Let’s Ban Secret Deals, and Open Up the Federal Pandemic Spending Books

July 27, 2022

Plus: Violation Tracker gets historically significant upgrades

Ban Secret Deals event poster
Source: Kate Yeager/American Economic Liberties Project

Spot and stop back-room corporate deals, learn why we’re getting such paltry information on how billions in federal pandemic relief money is being spent, and Violation Tracker gets exciting new features.

Arlene here, bringing you fresh news from Good Jobs First.

You know, we go into summer thinking things might slow down but then Panasonic gets a $829 million practically no-strings subsidy (no job requirements, no wage requirements) from Kansas; Amazon ruthlessly sucks out a $124 million subsidy from Niagara County, N.Y. (and who knows how much else in data center subsidies); and Hyundai extracts the largest-ever auto subsidy of $1.8 billion (second only to the $1.5 billion subsidy Rivian recently got…also from Georgia).

Let’s dig in.

Enough with the Project [Insert Code Name]: #BanSecretDeals

Project Ocean. Project Hawk. Whatever you call it, the massive tax subsidies that companies and local officials secretly negotiate are a scam that disadvantages families, businesses, and communities.

Companies force officials to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that prohibits them from sharing details even with other elected leaders, much less members of the public.

If I were a Kansas resident, I would be heated if my money was going to a company that failed to ensure workers would get above minimum wage – which in Kansas is $7.25 (seriously) – or that workers had to be local or even that any set number of jobs had to be created at all.

But these types of Panasonic-like deals happen all the time.

Learn more about what we can do about it during a virtual event Thursday at 1 p.m. EST hosted by the American Economic Liberties Project.

You’ll hear from New York State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Oklahoma State Rep. Collin Walke, Oklahoma, Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani and former Alabama State Rep. Patricia Todd.

Steve Black, a farmer from Frederick County, Maryland, will talk about how he learned Amazon was using an NDA to try and sneak in a massive project.

Then, Pat Garofalo of American Economic Liberties Project, John Mozena of the Center for Economic Accountability and I will give you some tips on how to spot the deal, message around them and push for changes at the local and state level.

RSVP here. Learn more about the Ban Secret Deals effort here.

Spill it, U.S. Treasury Department

Treasury Department with a lock over it
The Treasury Department has been slow to release information on how states are spending $350 billion in American Rescue Plan Act money.

Our research analyst Katie Furtado was less than impressed when she saw the latest data released by the federal pandemic watchdog agency charged with disclosing how states and localities are spending their $350 billion share of American Rescue Plan Act money.

So she reached out to the agency, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) to ask why the information on the dashboard was so sparse (much of it she’d already seen elsewhere).

Turns out, the PRAC is dependent on the U.S. Treasury to release that information, which wasn’t the case with the CARES Act flexible pot of $150 billion. It has to do with lines of responsibility and it’s kind of complicated.

Read about what’s causing the hold up here.
But here’s the bigger point: The American Rescue Plan allotted states and localities that massive sum – $350 billion – to help communities recover from the pandemic. We should have a better, broader sense of whether that’s actually happening.

Violation Tracker Adds Historical Parent Connections

Last week, we let you know about our new website, which we’re proud about. One can imagine in the excitement missing the news that Violation Tracker just got some important upgrades.

For the first time, the powerful database provides paid subscribers the name of the parent company at the time of the penalty (if different from the current parent) and a summary of the ownership changes over time. There are over 100,000 such connections, which our research director Phil Mattera carefully, methodologically matched.

Violation Tracker logo

Paid subscribers can also for the first time save searches, along with being able to download records.

Non-paid users can still access the database and look at a half million corporate misconduct records spanning 22 years and 400 regulatory agencies – you’ll just need a subscription for those other features.

We didn’t make the decision to begin charging extra for such features quickly, but we hope you agree it’s worth it and subscribe to one of our three tiers of subscription plans.Until next time.