U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Mich., wants the Whitmer administration and local officials to pull the plug on Gotion Inc.’s planned battery plant in Mecosta County, citing the company’s recently exposed ties to slave labor in China.

Michigan taxpayers are providing Gotion with a $715 million incentive package that includes a 30-year tax break worth $540 million, along with $175 million in grants, to construct a $2.36 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Mecosta County that’s expected to employ 2,350. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted the “the biggest ever economic development project in Northern Michigan” as “winning investment” for taxpayers, while local residents and Republican lawmakers disagree.

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Moolenaar has repeatedly raised national security issues with the company’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party, and this week pointed to how co-owner Volkswagen has faced bipartisan congressional backlash for participating in the CCP’s genocide and forced labor of religious minorities in China.

“For months, Gotion supporters have argued that one reason Gotion Inc. should be allowed to build in Mecosta County is because part of the company is owned by Volkswagen. Now we know that Volkswagen has helped the CCP carry out the deadly persecution of religious people in China,” he said.

“This news is another example of how CCP-affiliated companies can be coerced into doing the bidding of the CCP and is further evidence of why it would be a mistake to allow Gotion to build a factory in Michigan,” Moolenaar said. “These companies have participated in genocide, and state and local officials should end the Gotion project in Michigan immediately.”

Mooleaar’s comments follow just days after House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., demanded Volkswagen cease operations in Xinjiang, a province in China, where the CCP has long leveraged slave labor from Uyghur Muslims.

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The letter to Volkswagen CEO David Bume cited a Volkswagen factory in the region that “used forcibly transferred Uyghur laborers to build and manage various aspects of the facility.”

Earlier this month, Michigan state Sens. Jonathan Lindsey, R-Allen, and Lana Theis, R-Brighton, requested Michigan Economic Development Corporation Director Quentin Messer suspend payments to Gotion and attempt to recoup any funds distributed, pointing to “recent national security concerns from current and former federal officials.”

“National security experts from both sides of the aisle have sounded the alarm about China’s attempts to infiltrate and compromise our safety through industrial espionage,” Lindsey said. “Yet, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to ignore their warnings and further place our state and nation at risk — while using taxpayer dollars to do so.”

CIA Director William Burns earlier this month labeled China as the biggest threat to the U.S., noting the country is “intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so.”

Burns’ comments followed congressional testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray in January that China aims to “target our freedoms, reaching inside our borders, across America, to silence, coerce, and threaten our citizens and residents.”

Others including former Obama administration CIA director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have warned that the Gotion plant in Michigan could expose the country to espionage and advised against tax incentives.

“The Whitmer administration has irresponsibly ignored concerns from local residents and calls from a bipartisan group of state and federal officials about the grave dangers this project poses,” Theis said. “I don’t know how many more warnings the governor and MEDC officials need or who will finally get their attention. The position they are putting our state in is downright dangerous and we need to discard the project and recoup any funds meant for its development.

“Using taxpayer funds to invite foreign adversaries in the name of partisan green energy initiatives is reprehensible and cannot continue.”

Moolenaar has taken the same stance, and in November partnered with Illinois Republican Rep. Darin LaHood to author the No Official Giveaways Of Taxpayers’ Income to Oppressive Nations (NO GOTION) Act, which would prohibit “countries of concern” from receiving tax credits through the Inflation Reduction Act.

The bill, which remains in the House Committee on Ways and Means, is backed by 40 co-sponsors, including Michigan U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet; Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland; John James, R-Shelby Township; Lisa McClain, R-Bruce Township; and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton.

“Hard-working taxpayers should not be on the hook for billions in federal subsidies funneling to companies beholden to malign actors, like the CCP. It is clear that the so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ is being leveraged by foreign adversaries to exploit loopholes to gain generous incentives and dominate key technologies in the United States,” LaHood said in a statement.

Gotion has denied any “communist plot” and alleged Moolenaar is working to “derail good-paying jobs for his constituents in Mecosta County,” according to MLive.

The company, meanwhile, is forging ahead with clearing land in phase one of its “Project Elephant” in Green Charter Township without site plan reviews from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly, according to the Big Rapids Pioneer.

“They don’t know what they’re doing,” local resident Brandi Sweet told the township board last week. Gotion manufacturing vice president Chuck Thelen “can talk about a site plan all he wants but until that site plan goes through EGLE, it is not set, it is not what he thinks it’s going to be.”

Update:

A Gotion representative provided Thee Midwesterner with a news release from the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly stating, “MRWA has had numerous informal conversations with Gotion representatives toward these objectives, including input on preliminary plant design, manufacturing processes, and providing mitigation options for potential environmental offsets if
the project requires them.”

“Gotion Inc. and the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly are both dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring our vital watershed, and we’ve welcomed MRWA’s expert counsel on a variety of important topics since last May,” Thelen said in a statement.

“We’ve invited MRWA members to planning meetings, described in detail all the types of materials that will be used at the plant, and sought their opinion during the plant’s overall design process. The group’s mission to protect our waterways is perfectly aligned with Gotion’s incredible record of safety and environmental protection, and we look forward to continuing this dynamic partnership in the weeks, months and years ahead.”