Former Ambassadors Joseph Cella and Pete Hoekstra sent a letter to U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen Tuesday urging an investigation into several Michigan figures pushing to bring a Chinese Communist Party-linked battery company into the state.

The letter, dated April 4, began:

As former ambassadorial colleagues well aware of the adversarial engagements of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) throughout the World, we are writing to you with grave concern over possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, 22 U.S.C. 611 (FARA), involving the ongoing attempt by parties in the State of Michigan to lobby, advocate, and solicit for the presence of a particular lithium ion battery manufacturer based in the PRC, that maintains ties to the CCP, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCC), and the United Front Work Department (UFWD), and request you review these engagements and take any appropriate action.

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Cella and Hoekstra noted numerous individuals inside and outside federal, state, and local government have signed “binding 5 year” non-disclosure agreements with Gotion High-Tech, the China-based company with direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

The ambassadors, who served in Fiji and the Netherlands respectively during the Donald Trump administration, singled out several individuals who should be scrutinized, including:

  • Quentin L. Messer, Jr., CEO, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
  • Jen Nelson, Chief Operating & Customer Experience Officer, MEDC
  • Austin Girelli, Deputy Legislative Director, Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin
  • Randy Thelen, President & CEO, The Right Place
  • Chuck Thelen, Vice President of North American Operations, Gotion, Inc.
  • Bill Pink, President, Ferris State University; Executive Committee Member, MEDC
  • David Eisler, Former President, Ferris State University
  • Paul Bullock, Mecosta County Controller/Administrator
  • Mark Gifford, Big Rapids City Manager
  • Bill Stanek, Supervisor, Big Rapids Charter Township
  • Jim Chapman, Green Township Supervisor

Cella and Hoekstra urged the DOJ to also look at “Other State of Michigan elected and appointed officials in the executive and legislative branches”, which would likely include Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), who as recently as Monday touted the Gotion project. The two argued all involved very well may be required to “register under FARA on account of their direct agreements and engagements with either foreign principals of Gotion, Inc., its parent company, Guoxuan High-Tech Co., Ltd, or its holding company, Nanjing Gotion Holding Group Co. Ltd.”

The ambassadors also wrote:

Due diligence, strict scrutiny and transparency have been woefully lacking with this project, and the confidentiality has been justified by these parties on account of “competition” and the concern with NDAs is dismissed because they are “commonplace” with such economic developments in the United States.

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In an interview with 9 & 10 News last month, Gotion VP Chuck Thelen acknowledged the process has less than transparent.

“We’ve been a little lacking in that, and I will admit that’s our fault,” he said.

“Many legitimate questions from elected officials and citizens alike remain, particularly involving the national security threat presented by this company based in The People’s Republic of China (PRC) which maintains ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” Cella and Hoekstra said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, to advance the proposed project, officials in the State of Michigan who are directly engaged with Gotion, Inc. are shielding themselves from these questions through the binding and punitive 5 year non-disclosure agreements, justifying the secrecy on account of ‘competition’ saying they are ‘commonplace’ with such economic developments,” they said.

“The speed and secrecy which officials in the State of Michigan have operated with State and local leaders imperils our national security and must be given the strictest of scrutiny through both a CFIUS Review and an investigation to ascertain FARA has been violated,” the ambassadors concluded.