Snyder scores coveted Birther endorsement, top aide accused of illegal lobbying

You’re on a roll, Governor Snyder


[Caricature by DonkeyHotey from photos by Anne C. Savage for Eclectablog]

Governor Snyder has scored the coveted Birther endorsement with this tweet last night from Donald Trump:

Every since The Donald entered the Birther arena, he assumed the crown of the King of Birthers from the batcrap crazy Orly Taitz. His endorsement of corporatist Rick Snyder is no surprise, of course. What’s hilarious (above and beyond Trump’s baseline hilarity) is the use of the phrase “great progress”. Schools going bankrupt around the state. Cities going bankrupt right and left. Education slashed and taxes raised on over half of Michigan’s residents. Unemployment up for two consecutive months and higher than the national average. With this laundry list, it’s tough for most Michiganders to see the “great progress” that Trump refers to. By any definition that’s neither progress or success.

Trump’s tweet has elicited a number of responses on Twitter, starting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer:

Here are some others:

While all of this was going on, Lon Johnson, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party filed a FOIA request in an effort to learn more about what he is claiming is illegal lobbying activity by Rick Snyder’s right hand man and shadow government official Richard Baird.

The MDP put out the following statement:

The Michigan Democratic Party today announced the filing of Freedom of Information Act requests with state and federal agencies, to disclose any improper lobbying by Snyder aide Richard L. Baird. Reporting on Baird’s influence in education policy, transportation policy, privatization efforts and the hiring of the politically-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager appears to indicate that he and the Snyder Administration are openly flouting government sunshine laws.

“It’s clear that Rich Baird isn’t interested in meeting even the minimum requirement of transparency by filing as a lobbyist and disclosing his activities and expenses,” said Lon Johnson, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. “For two years, Baird has lobbied government officials while being paid by a private corporation to do so. It’s time for Baird to play by the same rules as Michigan’s middle-class families, or be held accountable for his refusal to do so.”

MI Partners LLC, a company Baird formed around the same time he was appointed Transformation Manager by Gov. Snyder, uses money from Snyder’s NERD Fund to pay a reported $100,000 in salary to Baird. Moreover, Baird is under a subpoena in the Detroit bankruptcy case in connection with his role in hiring Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s politically-appointed Emergency Manager. Baird testified in a May 24 deposition that his communications included making recommendations on the hiring of Orr.

The Michigan Lobby Registration Act requires corporations and their agents who engage in any communications with state officials in an attempt to influence state policy to register with and report to the state. Under this act, Baird and MI Partners LLC should have registered as lobbyists and reported Baird’s compensation and other expenses as early as 2011.

In an effort to shed more light on Baird’s apparent improper lobbying activities, Johnson has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Executive Office of the Governor, where Baird is housed, and with three federal agencies seeking detailed information on Baird’s activities.

Here’s what I wrote about Baird last spring:

Immediately after he was elected in 2010, Michigan governor Rick Snyder brought Richard Baird on board to be his “Transformation Manager”. It’s a new title and position for the state of Michigan and is paid for from the governor’s secret-donor slush fund called the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund (NERD). Baird, who had recently retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers, set up a consulting firm called MI Partners and took on one client: Governor Rick Snyder. He makes $100,000 year, paid for by unknown donors to the NERD fund, and sits at the right hand of the governor. His office is literally in the governor’s executive office suite. If you look at the Executive Office directory (pdf), there is Richard Baird’s name, listed along with the normal staffers paid like most other government officials with taxpayer money:

Until recently, you probably never heard of Richard Baird. He prefers to operate behind the scenes, pulling strings, “connecting dots” as he describes it, but never being part of the story. However, since his involvement in the secretive Skunks Works group that attempted to create a backdoor voucher program for schools run on the cheap by for-profit entities, Baird has come out from the shadows that he is much more comfortable living in.

I’m thrilled to see the MDP dig into the role this shadowy figure has played. It seems clear there is more than meets the eye and I eagerly await the results of their FOIA request.

Stay tuned.

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