assistant to Nina Totenberg at National Public Radio.

What a Week!

The full half-hour-plus this week is devoted to several amazing developments in Michigan Politics, beginning with the dual scandals enveloping former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Accused first of sexual abuse by his now sister-in-law beginning when she was a teenager, he’s now the subject of investigations into his massive political slush fund.

Also on the agenda for Jeff and Mark: musical chairs as Michigan’s members of Congress figure out where they are running after redistricting, and who’s running to join the delegation; covid hits the Governor’s husband and her Lt. Governor in the same week; and Joe Biden takes off the gloves as the 2022 campaign gets underway in earnest.

And don’t forget — we’ve got some great stuff waiting for you at the Merch Store. Check it out!

A Look Back (2021 in Review)

To start the new year, Mark and Jeff take a look back at two of the most tulmultuous issues of 2021: the anniversary of the January 6 assault on the Capitol and Republican efforts to rig future elections.

We go back to some often prescient commentary by five in our roster of amazing 2021 guests:

Michael Steele
Governor Michael Dukakis
Rep. Dan Kildee
Steve Schmidt
Col. Alexander Vindman

We’re back in a week to kick off what promises to be a more-than-lively 2022 campaign season!

The New Maps (Guest: Bill Ballenger)

For the first time ever, Michigan’s new congressional and legislative district maps have been drawn by non-politicians: the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, created by the 2018 ballot proposal 2. What does it mean for Michigan’s political balance of power? And will the maps survive inevitable court challenges?

Mark Brewer and Jeff Timmer are both experts on partisan redistricting from previous battles. They are joined by longtime Lansing political columnist Bill Ballenger to analyze what’s happened.

Ballenger is a former state Representative and state Senator. For more than 40 years he’s been one of the state’s most respected commentators on the Michigan political scene. He founded the insiders’ newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, and later started his Ballenger Report Blog and weekly podcast.

Here are the final maps approved by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission on December 28th:

Redistricting and More (Guest: Kyle Melinn)

The Michigan Supreme Court tells the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that its closed-door meeting violated the state constitution. However, the newly released memos from that meeting were a big nothing-burger, raising questions of why the Commission created the controversy in the first place.

Joining the conversation is one of the state’s top political writers, Kyle Melinn of the Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS). The MIRS daily newsletter is a must-read for everyone involved in state public policy. Melinn is news editor of the MIRS report. He also hosts the weekly MIRS Monday Podcast, a bipartisan review of the top political and policy stories in the state. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, beginning his journalism career at a daily newspaper in Dalton Georgia before joining MIRS in 2001…making him a 20-year veteran of the state’s political wars.

In 2019, for the 14th consecutive year, MIRS was voted “Most Effective Capitol News Coverage” securing 66 percent of the votes in an independent survey conducted by EPIC/MRA of Lansing lawmakers, lobbyists and staff. In addition, Melinn was voted “Most Effective Reporter in Covering the Capitol” in that same Insider’s Survey.

The 21st Century Muckraker (Guest: Judd Legum)

Two GOP heavyweights face off: Michigan Right to Life endorses one candidate for Attorney General, former President Trump has endorsed another. Who will prevail?
Also on the docket this week: the Trump plan to overthrown the election and stage what amounts to a coup to stay in power. The revelations from the House Committee on January 6 are just the beginning, with public hearings in early 2022 promising to be must-see TV.

Joining the discussion in our second segment this week is one of the nation’s best investigative journalists, Judd Legum.

A native of Maryland, Judd earned a B.A. in Public Policy analysis from Pomona College and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in 2003.

Legum founded ThinkProgress in 2005, running it for two years before leaving in 2007 to join Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign as research director. Following the 2008 campaign, he practiced law in Maryland before returning to ThinkProgress in 2011, and became the site’s editor-in-chief in 2012.  Under his supervision, the site grew up to a 40-person newsroom that earned 10 million unique visitors a month.

In 2018, Judd announced he was leaving ThinkProgress to develop an independent newsletter, published through Substack. Legum’s newsletter, Popular Information, is Substack’s first politically-focused publication. It launched July 23, 2018. Popular Information has become a go-to newsletter, maintaining an American tradition of journalistic muckraking dating back to pre-Revolutionary War pamphlets of Thomas Paine.


Abe Would Be Proud (Guest: Reed Galen)

A coalition of the state’s leading newspapers sue Michigan’s Independent Redistricting Commission for what the newspaper say were unconstitutional closed sessions, signaling the beginning of a long season of legal battles for the Citizens’ Commission. Mark and Jeff also analyze Governor Whitmer’s break with the Biden administration over vaccine mandates, and discuss the politics that are being driven by the tragedy at Oxford High School.

They are then joined by this week’s guest: Reed Galen, co-founder of the Republican insurgency group The Lincoln Project.

Galen is veteran public affairs and political professional with more than 20 years’ experience. He has spent more than a decade advising Fortune 50, 100 and 1000 companies in need of high-level counsel in the fields of strategic communications, procurement, and legislation. He has also managed several high-profile ballot measure campaigns in California, Texas, and Colorado. 

Before moving to the private sector, he served as Deputy Campaign Manager for John McCain’s presidential campaign and Deputy Campaign Manager for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful 2006 re-election campaign. Galen also worked on both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns of President George W. Bush. Between campaigns, Galen spent a year at the White House and served the Bush Administration at both the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security.


Slaying the Dragon (Guest: Walt Sorg)

Two of the most emotional issues of the last few decades came to a head this week: gun safety, and abortion rights. Mark and Jeff take a look at the politics in the aftermath of the horrific shooting in Oxford, and the U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Mississippi’s efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade.
They are then joined by one of the people responsible for the petition drive creating the state’s Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission, Walt Sorg.

Walt has been a part of state policy discussions for more than a half century, beginning as a teenage radio reporter covering the final weeks of the George Romney presidential campaign way back in 1968. Since then he’s held top-level staff positions in all three branches of Michigan government, including 9 years as press secretary to the Speaker of the House and 3 years as chief spokesman for Governor Jim Blanchard’s economic development program.

Walt began working to end partisan gerrymandering in 2013. Ultimately he became one of the founding board members of Voters Not Politicians, the grassroots group that collected more than 400,000 signatures for the ballot proposal that is now part of the Michigan constitution. He was one of the primary authors of the amendment which was approved by 61% of state voters.

The grassroots effort of Voters Not Politicians to amend Michigan’s constitution was chronicled in the award-winning documentary Slay the Dragon.

(And, for full disclosure, he’s also the producer of this podcast … usually someone operating behind the the scenes, but in front of the microphone this week!)

The Progressive Agenda 2.0 (Guest: Rep. Rashida Tlaib)

Mark and Jeff discuss the latest entrant into the Republican gubernatorial sweepstakes, millionaire auto dealer Kevin Rinke. Plus: the potential for a bedsheet ballot with a dozen citizen petition drives underway or being discussed, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission gets a scolding from the Attorney General, and Mark shares details of a lawsuit he has filed on behalf of the Michigan League of Women Voters challenging gerrymandering at the county level.

They are then joined by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI 13th), the outspoken member of “The Squad” and, from Day One, an advocate of impeaching former President Trump.

Rashida Tlaib is a well-known progressive warrior and, in her own words, “a mother working for justice for all.” Her two young sons are at the root of her unwavering passion to help change lives for the better. She is the oldest of 14 children, born and raised in Detroit, the proud daughter of Palestinian immigrant parents.

Tlaib made history in 2008 by becoming the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan Legislature.

In 2018, she won the Democratic nomination for the United States House of Representatives seat from Michigan’s 13th congressional district. She ran unopposed in the general election and became the first woman of Palestinian descent in Congress, the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan legislature, and one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, along with Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Tlaib is a member of The Squad, an informal group of six (four until the 2020 elections) U.S. Representatives on the left wing of the Democratic Party.

The Squad: Tlaib, Ayanna Presley, Ilhan Omar, Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez

Tlaib is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). She and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are the first female DSA members to serve in Congress. Tlaib has argued in favor of abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the police. On foreign affairs, she has sharply criticized the Israeli government, called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel, supports a one-state solution, and expressed support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Tlaib is the oldest of 14 children born to working-class Palestinian immigrants in Detroit. Her mother was born near the West Bank city of Ramallah. Her father was born in East Jerusalem. He moved first to Nicaragua, then to Detroit. He worked on an assembly line in a Ford Motor Company plant. As the eldest, Tlaib played a role in raising her siblings while her parents worked.

Tlaib graduated from Southwestern High School in Detroit, gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Wayne State University and her Juris Doctor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

She is currently the Congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, which includes the city of Detroit and many surrounding communities.