News Story

MEDC asks $5,700 for nondisclosure agreements

Government-by-NDA has been business as usual in Michigan. But the Mackinac Center insists on transparency

The Mackinac Center earlier this month filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, asking for any nondisclosure agreements on file since Jan. 1, 2018. What came back was a bill for nearly $5,700.

Government by secrecy, confidentiality and nondisclosure has become a trend in Michigan in recent years.

When Robert Gordon left his post as director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in January 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent him off with a $155,000-plus payout from the state, and a nondisclosure agreement. Critics referred to the payout as “hush money.”

When taxpayer dollars are spent granting corporate welfare, state officials — including the very lawmakers who allegedly sign off on the deals — are made to sign nondisclosure agreements.

How many nondisclosure agreements exist on corporate welfare deals? The MEDC’s preliminary response to the FOIA request offers a window, but it leaves many questions unanswered.

The MEDC refers to 5,572 “sides” of paper that need to be copied. There could be as many as 5,572 single pages, or as few as 2,786 double-sided pages. How many agreements does that account for? We don’t know.

Transparency is a Mackinac Center concern. When Gordon left the health department, Whitmer wasn’t paying him with her own funds; she was spending the people’s money. When companies receive massive checks from the state under the banner of economic development, that’s the people’s money the politicians are spending.

Who has signed nondisclosure agreements, when, and why? Whitmer? Lawmakers? MEDC staff? Who, specifically? What did they attest to? What does it look like, on paper, when your representative in Lansing has sworn secrecy about how the state spends your money? What are the means employed to enforce the code of silence?

Those are the answers CapCon looks to provide in the weeks and months to come.

The Mackinac Center will file a new, adjusted request. And we will report back what we find.

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.