When Rick Snyder needs to have something done, he often turns to one man: Richard Baird. Baird has long been Snyder’s “right hand man”, enjoying a position in the governor’s Executive Office and listed as his “Transformation Manager”:
Baird has a list of scandals in Michigan that he is tied to. He was originally paid from a fund set up by Gov. Snyder called the New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify (NERD) Fund. Funding for the NERD Fund was never fully revealed before it was shut down by the governor under mounting criticism and evidence that donors were receiving special favors in return for their contributions. For example, CVS Caremark, the only known contributor, received a $60 million no-bid contract with the City of Detroit under Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr (a Snyder appointee) following their donation to the NERD Fund.
Baird was also one of the originators of the now infamous “Skunk Works” project, an off-the-books” team of people that were scheming to siphon education tax dollars into the bank accounts of private corporations using an illegal voucher program.
Additionally, Baird was also involved in an effort to secure business for Gov. Snyder’s cousin George Snyder to ensure he was protected from budget cuts in 2011. George Snyder runs DBI, a business furniture company with a contract with the state of Michigan and Baird intervened on his behalf to ensure that his contract was safe.
Baird was also once accused at one time of illegal lobbying.
And finally, there’s this:
Baird was also responsible for bringing in Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s Emergency Manager, well ahead of the time Detroit was even found to be in a financial emergency through the process outlined by our laws. When a lawsuit was filed, the judge in the case ordered Baird to produce the names of the people he had interviewed for the job and Baird claimed that Gov. Snyder had conferred “executive privilege” on him and cited Richard Nixon. That caused this hilarious response from Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette:
“There’s not one (state) case anywhere that says the governor has an executive privilege,” the judge said.
Peter Ellsworth, a private attorney representing Baird, cited two federal cases involving executive privilege: the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr and former President Richard Nixon’s attempt to keep records related to Watergate scandal under wraps.
“No one in their right mind in the last few years has ever cited Richard Nixon for anything,” Collette said, later adding: “Nixon doesn’t stand for anything other than someone attempting to hide a crime.”
Richard Baird was known as an “enforcer” during his time inside the Snyder administration. State employees contacted me to reveal that he was making the rounds to many departments to let staffers know that they were expected to get in line and stay in line when it came to supporting Gov. Snyder and his policies. Baird told them stories about people who had paid the price for not toeing the line. “Following Baird’s ‘stories’,” one state employee told me, “The entire staff were completely silent. Not one of us missed the threats and intimidation the he presented to us.”
Now that Gov. Snyder is up to his ears in alligators over his administration’s role in the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water with lead, Snyder has once again turned to his go-to guy, Richard Baird:
The governor is dispatching his fixer and confidant, Rich Baird, to Flint to help coordinate the state response and to reassure the city’s elected leaders of direct, daily contact with the governor’s office.
It’s astonishing that Gov. Snyder would turn to someone with Baird’s sordid history for such a critical position. Baird has extremely thin skin, particularly when it comes to dealing with women in power. He once threatened to sue then-Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer and former Michigan AFL-CIO president Karla Swift for having the temerity to publicly criticize him.
With Gov. Snyder being accused of obfuscating and deflecting any responsibility for his administration’s role in the Flint water crisis, hiring a shadowy, behind-the-scenes operator like Richard Baird is the absolutely wrong choice.
It’s also the absolutely predictable choice.