Snyder's controversial NERD Fund to close
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder addresses reporters during a news conference
Friday, July 19, 2013 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) / AP
The New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund “had simply become an unnecessary distraction,” said Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary.
“A new fund is being created that will go far above and beyond what the law requires,” Wurfel said in an e-mail. “That will include disclosure of donors and amounts given as well as detailed overview of expenditures by category. Both will be shared and posted online quarterly.”
The fund raised about $368,000 in 2012, down from about $1.3 million in 2011, according to reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
The fund has been controversial because it can accept unlimited corporate donations from anonymous parties. The fund has been used to offset housing and travel expenses for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and had been paying $100,000 a year to Snyder aide Richard Baird, a contractor.
The governor’s office said last week Baird was joining the state payroll as a Snyder appointee and will hold the title “transformation manager” with a $140,000 annual salary.
Snyder said the fund was intended to lessen the financial burdens of government for taxpayers but critics, such as Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said it kept the public from knowing what special interests are giving Snyder financial support.
Wurfel said the purpose of the new fund will be “continued reinvention efforts, saving taxpayer dollars, and helping ensure responsive, accessible government.”
News of the fund’s closure did not stop criticism from Snyder’s critics.
Lon Johnson, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, called on Snyder to “keep his promises of transparency” and immediately disclose the fund’s donors, which Snyder has previously refused to do.
Wurfel said today donors gave with the understanding of anonymity and that will be respected. “But again, all laws and regulations have been met and followed to the letter and spirit of law,” she said.
Snyder, testifying under oath recently during a deposition in the Detroit bankruptcy case, said he doesn’t know who donates to the fund.