Democratic Vice Chair of the Commerce Committee, Jon Switalski (D-Warren), Commerce Committee member, Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights), and House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) called for increased transparency and accountability from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO, Michael Finney, after his presentation to the House Commerce Committee this morning.
“The MEDC has been notoriously secretive, and that has become especially evident after their website featured so-called ‘right-to-work’ links, and most egregiously, after they purchased an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal cheapening the Pure Michigan brand,” said Switalski. “They used something that used to unite us as Michiganders and instead promoted something that divides us. The MEDC willfully turned Pure Michigan into a right wing, political talking point for this administration and its corporate cronies, and we will not take that lightly.”
House Democrats were enraged when after the Republican controlled legislature pushed through so-called “right-to-work” bills during the lame duck session, a full page advertisement appeared in the Wall Street Journal using the logo for Pure Michigan, the country’s leading tourism campaign, touting the recently passed “right-to-work” legislation. Greimel submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request immediately to determine who authorized the advertisement and how much it cost. The overall advertisement purchase cost was $260,000, while the major players in creating and approving the advertisement have yet to come to light. In response, Greimel has requested legislation that would make the MEDC subject to FOIA requests.
“The Pure Michigan brand should have never been tainted,” said Greimel. “Mr. Finney should know better and, after apologizing for using state monies as a political slush fund, should take the appropriate steps to ensure that the MEDC is transparent and remains nonpartisan.”
The MEDC originally started its Pure Michigan effort to demonstrate our state’s natural beauty and vibrant cities to people around the state, country and world. In 2009, Forbes magazine named it one of the best tourism campaigns of all time. While the Pure Michigan logo can be used by other groups and organizations to promote the state, they are required to “maintain the high quality of the mark and will safeguard the established prestige and goodwill related to the mark.”The Michigan Economic Development Corp. refused to uphold its own standards when it sold out Pure Michigan to be used for political gain.
“So much good has come from this tourism campaign, but we must guarantee that money allotted for promoting tourism is used for just that and not to promote a political agenda,” said Yanez.