Paul Sancya / AP)
Lansing— Gov. Rick Snyder’s allies have formed a new not-for-profit civic fund that disclosed its first donors Thursday after the governor’s former NERD fund was criticized for operating in secrecy.
The Moving Michigan Forward fund reported raising $123,400 in the fourth quarter of 2013, with Troy-based HTC Global Services Inc. making the largest single donation of $50,000, according to a quarterly report published on the fund’s website.
Jackson National Life Insurance Co. and Consumers Energy each donated $25,000; the DeVos family’s Alticor Inc. contributed $20,000; the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association donated $2,940; and Snyder’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, chipped in $500, according to the report.
The fund is raising private donations to help pay for some costs associated with running the governor’s office and listed more than $37,000 in travel expenses among its nearly $67,000 in expenses during the last three months of 2013.
In October, Snyder announced he was disbanding his New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify (NERD) fund after it came under scrutiny for not disclosing donors or all expenses, such as a $100,000-a-year salary for adviser Rich Baird, who is now on the state payroll and is being paid $140,000 annually.
Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Thursday that any money left in the NERD fund is being used for bills or has been put into escrow to cover Orr's future expenses. The fund also is expected to be reimbursed some legal fees after a judge imposed sanctions on Highland Park activist Robert Davis for improperly suing new Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the NERD fund and Baird on the eve of the mayoral election in November.
Snyder said he would form a new fund that discloses its donors and activities like political campaign committees are required to do. The governor’s office disclosed the existence of the new fund Thursday.
“I think the governor is exactly right — the public has a right and they should be able to see this sort of activity in action,” said Bill Martin, CEO of the Michigan Association of Realtors, who is chairing Moving Michigan Forward’s four-member board.
Democrats have been critical of the GOP governor’s refusal to disclose his donors, even though Republican and Democratic politicians have maintained similar funds for years.
“This new political fund should be considered an admission of guilt by Rick Snyder,” said Zack Pohl, spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer. “By refusing to disclose his secret NERD fund donors, it sends a strong signal that this governor has something to hide.”
As a state legislator, Schauer maintained a small fund to cover the cost of event tickets, charity lunches and other expenses. At the time the fund was active donor names weren’t made public.
Snyder’s NERD Fund had a higher profile than most politicians’ nonprofits after it reported to the IRS raising $1.68 million total for 2011 and 2012.
Martin noted federal tax law does not require the disclosure of donors to so-called “social welfare” organizations.
“They were following the law, but I think when the governor realized you could actually publish the names, he said ‘why don’t we do that?’ ” said Martin, a former state corrections director.
The NERD Fund was previously shelling out $4,200 a month to cover Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s lodging at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel and airfare to suburban Washington, D.C., to see his family on weekends.
Martin said the new fund could resume providing Orr those fringe benefits. “I would suggest it would fall under what the fund is there for,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed.