Last week, APT filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Michigan Governor’s office for politicizing the public health response to the coronavirus. News outlets had reported that Governor Whitmer used taxpayer dollars to enter into a contract with a partner of NGP VAN to provide a service called contact tracing. Why is that significant? Because NGP VAN does not purport to provide such a service nor are they a public health data firm.
According to its website, NGP VAN promotes its services specifically for Democratic and progressive campaigns. Further, they purport that “nearly every major Democratic campaign in America is powered by NGP VAN’s software, including the Obama campaign’s voter contact, volunteer, fundraising and compliance operations in all 50 states.” Other services include targeted email, fundraising, online contributions, social fundraising, event management, casework, and other digital products. Additionally, many of their database and report programs report that they are able to pinpoint and provide a “real-time picture of your supporters across all channels.” While the website does not explicitly promote any relevant healthcare services, it makes extremely clear their work provides valuable political data and outreach capabilities.
While Governor Whitmer has allowed taxpayer dollars to be used for political purposes during a crisis, she is not the only elected leader doing such. Representative Charlie Crist (FL-13) has also used his taxpayer-funded House account to pay for a subscription to NGP VAN. It begs the question of how this can be a legitimate expense of a House office if their target customer is campaigns.
The House has an explicit prohibition on using official resources for political and campaign purposes. Allowing Members and elected officials to spend taxpayer dollars to benefit their political aspirations should never be accepted and must be held accountable.