Snyder administration dodges questions like potholes, refuses to respond to FOIA request

Same-day service! Governor’s office wastes no time saying “no” to request from ProgressNow and Progress Michigan.


Regular readers of Eclectablog know that Chris Savage has been regularly calling out Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on his lack of transparency. You can read some of that coverage HERE, HERE and HERE. And Chris is not the only one.

Gov. Snyder promised transparency from his administration, but time after time has thrown up smokescreens, if not brick walls, to prevent the public from hearing the whole story — especially when it comes to his now-infamous NERD Fund powered by secret donors and his dealings with corporatists who seem to have their fingers in everything from privatizing education to busting unions. Gov. Snyder continues dodging questions about these issues like potholes on a Michigan road.

Now the Snyder administration is hiding behind yet another curtain. Last week, ProgressNow announced a new effort to root out corruption in state administrations with its multi-state Executive Accountability Project. Through its state affiliates like Progress Michigan, ProgressNow has made Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking transcripts of email conversations between governors and their chiefs of staff in Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida — and Michigan.

Via Progress Michigan, ProgressNow sent an email request on March 25 to Gov. Snyder’s Deputy Legal Counsel, David Murley, asking for transcripts of email correspondence between Gov. Snyder and his Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore. The response was swift and unequivocal, says Progress Michigan Communications Director Hugh Madden.

They responded by mail the same day. The letter said, ‘As you may be aware, the Governor’s office is expressly exempt from FOIA’s coverage.’ Then it goes on to say, ‘Because of this exemption we will not be responding to your request.’

We think government should be as open as possible with the people. The chief of staff is the governor’s point person in state government, and the public has a right to know how their elected officials operate.

Madden points out that although the governor’s office and the legislature are exempt from FOIA requests, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re prohibited from releasing the communications. “I don’t think the average person knows about the exemption,” he says. “If the governor and the legislature are exempt from FOIA, that doesn’t work very well.”

The evasion continued at the April 7 Pancakes and Politics event in Detroit, where Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson asked Gov. Snyder why he doubled his cousin’s furniture contract with the state to $41 million, while cutting education and placing new taxes on middle-class families and seniors. Gov. Snyder refused to address the question.

Here’s what Johnson had to say after the event:

Republican Gov. Snyder is still dodging the $41 million question. … This governor’s use of the secret NERD Fund to ensure special treatment for his cousin and for campaign donors gives new meaning to the phrase ‘friends and family first.’ That’s why this governor and his NERD Fund need to be investigated immediately.

Progress Michigan is determining next steps in its accountability project, which we’ll report on here. In the meantime, ProgressNow continues working to uncover information pertinent to other transparency-troubled administrations.

“The entire Bridgegate scandal didn’t come from an agency — it was inside Chris Christie’s office,” says Madden. “Imagine how much easier it would be if we had access to those records.”

According to ProgressNow, this is the first time a watchdog has pursued these types of conversations in a systematic way for accountability purposes. ProgressNow Executive Director Arshad Hasan had this to say in a release:

From closed bridges in New Jersey to favors for polluters in North Carolina, Americans are tired of watching governor after governor misuse their public office for personal and political gain. It is time we shed a light on the egregious access that special interests and lobbyists have to our states’ top elected officials. The public has the right to know how these elected officials, who serve at the behest of the people, are operating behind closed doors.

This is an opportunity for these Governors to restore public confidence in their offices and actions as executives. We look forward to their cooperation.

So far, the response from Gov. Snyder’s office has been less than confidence-inspiring. Which, given his track record, is not at all surprising.

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

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  • Aanna1123

    Had people researched the ‘nerd’ before they voted for him, they would have seen that he is a very secretive businessman! How many Michiganders know of the secret land deal he did with the Chinese in Milan? Hell, the mayor and city manager knew nothing about it until after the fact! THIS is how he did Gateway. We won’t know the full damage this man has caused Michigan for several years after he is tossed out!

  • Kathi Geukes

    Better yet…it’s time we shed the politician’s who think that they are above the people they WORK FOR…the Koch brothers did NOT put Snydley into office and they won’t be able to save his ass come November…it’s time for vote OUT all REPUBLICANS who worship at the Koch’s brothers feet!!!!!

  • jmapharris

    funny thing is he did answer Johnsons question (who by the way looked like a fool) He explained to everyone in the room that his cousin has been doing business with the State on a contract for years and the contract he was asking about was in place prior to him becomming Gov.
    Im not a huge fan of the Gov but hat reading lies about anyone

  • Rob Ert

    I agree with Aanna1123, it will take years to assess the damage Snyder has done to this state already. Let’s not forget about the 13 cities in EFM! What about the empty and derelict houses in Detroit that can’t be torn down because of some deal with Pulte (An out of state company). For Snyder’s first 3 political TV ads, he did not reveal which Party he answered to. My wife and I did our research, and secret means secret. He can do anything he wants with the Nerd Fund money. This type of political chicanery is ruining the lives of many people. Take a good look around at the way things are, and tell me just what has this guy accomplished that is good for the citizens? Vote him out!

    • thee1truth

      Correction:
      Pulte is NOT an out of state business.
      Pulte has been headquartered in Michigan for over 25 years but has recently moved their headquarters out of state.

      • Andy Kinnard

        Then, it’s now an out of state business.

        • thee1truth

          Then Rick Snyder is an out of state Governor because his boss is Communist China with headquarters at the Koch Brothers home office.

          • Andy Kinnard

            Is there a point or are you just exercising contrarian tendencies?

          • thee1truth

            The point is……
            Don’t vote for Rick Snyder and Pulte was a real bonus for Michigan for many decades…but I lost respect when they sold out to Rick Snyder and moved their Headquarters.
            I know what the inside of Pulte Headquarters that was on Telegraph looks like…Pulte WAS a great company…now….not so much…they are betting on the wrong guy….and its to pay themselves off at the expense of the people….they will suffer with consumer backlash…maybe not today or tomorrow…but just like the people who backed Kwame Brown….People connected are laying low…..this will happen to Snyder coattail riders….like Pulte…..remember that when it happens.

  • thee1truth

    Rick Snyder should be considered as the clear and present danger to the citizens of Michigan.
    Republicans in Michigan are considered as Political Terrorists who have eliminated Democracy through the Emergency Manager Law.
    This law was voted down by Michigan Residents but was hastily rewritten and passed with days of the vote to eliminate the law.
    The people consider Rick Snyder to be running a criminal enterprise that does not care about the law and its up to the courts to decide if the laws are illegal or not.
    In the meantime the intended damage has been done.
    Rick Snyder is running Michigan like an Al-Queda Terror Cell and frequently visits Communist China.
    Rick Snyder should be investigated for crimes against the people and the laws of Michigan.
    Rick Snyder is a Republican Political Terrorist

  • Thomas Vinyard

    This article was obviously written by an Obama supporting, lying Democrat liberal.

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