Opinion: Ad targeting Michigan Chamber intimidates, bullies
A few days ago, a paid political advertisement ran on these pages, attacking members of the Michigan business community, including myself, with inflammatory and inaccurate accusations. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press leadership acknowledged they ran these ads without following their normal review procedure. But the damage is done. How did this happen? In the middle of a respectful debate between Michiganians over a lengthy and complicated rewrite to our state Constitution regarding a redistricting ballot proposal, an out-of-state activist group inserted itself into the mix in an effort to bully and intimidate these Michigan citizens.
These individuals were targeted because of their association and volunteer leadership with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
Supporters of this attack campaign have called for boycotts, public harassment and violence against our volunteer leaders and their businesses. These individuals did not ask for this; nor do they deserve it. Their intentions and integrity were called into question. Their personal safety was compromised. Their families were threatened. Their businesses were condemned.
All because one small group of radical activists initiated an aggressive social media campaign and purchased paid advertisements online and in the pages of our own newspapers to attack Michigan citizens.
The targeted focus on Michigan Chamber Chairman Mark Davidoff, is particularly unfair. He is one of the hardest working, socially responsible and committed leaders in our state, even recently named Michiganian of the Year by The Detroit News for the positive impact he’s made on our Michigan community. This out-of-state group is trying to paint him and other hard-working Michigan business leaders as corporate bad guys when nothing could be further from the truth.
This type of smear campaign threatens an individual’s right to association, for fear of reputation impact and even their own safety.
Is this how we conduct politics? This type of inflammatory harassment does not reflect Michigan values.
Furthermore, the claims and assertions made in these pages were downright inaccurate and misdirected.
The companies and individuals that have been the focus of this harassment campaign have not taken positions for or against the redistricting ballot proposal, and are not parties to the lawsuit challenging its legality.
The fact is, the Chamber is not trying to restrict anyone's right to vote, as this misinformed campaign suggests. We oppose this specific ballot proposal because proponents have failed to meet the clear requirements set forth in state law and the Michigan Constitution to qualify for the ballot. We oppose the ballot proposal because it’s bad policy.
This important legal question is now properly before the Michigan Supreme Court. We think the debate over Michigan’s Constitution should remain in Michigan, and not in the hands of out-of-state activists.
This kind of bullying and intimidation is everything that’s wrong with politics in America today. These tactics are not welcome here in Michigan.
Richard K. Studley is president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.