WASHINGTON, DC – The Republican Governors Association (RGA) today submitted public records requests under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the office of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services regarding the administration’s awarding of a $200,000 no-bid contract for critical public health services to a Democratic political operative and partisan consulting firm.
On April 20th, the Whitmer administration rushed to announce the contract with the Democratic Party-linked firm, according to the Detroit Free Press:
On Monday — despite public comments hours earlier that seemed to suggest otherwise — the health department had contracted with Every Action VAN, which has overlapping top leadership with NGP VAN…NGP VAN is a privately owned technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations that boasts on its website of helping to elect President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The firm was listed as a subcontractor to a Michigan-based company run by a longtime Democratic operative, who declined to answer questions about the contract or his firm’s relevant experience, according to the Washington Post:
Mike Kolehouse, who heads that firm, would not answer questions about the contract earlier Tuesday. He said Great Lakes Community Engagement has handled voter-contact and fundraising issues, but he declined to provide past clients or examples of the work.
Amid an immediate outcry from elected officials and citizens, Governor Whitmer cancelled the contract. However, unanswered questions remain about how the contract was approved and what data may have already been collected. The Detroit News reported:
The state did not immediately say what data, if any, had already been accumulated prior to the cancellation of the contract. It is unclear why the State Emergency Operations Center would have issued the press release announcing the contract if it hadn’t approved the agreement.
The FOIA requests seek public records including documents and correspondence related to the contract among Governor Whitmer and key administration officials. While Governor Whitmer has declined to make her office subject to FOIA requests despite previously pledging to do so, the RGA calls on the governor to voluntarily release any relevant documents in the interest of transparency.
“Legitimate questions have been raised about the Whitmer administration steering hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to partisan political operatives for work involving sensitive public health data,” said RGA Communications Director Amelia Chassé Alcivar. “As Governor Whitmer continues to court the national Democratic Party spotlight, Michiganders have a right to know what led to this troubling decision and what steps the state is taking to ensure responsible stewardship of critical public health data.”
View the FOIA request to Governor Whitmer’s office here.
View the FOIA request to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services here.