News Story

Film Transparency – Just say No?

Michigan has two new laws which call for more transparency in the state’s film subsidy program. On Dec. 17, legislators approved Senate Bills 796 and 889, with a near unanimous vote for each bill. The identity of the one lawmaker who voted “No” on both bills should be no surprise.

According to, the new measures require the Michigan Film Office to regularly post specific film production spending and credit information online and clarifies what information the Treasury Department is allowed to make public.  The Mackinac Center first questioned the state’s lack of transparency in the film industry in March, 2009 (see video here).

But a subsequent Mackinac Center investigation is credited for inspiring these two bills.   

In its coverage of this legislation, MIRS News (subscription required) said the following:

The discussion of SB 0796 and SB 0889 come on the heels of the "Hangar42" blunder by the former chief of staff for Rep. Robert DEAN (D-Grand Rapids), Noah SEIFULLAH, who resigned after making statements about planning to "obtain $12.5 million in film infrastructure credits from the state by investing as little as $4 million into an unidentified building"

The Mackinac Center uncovered this “’Hangar42’ blunder” in May, 2010. (See video here) What’s interesting to note is that SB 796 passed 97-2 while SB 889 passed 99-1.

The one lawmaker who voted “No” on both bills?  Rep. Robert Dean.

Dean lost his primary bid for state senate, and went on record with the Grand Rapids Press blaming the developing Hangar42 scandal for his loss:

Dean said the "innuendoes and misinformation" that emerged from the state film-tax incentives controversy involving his former chief of staff, Noah Seifullah, was a factor in his defeat. Seifullah resigned after a YouTube video surfaced in which he said he planned to make millions off state film-tax incentives. The comments raised questions about whether he was connected to the controversial Hangar42 Studios in Walker.

“Hangar42” very nearly cost Michigan taxpayers as much as $10 million dollars. Greater transparency of Michigan’s film subsidy program, as called for in this newly passed legislation, may have caught this potential scam much sooner.

In the meantime, the reasons behind Rep. Dean’s “no” votes may remain a mystery. An automated e-mail response says his “office staff has vacated the office” as of Dec. 17th to make way for his replacement.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.