Michigan Governor rescinds pandemic contract awarded to campaign vendor

On Monday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced a new project intended to trace contacts between people who were potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus. Such a system could potentially help contain and slow the spread of the virus, though many have raised concerns over the intrusive nature of a program that would generate a lot of detailed, private data about people. But that wasn’t the only issue being raised.

As it turns out, Whitmer awarded the contract to Every Action VAN, described as one of the left’s biggest technology firms. The group was also a vendor on the payroll of Whitmer’s campaign. In addition, their parent organization has ties to both the Clintons and Joe Biden’s campaign, as well as having done work for hundreds of labor unions. Shortly after the publication of the Free Beacon article linked above, the news went viral, and the following day, Whitmer had a change of heart and canceled the contract.

Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan announced late Tuesday that the state was rescinding a contract to track the spread of the coronavirus that she had awarded to a Democratic consulting firm, according to Crain’s Detroit.

The organization, Great Lakes Community Engagement, is run by Democratic political consultant Mike Kolehouse, who planned to use a software vendor affiliated with a Democratic data firm that is working for the governor’s reelection campaign. Whitmer’s decision to hire Democratic political operatives to run a public health project sparked immediate backlash, the Washington Free Beacon reported just hours before Whitmer’s office said she had terminated the contract.

Everything about this announcement smells fishy at best. The original announcement about the contract was put out by the State Emergency Operations Center (appropriately enough), but it was quickly revealed that the SEOC hadn’t been involved in the selection of Every Action VAN and hadn’t approved them for the project. Now that the contract has been pulled, the SEOC will select the vendor themselves.

It’s also not clear that there was even a competitive bidding process in awarding this work. We’re not talking about a massive amount of taxpayer money here, but that’s really not the point. If the final product winds up being a repository for massive amounts of data on citizens who aren’t aware of how that data could wind up being used, the optics alone should be setting off alarm bells. Having a firm that specializes in politics – specifically Democrat and liberal politics – holding the reins of that sort of resource simply invites abuse.

Of course, NGP VAN (the parent company of Every Action VAN), was insisting that they would never appropriate the data for political purposes. Well, obviously not. Perish the thought. You people have such suspicious minds. I’m very disappointed.

But there were conflicting statements adding to the confusion and making everything look even less on the level. The organization responsible for the actual development of the system is Great Lakes Community Engagement. GLCE is run by Democratic political consultant Mike Kolehouse. A spokesperson for NGP Van told the Free Beacon “We were not contracted with the state of Michigan at any point. Beyond that, we’re unfortunately unable to provide details on specific clients.” But the Governor’s own spokesperson stated that only one contract had been signed and that was with Kolehouse. Kolehouse, in turn, signed on NGP Van. That’s awfully convenient, isn’t it?

There’s one more thing to consider. If there was nothing questionable going on, why would Gretchen Whitmer do a 180-degree turn and rescind the contract as soon as the information was made public? If you’ve done nothing wrong and there’s nothing to hide, why not stick with your original executive decision and defend it?

Keep in mind that this is the same Michigan Governor who has been rumored to be on the shortlist for Biden’s veep selection. Just imagine the hijinks she could get up to in the Vice President’s office… or even the Oval Office.