Michigan, Michigan Republicans, Rick Snyder — October 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Michigan Gov. Snyder closing NERD slushfund, donors still a secret – UPDATED


If it was such a good thing, why hide the donors?

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

WXYZ is reporting that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is closing the shadowy, secretive slush fund — the “NERD Fund” — that was used, until last week, to pay the salary of his confidant and advisor Richard Baird, as well as the living & travel expenses of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

Snyder continually said the NERD Fund was set-up to defray costs to taxpayers and was beneficial to the state. Despite this glowing endorsement, he also claimed not to know who the donors were or why they would be shy about revealing their altruism to the state government and the state’s residents.

Democratic candidate for governor Mark Schauer was quick to respond:

This should be considered an admission of guilt by Rick Snyder. If it’s right to disclose the Governor’s political donors moving forward, then it was the right thing to do from day one. Simply closing this secret fund without disclosure sends a clear message that Gov. Snyder has something to hide, and that his secret special interest donors are more important than being open and transparent with Michigan taxpayers. The appearance of impropriety and conflicts of interest won’t go away until the Governor discloses existing NERD Fund donors. Michigan taxpayers deserve answers, not more political excuses from Gov. Snyder.

Progress Michigan’s Executive Director Lonnie Scott described the move as “a victory for public accountability and transparency”.

“Due to pressure from progressive groups like Progress Michigan, the NERD Fund will no longer exist, which is a victory for public accountability and transparency,” Scott said. “However, the fund’s donors will not be disclosed, which raises serious questions about who was donating to it and who was having a say in serious policy decisions like Skunk Works and the hiring of Kevin Orr. Snyder needs to live up to his campaign promise of transparency going forward.

Finally, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson had this to say:

We know Rick Snyder’s slush fund will no longer be paying for Rich Baird’s salary, Kevyn Orr’s travel and luxury housing, and improvements to Rick Snyder’s home – but what we don’t know is far more concerning. Republican Gov. Snyder should keep his promises of transparency and immediately disclose which corporate special interests are backing the NERD Fund.

This should be a no-brainer for the Governor who has claimed to champion open and transparent government both on the 2010 campaign trail and while in office. With so much scrutiny over the mysterious donors to the fund, and with his contention that it is a good thing for the taxpayers of Michigan, he could make the whole debate disappear by releasing the donor list.

It seems clear that there are things Governor Snyder doesn’t want us to know about who paid into the fund and if they were granted special access within his administration. Closing the fund without revealing the donors suggests there something he has to conceal. The voters of Michigan deserve to know what that it is.

UPDATE: AFL-CIO president Karla Swift released this statement this afternoon, echoing the call for Governor Snyder to answer the question, “What are you hiding?”:

The public is justifiably outraged over the secrecy surrounding Gov. Snyder’s NERD Fund. Shutting down this slush fund in an attempt to avoid transparency only raises more red flags.

The citizens of Michigan deserve to know who was funding the governor’s top advisor, paying for upgrades to the governor’s house and covering the living expenses for Snyder’s politically appointed bankruptcy expert. Closing the NERD Fund without full disclosure of past donors only begs the question: What is Governor Snyder hiding?