Democrats that control the Michigan Legislature are working to halt two major grants totaling nearly $34 million that were approved by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022.

Senate Bill 749 moved to the Senate floor on Thursday following approval from Committee on Appropriations. The supplemental appropriations bill, among other things, would lapse the $15 million balance of an initial $25 million grant for a “Complete Health Campus” in Clare that was signed into law by Whitmer in 2022.

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The funding, secured by former House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, was awarded to a nonprofit created by his former aide, David Coker Jr., and was used to purchase a $3.5 million plot of land from a firm co-owned by state Rep. Tom Kunse, R-Clare.

Bridge Michigan highlighted a series of “red flags” with the project in May 2023, after the first $10 million was paid out, and the state suspended the remainder days later.

“The grant was one of hundreds awarded totaling more than $1 billion that were part of a $76.9 billion state budget,” the news site reports. “The grants have raised questions because they allow lawmakers to direct spending to pet projects without any formal process to determine if the grant projects are warranted.”

The Complete Health Campus grant is now under investigation by the Michigan Attorney General, as is a different $20 million grant for Whitmer appointee Fay Beydoun, which lawmakers are also attempting to claw back with SB 749.

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel did not launch an investigation into the grant to Beydoun, a Democratic donor to Nessel’s 2018 campaign, until after the case was referred to her office by the FBI.

The Detroit News in early April exposed how Beydoun was spending the first $10 million of the $20 million grant, which was awarded by the Legislature in 2022 to start the nonprofit business accelerator Global Link International.

Whitmer appointed Beydoun to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s executive committee in 2019, and Beydoun served in that role until April 5, 2024.

“Beydoun spent about $800,000 through December of the first $10 million tranche of the grant,” the News reports. “Among her expenses were a $4,500 coffeemaker, an $11,000 first-class plane ticket to Budapest, more than $40,000 in furniture and $408,000 in salary costs for two people over a three-month period.”

That spending prompted questions from several Republicans in the Legislature who demanded answers from MEDC that have so far gone unanswered.

“They didn’t answer any of them, not one of them,” Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said of the MEDC’s response to his specific questions about the grant.

“What we know is that a Whitmer appointee used taxpayer money to buy a $4,500 coffeemaker after receiving a $20 million grant from the state,” Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, said last month. “But we don’t know yet why the grant, which was the result of secret budget negotiations, was approved in the first place.”

Beydoun, former vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, has defended the spending, alleging she’s secured millions in commitments for a business retention and attraction fund, according to the News.

“My intentions have always been to strengthen Michigan’s global footprint and attract businesses to the state of Michigan from all over the world,” Beydoun told the news site.

While MEDC officials told the News they don’t expect to scrutinize Beydoun’s grant spending until after the first $10 million is fully spent, CEO Quentin Messer issued a letter announcing “additional review” procedures for grant expenditures of more than $200,000 per quarter.

“This effort will ensure we can undertake impactful, but also realistic compliance across the more than 320 direct legislative grants MEDC is actively administering with our existing compliance personnel resources,” Messer wrote in late April.

If approved, SB 749 could result in nearly $34 million in tax dollars returning to Michigan’s coffers, though the impact on the public’s trust in government remains unclear.

“The people of Michigan have entrusted us to oversee our state budget – a budget funded on hears of hard-earned tax dollars from our neighbors, friends, and family,” Sen. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Bridge Michigan.

“When one of our grantees falls short of those expectations, or shows they do not share in that mission, this Legislature will correct course and put those dollars toward a sounder investment in our people.”

Out of $2 billion in Legislative pet projects approved with little public scrutiny in recent years, often added at the last minute to massive spending bills, Anthony has sponsored at least 22 grants totaling over $137 million, according to Bridge.