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If you donate to Governor Rick Snyder's (R. MI) NERD Fund, Kevyn Orr thanks you:

Gov. Rick Snyder’s secretive nonprofit foundation is paying for Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s condominium and other expenses in a previously undisclosed financial arrangement.

Snyder’s NERD Fund, which stands for New Energy to Reinvent and Diversify Fund, is footing the rental bill for Orr’s two-room condo at the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit, Orr spokesman Bill Nowling confirmed.

The NERD Fund, which raises money from private donors who are not legally required to disclose their identities, has come under scrutiny because of its role in funding the governor’s operations. For example, the organization is funding the salary of Snyder adviser Rich Baird, who helped recruit Orr to serve as emergency manager.

And according to e-mails obtained by the Free Press today, Orr made at least one suggestion for funding the EM job back in January, months before he was hired.

According to his contract, Orr earns a $275,000 salary from the state and is eligible to request expense reimbursements from the city for “travel, meals and lodging which are incurred in connection with service to the city.”

The emergency manager’s contract stipulates that “any reimbursement for expenses, including commuting, housing and security detail automobile expenses, under this contract shall be reviewed and approved in writing by the city’s chief financial officer.”

Nowling said Orr is not receiving any reimbursement from the city for his room and food, and that his Michigan State Police security detail is being funded by the state. He said Orr pays for his own food, including room service. - Detroit Free Press, 9/23/13

Well at least Orr is paying for his own meals.  Of course this his drawn some much needed criticism:

Ed McNeil, with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, said he’s concerned about Snyder’s fund paying for Orr’s Detroit residence because of the secrecy surrounding the fund’s donors.

“This is a governor who has come into office saying he wanted to be transparent,” McNeil said Monday. “Every time you turn around there’s another secret.”

The Rev. Charles E. Williams III, president of the National Action Network of Michigan, said the arrangement invites a host of conflict of interest questions as Orr negotiates the city’s bankruptcy.

“Gov. Snyder says he’s all about transparent government, so he should disclose the people who are funding (the NERD Foundation,)” Williams said. “Are they the same banks that Gov. Snyder and Kevyn Orr are creating a deal for this week (at bankruptcy court) at the expense of pensioners and unions?”

Williams’ group raised concerns after room service bills surfaced showing Orr ate crab cakes and other delicacies, even though Orr has said he covers those costs.

“They should be clear and transparent about who is paying for the bills, eating and housing,” Williams said. “It was supposed to be the city of Detroit. Now it’s a private fund that the governor is utilizing to pay for this private pet project put in place to dismantle the unions and hurt these pensioners.”

Earlier Monday, Detroit city government retirees invited Orr to lunch, even though Nowling said Orr was to be in depositions related to the city’s bankruptcy case all day.

Although Orr did not show up for the lunch at Lafayette Coney Island in downtown Detroit, three city retirees and a state AFL-CIO spokeswoman were there. They were outnumbered by the media in attendance, but did set up a chair designated for Orr and had a couple of coney dogs with onions set up for the Washington, D.C., bankruptcy attorney. - The Detroit News, 9/23/13

The timing of this story couldn't come at a better time.  Yesterday, Snyder declared himself to be a "reasonable model" for the GOP:

The first-term governor used his role as host of a biennial state GOP conference that drew more than 1,000 state and national figures – including three potential presidential candidates – to cast himself as a problem solver with a governing philosophy that can fix the nation's ills.

Snyder insisted he was focused intently on governing a state still smarting from the economic recession, with an unemployment rate that remains above the national average and whose largest city – Detroit – has filed for bankruptcy.

But he also wasn't shy about his intention to raise his profile nationally, stopping short of expressing interest in joining the field of 2016 presidential prospects.

"Hopefully, I'm a reasonable model for people to look at across the country," Snyder said in an Associated Press interview. But when asked, he called consideration of a presidential candidacy "a distraction from focusing on doing the best thing for Michigan right now."

Instead, he stood apart from those Republicans outwardly weighing presidential campaigns who attended the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference – Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – most noticeably by refraining from the sharp criticisms they hurled at President Barack Obama during speeches to the group.

Snyder, in sticking with his task-oriented mantra, says such sniping is contributing to the national government's failure to solve its biggest problems.

Instead, he ticked through a series of measures he has enacted and attributed to an improving economic picture in the state that led the nation in unemployment – at a whopping 15 percent – in 2009.

He cut business taxes, reined in unions, signed budgets earlier than previously, socked money into savings and eliminated red tape for businesses.

Four years later, the unemployment rate in Michigan is 9 percent, still above the national average but below nearby Illinois and Nevada, the nation's jobless leader. - Huffington Post, 9/22/13

Timing is everything, that's for sure.  The democratic Governors Association recently put out a web ad that calls attention to how slow the job growth in Michigan has been under Snyder:

The ad, called “Strikeout,” claims Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has whiffed at job creation, economic growth and advancing the middle class. It uses data through July.

I’d say Snyder has had some crucial hits, but the outcome of the game has yet to be decided.

The ad features a short video clip in which Snyder says the state has created “250,000 new private-sector jobs.”

Actually, Michigan has done better than that, although the current economic recovery in the state and the rest of the nation has been sluggish.

Since the bottom of the Great Recession in July 2009 to July of this year, the state has added 265,600 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s true, as the ad claims, that the current recovery started under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, whose economic record has been widely disparaged.

Michigan added 65,400 jobs from July 2009 to December 2010, Granholm’s last month in office. - MLive, 9/22/13

And Snyder's potential rival, former Congressman Mark Schauer (D. MI), is getting excited about next year's race:

“We’re going to win in 2014 because we’re unified, organized and because Michigan is a blue state. In Ionia County, don’t apologize for being a Democrat. We’re going to work smarter and better and be more organized. I can’t wait,” Schauer said.

Schauer intends to use traditional campaigning tactics, such as knocking on doors and making phone calls, as well as new tactics, such as utilizing social media.

For more information on Schauer and his campaign, visit or “Mark Schauer” on Facebook.

“This is going to be an expensive campaign. I’m running against a millionaire, who by the way, got endorsed by Donald Trump the other day,” said Schauer.

Schauer provided a list of reasons for why he will win this race, including his stance on issues and his history of winning tough races.

“There are number of reasons,” said Schauer. “The public doesn’t like the policies in Michigan and thinks that Michigan is fundamentally headed in the wrong direction. The economy is struggling. Our communities are hurting and so are our families, retirees and low wage earners. Our governor is divisive and people are beginning to see that he’s just another politician and that he’s not as moderate as they thought. Michigan has a strong alternative, who is going to fight for Michigan education, small businesses and always be on the side of families.” - Sentinel-Standard, 9/21/13

Schauer's been out on the campaign trail promoting his message.  One of the key issues he's been focusing on is education:

To improve education, we need to adopt reforms that will improve the educational choices available to parents, such as:

■ Removing the profit motive from charter schools. Research from Western Michigan University indicates that more than 80% of Michigan charter schools are run by for-profit management companies, more than any state in the nation. Our schools should use our hard-earned tax dollars to pay for children’s education, not for boosting shareholders’ profits.

■ Improving transparency by making charter contracts with for-profit educational management organizations (EMO) available online to the public, and making EMOs subject to the Freedom of Information Act. These contracts are shrouded in secrecy. One charter school near my home in Battle Creek pays a for-profit EMO $609,756 in annual rent — more than four times what market rates suggest the building would sell for.

■ Preventing unlimited spending on advertising. Our tax dollars should be maximizing student learning, not lining the pockets of advertising executives. The state should develop a “one-stop shop” website where parents can compare the spending, educational philosophy and performance measures of all schools.

■ Holding charter-issuing organizations accountable. These institutions should lose their ability to issue charters if more than 10% of their charters are failing to meet adequate performance measures. Moreover, EMOs that fail to educate kids should be prevented from contracting with new schools.

■ Requiring traditional students to spend at least 80% of the school day in a classroom with certified teachers. Technology has an important role to play in classroom learning, but the so-called “cyber schools” model is not an effective substitute for in-person instruction by highly trained teachers. - Mark Schauer (D. MI), Detroit Free Press, 9/5/13

If you want to learn more about Schauer's campaign, click here:

Originally posted to pdc on Mon Sep 23, 2013 at 11:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, Motor City Kossacks, and Michigan, My Michigan.

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