FOIA For Thee, Not For Me

Michigan Governors Not Subject To FOIA Law

In light of revelations that AZ Gov. Katie Hobbs in implicated in money laundering, shouldn’t Michigan voters want their governor to be transparent?   A little FBI court case and shady public private partnerships are a good reason why.

the mighty humanzee
By The Mighty Humanzee

Do you remember the good old days of Sarbanes Oxley, when the government asserted itself and CEOs were running scared that they’d end in jail over a series of frivolous audits?  Yeah, I do.  Those days were great.  The federal government was going to prevent corporate crime by ensuring all matters related to financials for publicly traded companies were TRANSPARENT.  It was great.

If you don’t detect my sarcasm, let me share some of my history with you.  I worked at a Fortune 1000 company in those grand ole days, and had to scramble to construct an audit after the glorious consultants left my Information Technology department out of the loop.  My introduction to Sarbanes Oxley was from a princely consultant wearing expensive shoes whose opening statement was “Sarbanes Oxley is about setting ‘Tone At the Top’”.

“Tone At The Top” translates into the leader, in a publicly traded company a CEO, establishing and enforcing an environment of honest and transparent reporting.  In business this means accounting practices are reviewed, double checked and signed off then passed up the chain for further review, sign off, rinse and repeat.  The idea being that the CEO was responsible for fraud, and needed to put measures in place to detect and prevent that fraud.

Question:  Do governors have an audit process like Sarbanes Oxley that can put them in jail if fraud is left to run rampant?

You might answer “Yeah, Zee.  There’s the Freedom of Information Act.”

Really?  It turns out in Michigan the governor is not subject to FOIA, we are one of the two states where no law requires the governor to respond to request for documentation.

During COVID, Whitmer ordered her administration to not respond to FOIA requests regarding activity related to placing COVID patients in nursing homes, the same tactics that landed Andrew Cuomo in trouble in NY State.  While Whitmer flirted with tyranny and issued 192 medical fatwahs during the COVID crisis, her office refused to answer FOIA requests and supply the scientific references for the capricious decisions that she made.  

When the Mackinac Center for Public Policy asked the governor’s office for this information, officials would not disclose it. Because Whitmer’s office is not subject to FOIA and declined to be fully transparent, we will probably never receive all the information. That would change if the Legislature passed a bill to require FOIA for itself and the governor, and Whitmer signed it.

So does this disregard for operating transparently flow from Whitmer down to her administration and other Michigan agencies?  Of course not. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel makes the claim that this also applies in a court case where details of Whitmer’s knowledge of a kidnap plot which were already revealed publicly, but now should be sealed.  The editorial references the trial of the kidnappers who were guided by the FBI in a plot to whisk Whitmer out the middle of Lake Michigan.

Ok, so maybe AG Nessel is just defending her buddy Great Lakes Gretch.  But all the other agencies who are governed by FOIA are responsive to information requests, right?

Nope.  And here is “I told you so” I am afraid to say.  Back in January I asked this question about a little corporation called the Michigan Economic Development Corporation that was given a large budget to attract industry to Michigan.  Large budget of state funds and a private corporation seemed to be a red flag to me:

When will the MEDC report their results to us?  When have they?  They are taking your ability to shape your own communities and lives and placing them in the hands of experts who have titles that require a new lexicon to understand what they even do.

Turns out I was right.

The MEDC, which acts as a consultant to business and manufacturers seeking to relocate to Michigan, receives a budget of $113 million per year from the State of Michigan, and is the favored private sector solution that helps Whitmer grow the Michigan economy.  But there is no transparency required here.  Things are so above board there is an NDA agreement between Michigan and the MEDC.  Tone at the top, right?  If you want to know where your tax dollars are going with respects to business development to the tune of $113 million a year, you must pay $5700 for 5,572 pages of documents related to these non-disclosure agreements.  And you still get zero answers.

This is criminal.  The governor, while exempt from FOIA, is setting an example the state agencies and private companies are using to simply do what they wish and not face the scrutiny of the public.  How can we trace money exchanged for services, how can we ensure that cronyism or favoritism is kept in check when we cannot see how our public servants conduct daily business?  There is no way to determine what MEDC is doing for us, we can’t see how budgets are spent.  We are told that corporate welfare is in fact prosperity, but we are not allowed to verify that we are receiving value for our tax dollars.  And what’s more, we had a governor who locked us in our homes and refused to show us the exact science that she followed while ordering us to remain in stasis.  It’s pure stupidity to continue to trust these “officials” who act like criminals with something to hide.  And we wonder why we only get 2500 jobs for $680,000 per job in the Governor’s grand schemes electric vehicle schemes.  

Well some of us know what’s going on, regardless of FOIA requests.  Seems like “Tone At the Top” does mean something after all.

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