Michigan Lawmakers Signed Nondisclosure Agreements, Can’t Discuss Corporate Welfare Scheme
When a state gives away tax money to a private company in an attempt to sway its business decisions, the least that a taxpayer can hope for is some openness in the process.
Unfortunately, the state of Michigan’s economic development agency is actively preventing transparency, leaving questions on how the state plans to spend billions of taxpayer dollars unanswered.
In December 2021, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed legislation establishing the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) program, intended “to ensure the state can compete for billions of dollars in investment and attract tens of thousands of jobs to bolster our economy.” SOAR funds would be disbursed with approval from the state Senate Appropriations Committee and would benefit companies that chose to do business in the Great Lake State.
As Reason reported in May, SOAR disbursed $1.4 billion in its first 18 months, all to benefit companies making electric vehicles, batteries, or battery components.
This week, Beth LeBlanc of The Detroit News reported that since its founding, “at least 163 individuals or entities have signed non-disclosure agreements” (NDAs) related to SOAR projects. The agreements were required by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which manages the SOAR program.
The total includes 27 sitting state lawmakers, including state House Speaker Joe Tate, state Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, and the chairs of the House and Senate appropriations committees, all Democrats. It also includes the offices of Whitmer and U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Dan Kildee (both Democrats), plus 11 former lawmakers, 30 legislative staffers, and “at least three local school districts and several local governments hoping to land projects in their areas.”
Multiple lawmakers “said they were required by the MEDC to sign an NDA to participate in the appropriations process,” LeBlanc wrote, while others “said they signed NDAs in order to serve on task forces seeking to improve the SOAR program amid concerns over how it is administered.”
LeBlanc reports that the agreements—some of which last up to five years, longer than any state lawmaker’s term—prevent signers from revealing information about projects until they are publicly announced. In ce
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