Lawmakers seek to buy silence of Beydoun critics

Lawmakers are hoping to mitigate some of the outrage over a $20 million grant awarded to Democratic crony Fay Beydoun by throwing good money after bad. It’s a very questionable idea that risks making the situation worse.

Beydoun is the appointee of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was given a state grant even before she formed a business to administer it, and without any apparent scrutiny for how the money would be spent.

The pork barrel giveaway exploded after The Detroit News reported Beydoun used some of the cash to buy a $4,500 coffeemaker, a first-class ticket to Budapest and $400,000 in salary for herself and a staffer.

The public anger has prompted the Legislature to try to get the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to block the second $10 million payment. Beydoun was a Whitmer-appointed board member of the MEDC at the time she got the state money.

Among the loudest objections to the grant came from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce in Dearborn, where Beydoun was executive director at the time she was lobbying the Legislature for the grant.

Officials at the chamber felt double-crossed. They contend they were working with Beydoun to secure the state funding to support their organization, but she cut them out when she went to the Legislature.

Instead of bringing the money home to the chamber, Beydoun secured the grant and then formed her own company, Global Link, to spend it. At the time of the award, Global Link had no business plan and there were no clear expectations set for what it would deliver. Ostensibly, Beydoun was to use the money to lure foreign investment to the state.

Now, Democratic lawmakers are proposing soothing the American Arab chamber by cutting it a check for $3 million from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) budget.

In a repeat of the sloppiness of the Beydoun grant, the one to the American Arab chamber also includes few specifics on how it will be used.

All appearances suggest this is hush money to quiet the chamber’s complaints of being mistreated by Beydoun and the Legislature.

The idea of an additional grant for the chamber was floated following a meeting between the business group and Rep. Will Snyder, the Democrat who leads the House LEO budget.

Supporters say the money will help expand the chamber’s Tejara innovation hub, created to engage with Arab American entrepreneurs. A year ago, Tejara received $3.4 million from the MEDC.

Before this additional expenditure is approved, lawmakers should scrutinize how the previous money was spent and what results it produced on behalf of taxpayers.

Both the Beydoun grant and the proposed appropriation for the chamber are symptoms of the same problem. Lansing is holding on to too much taxpayer money. That’s creating an environment in which there is no urgency to assure every dollar is spent on essentials and is tracked to assure it is adding value to the state.

— The Detroit News


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