The Times Herald published an op-ed this week by Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center, calling into question the state’s no-bid contract with a company that produces reports on the Pure Michigan advertising campaign.

In the op-ed, LaFaive discusses a recent report by Longwoods International that shows high returns on the Pure Michigan ads but fail to disclose any calculations to taxpayers who paid for the report. Because this report and others produced by Longwoods serve as justification for the $33 million Pure Michigan ad campaign and make extraordinary claims about the supposed return on investment of this spending, LaFaive said there should be transparency in the process. He writes:

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Such claims should come with a high burden of proof, yet the company refuses to disclose the calculations behind this extraordinary claim, and the agency that purchased the report appears unconcerned. Longwoods asserts that its methods are proprietary, or secret. But Michigan taxpayers, who paid almost $150,000 for this report, should not have to take the government’s word that such a claim is valid, much less the word of the private company that made it.

That’s especially true given the apparently cozy relationship between the company and the agency: Longwoods’ current chairman is the former MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation) official in charge of the state’s tourism promotion programs. Moreover, Longwoods’ MEDC business is the result of no-bid contracts.

LaFaive, who has authored a soon-to-be-released study on the questionable practices used to justify the Pure Michigan campaign, encouraged lawmakers to press the hold button on such spending until they make the review process transparent.

Given the MEDC’s incentive to justify its budget with unsupported claims, lawmakers should place an embargo on any further contracts evaluating Pure Michigan or other economic development programs. The embargo should remain in place until all such contracts are open to independent examination and review.

Read LaFaive’s op-ed in its entirety at The Times Herald.

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