As Disrn reported Tuesday afternoon, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had awarded a coronavirus tracing contract to a noted Democratic consultant and information firm called NGP VAN, raising concerns that the commission, which is meant to help track and halt the disease's spread in the state, was poised to harvest political intel for the Democratic Party from its gathering of COVID-19 data.
According to Wikipedia:
NGP VAN, Inc. is a privately owned voter database and web hosting service provider used by the American Democratic Party, Democratic campaigns, and other non-profit organizations authorized by the Democratic Party. The platform or service is used by political and social campaigns for fundraising, campaign finance compliance, field organizing, and digital organizing.
Late Tuesday, state officials confirmed that the contracts had been canceled amid pushback about possible improper motives in granting the contract.
On Monday — despite public comments hours earlier that seemed to suggest otherwise — the health department had contracted with Every Action VAN, which has overlapping top leadership with NGP VAN, "to provide software to help organize remote phone banking and track information and contacts."
NPG VAN is a privately owned technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations that boasts on its website of helping to elect President Barack Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
"This contract should have been approved by the State Emergency Operations Center," said Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the governor's office. "This issue is being corrected, and a different vendor and software platform will be selected by the SEOC."
Michigan Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, sent a strongly worded letter to Whitmer earlier Tuesday warning of the impropriety of contracting a Democratic Party offshoot to gather myriad information about COVID-19 spread in the state.
He voiced concerns not only about NGP VAN, but also about the process that was used to select and approve the contact tracing agreements, and whether the data that would be collected would be secure.
"I hope that you agree that using a company so closely intertwined with partisan political campaigns has no place in our state's response to COVID-19 or anything to do with sensitive personal health information."
He further questioned how Whitmer "decided to hire this company without a competitive bid process, or by letting the Legislature — charged with ensuring accountability within state government — know about it."
According to Livingston County Commissioner Wes Nakagiri, who also voiced concerns on Tuesday about the contract, NGP VAN was poised to gain access to a wealth of data about Michiganders, including confidential medical information.
He called the effort a scheme and an "insidiously clever and deceitful way to take political advantage of the biggest public health crisis of our lifetimes."