Detroit, Rick Snyder — June 7, 2013 at 7:10 am

Governor Snyder’s lack of transparency, questionable business arrangements, & hidden deals begin to see the light of day


The edifice begins to crumble

I was on the the Night Shift with Tony Trupiano Show last night talking about Governor Rick Snyder relentlessly flouting the law in the hiring of Detroit Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr. Tony brought a Detroit Free Press op-ed to my attention that I hadn’t seen and which is a must-read, in my opinion. Titled “It’s time Gov. Rick Snyder tried transparency himself”, it talks in-depth about Rich Baird, a man who is is paid by secret funds from the governor’s New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund (NERD), has an office in the governor’s suite, and has the title “transformational manager”. Nancy Kaffer at the Freep has more on Baird and his bizarre and seemingly unethical position HERE.

From yesterday’s op-ed:

It’s different when it’s me.

That must be what Gov. Rick Snyder wants Michiganders to believe.

He talks a strong game about transparency and being upfront about government business. But when it comes to his own issues, secrecy and dodging are more the norm.

It doesn’t fly — and it’s getting worse the more we learn about how the governor is doing business. {…}

[F]or Snyder, who has required Michigan cities to embrace transparency and accountability as a condition of receiving state funding, following the letter of the law isn’t good enough. NERD’s public filings are a masterwork of obfuscation — expenditures are so vaguely described that Baird’s contract isn’t documented.

In fact, few of NERD’s expenditures are documented. Baird’s $100,000 contract is a fraction of the $522,666 in poorly defined expenses NERD reported in 2011. (Its 2012 filing is due in August.)

Which leaves us with a whole lot of “whys”: Why won’t Snyder release the list? Why was donors’ support conditional on anonymity? Why funnel Baird’s pay through NERD? Who’s funding NERD, and what are they buying?

Until Snyder releases more information, don’t expect any answers.

The thing is, as Kaffer points out, NERD is a 501(c)4 so there are no disclosure requirements. So Baird, whose only client is governor Snyder is not a government employee, enjoys all the access of an appointee, including an office next to the governor, but we don’t get to know who pays his bills and who he is beholden to. The lack of transparency is off the charts and a direct contradiction to how Rick Snyder campaigned in 2010.

Top advisers taking paychecks from unnamed donors? What could possibly be wrong with that? For starters, it’s the kind of situation that has landed other Michigan elected officials in hot water, and for good reason — mixing the business of a privately funded nonprofit with the business of an elected official’s office creates the possibility for the kinds of conflicts of interest and agenda-driven policy-making that Snyder vowed to avoid. {…}

Baird is paid through MI Partners LLC, a consulting company with just one client: Snyder. Recently released e-mails show Baird assisted the controversial “skunk works” group, an off-books working group that developed a plan for a dramatic overhaul of public education in the state. The group included charter school operators, software company representatives and a voucher advocate, but no public education experts. So, when the group came up with a plan to lower the cost of public education through a backdoor voucher system, online learning and expanded charters, it was hardly surprising.

This isn’t going away and is going to be a huge part of the campaign to defeat Rick Snyder in 2014. He is very clearly hiding far more than has been revealed and, now that the major newspapers have caught a whiff, there’s far more to come, you can be very sure.

Here is my Blog Role segment from Tony’s show last night:

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