Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Perish the thought

The idiot lawmakers who proposed buying IPods for Michigan students were recently back from a junket to California funded in part by Apple. Imagine that. Lawmakers, corporations, cash influence. That could never happen. Not with the paragons of virtue running Michigan. Read the Detroit Free Press story below.

Using their logic, we should buy every kid going through driver's training a car. That would stimulate the local economy and give them real world skills. This reinforces the need for a part-time legislature. We pay full price for this?

Detroit Free Press

Lawmakers pushing iPods flew on Apple's dime

Democrats: Trip had other business


LANSING -- Two state lawmakers backing a controversial plan to buy iPods for every schoolchild in Michigan were among a group of politicians who made a trip to California that was paid for at least in part by Apple, the maker of iPods.

The 2 1/2 -day trip earlier this year covered a range of issues and interaction on topics related to Michigan. It included a visit to Apple in northern California, where the politicians discussed classroom technology and educational uses for the popular audio and video players, said Rep. Matt Gillard, D-Alpena, one of the legislators who made the trip.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, also made the trip to San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County.

The $36-million iPod proposal was unveiled last week at a news conference called by Dillon to discuss the state's budget crisis and House Democrats' plans to address it.

Dillon's office did not provide details on the trip or say whether Apple paid for all or part of it. Gillard said he thought Apple covered a portion of the costs.

Dillon defended the trip in a statement issued by his office Tuesday night. He said he was "one of several lawmakers to take this trip, and I am more convinced than ever that the future for our children lies in education. As we move to the technology age and the knowledge-based economy, it would be irresponsible to separate technology from our K-12 system.

"I have four children, and I see how powerful technology is in their learning experience. While I believe that moving our classrooms into the 21st Century is critical to the future of our children and this state, I fully understand that unless and until we solve the state's fiscal crisis we cannot pursue this initiative. As I have said all along, we are focused on the state's fiscal crisis first."

Dillon and Gillard have been vocal supporters of the iPod idea. They did not identify the other lawmakers who went on the trip.

Critics of the proposal have said it indicates that Lansing policymakers are out of touch with Michiganders' anxiety over the state's $600-million budget shortfall and the state's depressed economic conditions.

Susan Lundgren, an Apple spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the company's Lansing lobbyist was not available for comment Tuesday.

Gillard also defended the iPod proposal and the trip. He said the lawmakers spent more time on non-Apple business during the trip, discussing such issues as wine distribution and Michigan business taxes. He said he didn't know how much the flight and accommodations cost, or whether Apple paid the entire sum.

"This is about technology in the classroom," he said. "I don't know that it has to be iPod-specific technology."

Gillard said news media reports about the proposal have focused too narrowly on the iPod, which critics view as less of an educational tool than a form of entertainment. The iPods could be used to download lectures and materials.

The trip taken by Dillon and Gillard is similar to those taken in past years by other lawmakers, including many Republicans, Dillon spokesman Dan Farough said.

Matt Resch, spokesman for the Republican leader in the House, Rep. Craig DeRoche of Novi, said he believed that statement is correct but said he didn't have details about such trips immediately available. Resch said, however, those trips were never followed by the kind of proposal unveiled by the Democratic leadership to buy $36 million worth of Apple products.

Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a political watchdog group, said he hadn't heard about the trip and had no idea whether it was connected to the iPod proposal. But Michigan lobbyist disclosure laws are so anemic that it may never be possible to know, he said.

"There are legitimate reasons for doing such a trip," Robinson said, "but I want to know about it when it happens."

Contact DAWSON BELL at 313-222-6604 or

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.