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Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Jackie Morgan – The End of an Era | Week 6

Jackie Morgan, 20 February 2017

This week was my last week at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It has been a whirlwind 6 weeks here, learning new ideas and meeting wonderful people. This week I was continuing on with my task from last week, summarizing cases the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has worked on, in preparation for their new website.

Like last week this was very exciting as it gave me the opportunity to both learn more about what the Mackinac Center does, and the legal troubles that face American people.

After going through quite a few cases I noticed a common theme, illegal unionization. Although I haven’t heard much about unions in Australia (except one time a teachers union went on strike and I got a day off school) they seem to be a prominent part of employment here. Unfortunately not all unions appear to have the interests of their members at heart.

An example being one union who fought for at-home care givers of elderly or disabled people to be classified as government employees, so they could be unionized, and therefore pay union dues. The legal loophole allowing them to be ‘government employees’ coming from cheques they received from the government as part of a Federal Home Help Program meaning they were ‘paid by the government’ making the government their ‘employer’.

In the time this union collected dues from these care givers they made over $32 million. After it became illegal for at home care givers to be classified as government employees, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation fought and won to get these people their money back. Unfortunately they weren’t able to get all of the money back, but they did succeed with some.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy

I have made the most of my last week in Michigan by after work skiing and even travelling to the nearby city of Grand Rapids to see a childhood friend. My time at the Mackinac Center has been lovely, not least because of the wonderful people I have met here who endeavored to make me feel welcome.


I am concluding my time in the United States by attending the International Students for Liberty Conference in Washington D.C. with some other Mannkal Scholars. The conference looks amazing, with such a busy schedule that I don’t know how I am going to be able to see every speaker I would like, but that’s definitely a good problem to have.

Jackie Morgan – Legislation State of Mind | Week 4

Jackie Morgan, 6 February 2017

Week 4 at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy began with me starting an exciting new project. Because VoteSpotter is just starting up for the year I was asked what about the project I was most interested in.

As I am starting law school in Australia when I arrive home I asked to learn more about the bills and policies VoteSpotter describes for its users.

Upon my request I was assigned to complete an overview of the bills that are going to be put before the House of Representatives and Senate in Michigan during 2017. After reading these bills, I picked out the ones I believed fit the criteria VoteSpotter uses to bring certain bills to the attention of the public.

This criterion consists of bills that have a large impact on voters, bills regarding topics that are prevalent in the media at the moment and bills that don’t concern topics prevalent in the media, but perhaps should. From there I picked my bills and summarized them.

I had a little trouble with some of the bills that outlined new processes for taxation, the United States having a slightly different tax system to Australia. However everyone at the Mackinac Center was happy to help and after a short meeting with our accountant I was back on track. Upon finishing my project I was told it was going to be given to the Michigan bill describer for review so hopefully in my blog next week I will be able to report it was top notch.

This week was my 21st birthday, and the Mackinac Center kindly gave me a few days off so I could join my family in New York to celebrate. It was amazing! Standing in Times Square felt eerily familiar from all the times seeing it on movies. We went to a Broadway show and a Knicks game and went to the Top of the Rockefeller Center. All in all a very special birthday that I will cherish for years to come.

Top of the Rock

Union Square

Jackie Morgan – News Night on Social Media | Week 3

Jackie Morgan, 30 January 2017

Week three began at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and I began an exciting new project. This week, as all profiles for new house representatives and senators of the 15 states and U.S. Congress that VoteSpotter is focusing on this year have been updated. I have moved on to a market analysis of the other apps with a similar target market and content to VoteSpotter.

Throughout the week I examined a number of different apps, checking their different features and comparing them to VoteSpotter. I looked at how they advertised, especially their social media to ensure VoteSpotter was up to date with the competition. Through this process I began to learn how unique VoteSpotter really is. Through its structure the Mackinac Center has produced an app that is 100% informative for the audience, and allows for a transfer of important information both ways in the legislative process.

Jackie Morgan VoteSpotter Intern

Another important lesson I learnt this week is how the rise of social media has impacted businesses. All the applications I looked at were fairly new businesses, but their social media presence (like VoteSpotter) was huge. It seems to keep up in this changing world, where a large portion of the population look to their smart phones to find information rather than a printed newspaper or the evening news program, social media will be the tool to inform the public.

These apps, along with VoteSpotter use their social media to not only draw attention to their app, but contain links to important news stories and continue their theme of information distribution and informing the electorate of issues that will influence their lives and their votes.

When I wasn’t reviewing the social media revolution at work this week I travelled to the nearby town of Frankenmuth. Frankenmuth is a town straight out of a fairy tale; it is a place where it is Christmas all year round. Quite literally all year round at Bonner’s, the world’s largest Christmas store!

Inside the Fudge Shop


Jackie Morgan – Lessons of Presidents Past | Week 2

Jackie Morgan, 23 January 2017

Week two at the Mackinac Center got into full swing at the same time a heat wave hit Midland, a heat wave meaning we got temperatures of nearly 3°C! But rain or shine work continues, especially as the Michigan legislative sessions have now begun for the New Year.

Home Away From Home

I am continuing on with my project from last week of getting the newly elected House of Representatives and Senate member’s profiles up and running for VoteSpotter. This week focusing on honing my previously undeveloped Photoshop skills, to ensure all VoteSpotter users can see who is representing their interests in Government.

Perhaps my favourite part about interning at the Mackinac Center are the great conversations I am able to have with other staffers around the office. They are very patient with my non-stop questions about how the United States political system works, particularly with all eyes on Washington D.C. this week for the Presidential Inauguration. However my favourite conversation for the week addressed some fun facts of past Presidents. It turns out that shortest serving president of the United States of America was President William Henry Harrison who only served 31 days in office. President Harrison also holds the record for longest ever inaugural address, lasting one hour and forty-five minutes. Coincidentally these two facts are linked, as President Harrison delivered his very long address during some cold and horrible weather that caused him to catch a cold, developing into pneumonia and resulting in his death 32 days later. The moral of the story being, don’t give ridiculously long speeches (especially outside in the cold)!

Outside of work I have decided to make the most of time in Midland by taking part in as many different sports as possible, and this week I have made a good start. I took part in an introduction to curling class, a sport that shoots to fame each winter Olympics and is somehow lost in years between. I have also participated in rock climbing, tobogganing, tennis and of course more sledding.



Jackie Morgan – Starting a Mackinac Winter – Week 1

Jackie Morgan, 17 January 2017

At the beginning of the week I arrived in the beautiful yet freezing Midland, Michigan. After the Australian summer some climate adjustment has been required. Climate adjustment primarily consisting of playing in the snow. However the snow is not the reason I have come to Midland, I am interning at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The Mackinac Center is an education and research institute, focused on improving the lives of Michigan residents through promoting solutions to policy questions. My contribution to this effort is taking place as intern for the Mackinac Center’s VoteSpotter team.

VoteSpotter is an app that allows its users to submit their opinions on both past and future policies that their officials are responsible to vote for. This system allows the public to interact directly with issues and subsequently allows the officials to see how the public has responded with their decisions.

Following the U.S. elections late last year the app required updating to show the new senators and representatives of both congress and the 14 states the VoteSpotter team is currently focusing on. That is where I come in, my task being to update the profiles of the new officials and ensure those re-elected are found in the correct place.

Outside the Mackinac Center

Outside the Mackinac Center I am spending my time with the wonderful family who have agreed to host me for the next 5 weeks. They have been very welcoming and I have been tagging along to their afternoon activities (they are a very active family). One such activity being sledding!

Although sledding is a family friendly sport, those hills look much higher from the top. However, after seeing my host family conquer the hill, including their two and four year old children as well as the family dog, I thought I should get on with it. It was definitely the right decision! I had the best time and will be endeavouring to get back to the hill as soon as possible.


Conventions and a Birthday | Week 5

Michael McKenzie, 31 July 2016

The Penultimate week in the Mackinac Center has been busy with the timing of the Democratic Party National Convention. VoteSpotter has been utilizing the increased interest in politics through both the major party conventions to capitalize on this increased engagement through some marketing promotion. Hence over the past two weeks, we’ve run targeted marketing campaigns to increase our overall app downloads and follower base. This work has had me writing and uploading articles about the many facets of the DNC including policy platforms and superdelegates. Many of which can be found on the VoteSpotter Facebook page which has just recently hit 10k likes!
Being a part of such a complex project with little to compare it to is a unique experience that I will utilise throughout my life. It’s hard to express more how lucky I am not only to be here in America at the Mackinac Center but working on VoteSpotter, a project I completely adore being a part of.

The Mackinac Center presents a plaque to each team member

This week I attended a Mackinac Center event in celebration of Milton Friedmans 104th birthday. The other interns and I sat with donors and friends of the Mackinac Center where we all made pleasant conversation and enjoyed a great lunch. The president of the Mackinac Center Joe Lehman spoke about a dinner he attended where he was asked to sit next to Milton Freidman. Much to the audience’s amusement, Mr. Lehman explained he was to sit next to Milton Friedman under the clause that he wouldn’t “talk his head off.” It was also duly noted that when one is sitting next to Milton Friedman why would they want to be hearing their own voice. Overall the event was a major success.

My fellow Interns at the event

This weekend I will be heading to Mackinac Island which lies between two of the great lakes in Michigan. Famous for its fudge I look forward to touring the island on horseback!
For my final week of work, I’ve prepared a small gift for my co-workers. This Monday during lunch time I’ve offered everyone some fine Australian cuisine in the form of TimTams and Vegemite crackers. I’m looking forward to seeing the results!
Next week I will be rounding off my final week at the Mackinac Center at the helm of the Mannkal snapchat account, check it out! This experience has done a world of good for me, and I’m very grateful for each supporter of Mannkal who’ve provided me with this unique opportunity I’m trying to take full advantage of.

Town Square of the 21st Century | Week 4

Michael McKenzie, 24 July 2016

It’s been a month in the US, and I feel it’s safe to say here my time here has facilitated significant learning and engendered much excitement.

The feeling I get knowing that I’m beyond halfway through my journey is met with mixed emotions. I know too soon I’ll be moving away from the exciting work and friends I’ve made. However, each day now reminds me of how grateful I am to be a part of this experience and with the people that surround it.

Writing Center instead of Centre is still a struggle

I would like to use this blog to take the opportunity to explain in greater detail my role within the Mackinac Center and what I’ve been doing with the VoteSpotter app.

Briefly, the originality of VoteSpotter’s concept is something that’s incredibly exciting. The idea of being updated on your State and Federal representatives every vote and being able to relay your thoughts on their decision about it within a single app is pretty neat. But furthermore the power of the data collected and it’s specificness is something I’ve both worked on and been intrigued in.

Currently, VoteSpotter is on the cusp of a massive wave of growth and being on the inside of its small and sparse team is an overwhelmingly positive learning experience.

My primary project has been to oversee the creation and update our new blogging forum. I have been working with our graphic designers and IT department to create the new blogging portal called VoteSpotter Community. I’ve had the task of writing articles and backdating previous Facebook posts onto the page. Although it is still in its primary stage, I imagine with some additional features it could become an analytical hub for users to debate and condition their ideas on policies. The page is linked numerous times on the VoteSpotter Facebook page and has received significant attention due to the RNC convention.

Promotional material at its finest

During the past week, I attended the quarterly brainstorm meeting that lasted for a full day. Meeting nearly the whole team in person was a pleasurable experience as it brought in both the electronic resources and marketing teams. While I sat in the board room taking notes I couldn’t help but get a great sense of appreciation rush through me. Being given the opportunity to attend such well organised and intellectually thought out meeting at my age is a strength I will inevitably draw on later in life. After the conclusion of the meeting, myself and the team went out and ordered an excessive amount of sushi to wrap up the day.

Testing the acoustics

Outside the office, I’ve begun riding my bike to work and playing a bit of ultimate frisbee. I’ve also managed to delve into a few books during my time in Midland and currently looking for some recommendations! Now out of those three pursuits, I’m thankful that at least two are combating my one month intake of American size food.

Disclaimer: Heavily staged photo

To conclude, although this week had no real jaw-dropping moments I have to say it’s satisfying simply progressing through my work and learning from it. I look forward to future trials that await!

Next week check out my article describing the presumptive Democratic VP nominee Tim Kaine and his policy stances.

Welcome to FreedomFest Las Vegas | Week 3

Michael McKenzie, 20 July 2016

Today as I write this blog, I struggle to find the words to describe the experiences of my past week. Although that seems to be cliché, this week I have explored new ideas and locations that were previously unfathomable. That being said, this astronomical journey to Las Vegas was preempted by a significant week of work.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on creating a new webpage for Votespotter to be formally found here. After coordinating the graphic design with the IT coding and writing a lot of articles, I’m happy to say that the website is live!

With that milestone complete, I looked forward to making my way to FreedomFest in Las Vegas. Flying into Nevada mid-afternoon, I was astounded by the desert landscape and how it was plastered against this huge city oasis.

Viva Las Vegas

After registering at the FreedomFest kiosk located in the conference centre of our hotel, I attended a FEE seminar on fascism within the US. During this seminar, keynote speakers Geoffrey Tucker, Max Borders, and Steve Horwitz discussed the threat of modern fascism through the culmination of nationalism, authoritarianism, and populism within America. The panel elaborated on instances where liberty can be challenged from the political right wing.

That evening, there was a North American Mannkal scholars reunion as each of my fellow interns swapped stories and dined upon some Las Vegas cuisine. It was great to hear what the five other scholars had been tasked with and how they were experiencing their times in America and Canada.

Mannkal Scholars Unite with FEE's Jeffrey Tucker.

During my time at FreedomFest, I was very grateful for the opportunity to attend lunch with Rand Paul. The Kentucky senator expressed his support for the freedom movement and acknowledged the need to fight against big government. He also gave a signed copy of his book “Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America” to all members of the lunch.

Meeting Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

The Libertarian Party were out in force over the weekend. Gary Johnston, the Libertarian Presidential candidate, and William Weld, the Vice Presidential nominee, both spoke at the convention. The theme of the talk was to introduce the Libertarian Party and address their main policies and beliefs. Gary Johnston humorously spoke about the number of times he vetoed bills as Governor of New Mexico- namely, a bill that required pet stores to exercise their animals for two hours each day. Overall, the head of the presidential ticket spoke well and with confidence about the possibility of a win this November.

President and Vice Presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party

After the final afternoon of seminars, all six of the Mannkal scholars attended the Gala Saturday night farewell banquet. The evening consisted of magic tricks, speeches, and music that captured both Las Vegas and FreedomFest respectfully. That evening spurred conversation and jokes between myself and other members of American think tanks.

FreedomFest itself was an excellent celebration of liberty and a clever excuse for me to expand my personal library. Without Mannkal, this experience would have never been possible- hence, why I am eternally grateful.

Post-convention, I travelled to the Grand Canyon via Route 66 with fellow Mannkal scholars Max and Chad. I was in awe of the canyon and photos simply could not do it justice. Again, a special thanks to the team at Mannkal through whom this opportunity was made available.

What a view!

Flying home Sunday night, it was straight back to work Monday morning with tasks left, right, and centre. This week, I’ve had a phenomenal trip and I don’t doubt my time in America will be slowing down soon.

VoteSpotter and the Mackinac Center | Week 2

Michael McKenzie, 12 July 2016

With the conclusion of my second week of work at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, it’s safe to say that my daily schedule has been airtight with activities.
I had a typical American forth of July weekend that consisted of fireworks, baseball and even a bald eagle that I was lucky enough to see while kayaking.
Within the Mackinac Center, I have been assigned the role as the VoteSpotter intern. What is VoteSpotter? It’s an application that you can download on your phone that tells you who your local and federal politicians are and how they’ve voted. The app launched in January 2014 and has significantly grown in popularity since then. The idea of holding legislators accountable through an easily accessible app has received great amounts of praise and credibility.

Home sweet cubicle

My experience with Votespotter has had me managing multiple projects on the fly. To begin with, I’ve been writing policy analyses of possible U.S. Presidential nominees. Furthermore, I’m helping coordinate a new blogging web page. Working with both graphic designers and coders has been a welcomed experience, and I’ve learned a lot within a small amount of time.
On top of all that, I’ve been following current political affairs and drafting material that is to be posted through social media and the app itself.

Interns of the Mackinac Center

The Mackinac Center is a rich community of thinkers; through the conversations I have participated in, I’ve both challenged and affirmed my own views. The open forum of discussion has been greatly appreciated, as many Americans have strong opinions that I’ve learned from. With the conclusion of my second week here in Michigan, I am excited to see the where my work on the VoteSpotter project will take me next.

Michigan with a Mission | Week 1

Michael McKenzie, 2 July 2016

Touchdown in the city of Chicago IL!

Arriving in the morning one night of rest was all I had prior to my bus ride to Midland Michigan and I wanted to see, smell and do as much as possible before then.

Traversing the Windy City was an experience in itself. Taking in the excessive use of horns and fast paced people pasted against a sublime skyline was a stupendous sight. My fondest memories of Chicago include the Field Museum’s terracotta army exhibit and the large array of Chicago style hot dogs I consumed to stave off my jet lag.

The Field Museum

Upon my arrival to Michigan, I met up with my host family of whom I contacted through the Mackinac Centre. The Cammenga family have been exceedingly hospitable towards me and I will be forever grateful for their generosity to take me into their home. Living in a truly American household has given me quite a lot of insight into the ‘in and outs’ of American culture. Namely the wide variety of cereals available for breakfast. Great to see free market competition at its finest!

Nonetheless, my time with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy began early on a crisp Michigan morning. On arrival at the office I was led to my cubicle with a welcoming agenda laying flat atop the desktop. The morning consisted of preparatory network and security training followed by a headshot photo.

At noon that day Mackinac ran an ‘Intern University’ where not only did I meet other interns but was introduced to the values and culture of the policy center. The Vice President and Director of Research spoke about the attitudes and approach that founded the Mackinac Center in 1987 and has sustained its influential policy direction to this day.

The front office of the Mackinac Center

I have been assigned to the VoteSpotter project which is an innovative program designed to connect Americans with their representatives. I will outline more of what I’m doing with the project in next weeks post however I highly recommend downloading the app and experiencing it firsthand.

With my first week of work in America tackled I’m looking forward to celebrating the 4th of July and all future opportunities here in the US!