AFTERNOON GRAB BAG: You can have access to the Governor’s office (but it’ll cost ya), MEDC official: Loss of Cadillac “not a big deal”


An exposé by the New York Times shows that access to officials in the administrations of a number of Republican governors can be had by corporate America as long as they were willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars:

[A]n error by the Republican Governors Association recently resulted in the disclosure of exactly the kind of information that political committees given tax-exempt status usually keep secret, namely their corporate donors and the size of their checks. […]

With Congress producing so little legislation, governors’ offices have become attractive targets, Mr. Wertheimer said. Last year, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee allowed corporate donors to make their cases on how to carry out the Affordable Care Act; discuss hydraulic fracturing, an oil- and gas-exploration method regulated at the state level; and hash over state budgets just as coffers began to loosen. […]

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”

Board members received two tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican governors and members of their staff”; three tickets to the Governors Forums Series, where “a group of 5-8 governors discuss the best policy practices from around the country on a particular topic”; and a D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, among other events.

You can read the 2013 symposium program for the get-together held in Carlsbad, California HERE.

One of the attendees of the conference was none other that Rick Snyder’s Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore.

Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan, spells it out:

Giving corporations a $1.8 billion tax giveaway is only one of the perks that corporate donors get under Gov. Snyder’s watch. They also get to rub elbows and have direct access to his chief of staff. We know that corporations get special treatment in Snyder’s administration, as evidenced by the power wielded by Muchmore during the Aramark scandal. These revelations are extremely troubling. Who do Gov. Snyder and Muchmore work for, Michigan voters or their corporate donors?

A top official in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), “the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development”, was recently asked to comment on GM’s decision to spin off its Cadillac division and move its headquarters out of Michigan to New York. He said it’s “not a big deal”:

The state’s car czar is downplaying the move by General Motors Co. to spin its Cadillac brand into a separate business unit and move its global headquarters to New York City.

“This is not a massive thing,” said Nigel Francis, senior automotive adviser for the state of Michigan and a senior vice president at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “To me, it’s not a big deal.”

That’s putting an exceptionally happy face on some exceptionally bad news.

Michigan Democrats have introduced a resolution to end the state’s contract with for-profit prison food vendor Aramark after scandal after scandal has rocked the corporation. They are also poised to introduce a package of bills aimed at preventing such scandals resulting from privatizing state services to for-profit companies ever again. Via the Michigan House Dems:

Rep. Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) yesterday introduced a resolution that would formally cancel the Aramark contract. In addition, House Democrats are preparing legislation that would address the problems created when the administration privatized prison food services. Some of the bills included would demand accountability and transparency in state contracts and would:

  • Require that a state agency must submit a detailed cost-benefit analysis to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.
  • Require vendors participating in the bid process to be in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations.

In addition, House Democrats will propose that:

  • The Auditor General audit the Department of Correction’s food service program for anticipated financial savings and performance.
  • The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections hold an immediate hearing on the Aramark contract.

“We were told that privatizing prisoner food services and giving the contract to Aramark was a good idea because it would save money, but it turns out that it’s just one more case of ‘you get what you pay for,’” Lamonte said. “Aramark’s employees have committed one violation after another including employees having sexual relationships with inmates; smuggling heroin, cocaine and marijuana into the prison for inmates; and systemic food shortages that are putting our corrections officers at risk. Florida has already terminated their contract with Aramark and Michigan should follow suit immediately before any more moral, health or financial damage occurs.”

Look, somebody has to be the adult here and solve this problem. Clearly Gov. Snyder won’t.

Progress Michigan released an email today that seems to imply a close connection between the Governor’s office and Aramark. From their press release:

An email recently obtained by Progress Michigan through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that Dennis Muchmore, Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, asked the Treasury Department to conduct a, “quick analysis of the investment value” of Aramark. The email shows that Muchmore requested this analysis because of concerns over “recent controversies” related to the Aramark contract with the Department of Corrections. The response email was not released with the remainder of the FOIA.

The email raises numerous questions about the Snyder administration’s relationship with Aramark:

  • Why is the governor’s Chief of Staff concerned with the investment value of Aramark?
  • Why does Dennis Muchmore appear to be acting as an agent for Aramark?
  • Is this related to the earlier fine issued to Aramark that Muchmore appears to have played a role in cancelling?
  • Does the governor or his top staffers such as Rich Baird and Dennis Muchmore have investments in Aramark?
  • Was Gov. Snyder made aware of Muchmore’s interest in the investment value of Aramark?
  • Was Dennis Muchmore concerned about Aramark losing investment value due to scandals in Michigan prisons?
  • Are personal investments or political donations driving the refusal to hold Aramark accountable by cancelling the contract?
  • The email refers to “John”. Who’s that? One of the people who received a big raise from Snyder? Where’s his analysis?
  • Why was the request so urgent? What was going on July 17th?
  • The email refers to doing an analysis for “us”. Who’s that?
  • What did Clinton do in response to the email?
  • Why did Muchmore call the request a “favor”?

The scandals of the Snyder administration continue to pile up. With less than 50 days before the election, this is not good news for Gov. Snyder.

First Lady Michelle Obama will soon visit our state to stump for Mark Schauer and Gary Peters. Via the Detroit Free Press:

First lady Michelle Obama will visit Detroit next month to stump for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Schauer and U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters.

Details of the visit were not immediately available. A person familiar with the event, who spoke on background because it hadn’t been announced publicly, said the first lady would be in Detroit Oct. 10.

The venue for the rally had not yet been announced.

MDP Chair Lon Johnson welcomed the news. “To have the First Lady come to Michigan and highlight how the future of our middle class is at stake here this November,” he said in a statement. “Mark and Gary have proven track records of fighting for good jobs – from standing up to save the auto rescue to calling for a higher minimum wage – and they are the only candidates Michigan middle class families can trust. The First Lady has been a tremendous advocate for our middle class families and veterans, and we look forward to having her in Michigan.

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