Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
FPI / April 26, 2020
Michigan's Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has been touted as a potential running mate for presumptive presidential candidate Joe Biden, has rescinded a contract for a database to track the spread of coronavirus she had awarded to a Democratic consulting firm, a report said.
The contract to Great Lakes Community Engagement, run by Democratic political consultant Mike Kolehouse, was pulled after questions were raised about the governor using the coronavirus crisis for political gain, Crain's Detroit reported.
Meanwhile, Whitmer has extended the state's stay-at-home order to May 15, even as the Michigan legislature has scheduled a special session to launch a committee to review the governor's actions in response to the coronavirus.
"I want to be crystal clear: the overarching message today is still the same. We must all do our part by staying home and staying safe as much as possible," Whitmer said.
The Republican-controlled legislature scheduled a special session for April 24 to create an oversight committee that will review the governor's orders and could even strip her of her emergency powers.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the state Senate will consider bills to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governors Act, which gives Whitmer wide power to declare a state of emergency. Another bill would reduce the length of a state of emergency from 28 days to 14.
But Whitmer has promised to veto such efforts if they were to pass the legislature.
Great Lakes Community Engagement had planned to use a software vendor affiliated with a Democratic data firm that is working for Whitmer's re-election campaign, the Washington Free Beacon reported just hours before Whitmer's office said she had terminated the contract.
Whitmer has risen to national prominence during the coronavirus outbreak via clashes with President Donald Trump.
Republicans and the news media began raising questions about the contracts after they were announced in a press release Monday evening, pressing the governor about why Democratic political operatives were hired to run a massive public health project.
The Free Beacon noted that "Kolehouse is the owner of K2K Consulting, an umbrella organization tied to both Great Lakes Community Engagement and Kolehouse Strategies. Both have done extensive field work for Democratic causes. Kolehouse in turn retained as a partner in the contract-tracing operation an arm of the Democratic consulting firm NGP VAN, which is currently working with Whitmer's re-election campaign. NGP VAN said it had not been contracted by the state but declined further comment."
The Free Beacon's report noted that "After a local county commissioner, Wes Nakagiri, was trained to participate in the program as a volunteer, he accused Whitmer of using the coronavirus tracking effort for political gain. The Republican highlighted training materials listing Kolehouse Strategies and NGP VAN as partners in the effort, saying he was troubled to see that health information was 'being stored in a Democrat-aligned database.' "
"By selecting partisan Democrat campaign companies, the Whitmer administration has chosen to politicize the COVID-19 crisis," Nakagiri said.
Free Press International