Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who is running for Michigan’s U.S. Senate seat, reportedly won’t say why she signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to talk business behind closed doors with a battery manufacturer with deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Fox News reported that the congresswoman ignored multiple comment requests asking when she signed an NDA, in her official capacity, to talk business with a China-based company named Gotion Inc. that has deep ties to the CCP, which Breitbart News has previously reported on.
Despite refusing to tell Fox News why she signed the NDA, the congresswoman’s office confirmed to Detroit News in February that Slotkin and her deputy legislative director, Austin Girelli, signed the agreements to talk with the CCP-affiliated company about building an electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Big Rapids, Michigan — which is ultimately outside her district.
Slotkin spokesperson Austin Cook explained to Detroit News that she signed the NDA despite having reservations about the company but thought it was important to be a part of the talks “to learn more about significant economic development projects like this to better understand their impact and if there are ways to help from the federal level.”
Cook added, “To be part of those conversations, [Michigan Economic Development Corporation] required Congresswoman Slotkin and members of our staff to sign an NDA.”
Fox News reported that Cook and Sloktin’s chief of staff, Matt Hennessey ignored multiple inquiries, such as if she signed the NDA herself so she did not have to answer questions about the CCP-affiliated company and if the congresswoman thought it was “appropriate to hide such negotiations from the public.” However, the report noted that Cook confirmed Slotkin signed the NDA after the story was published but reportedly wouldn’t speak further on the matter.
The property tax exemption granted by the board for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will save the company $540 million over a 30-year period, according to estimates. The approval comes after three local government boards last week unanimously approved the Renaissance Zone request for the project that’s expected to create 2,350 jobs over the next decade [Emphasis added].
The $175 million in grant funding is made possible through new programs the state Legislature created at the end of 2021 to spur economic development in the state.
The MSF board specifically approved a $50 million Strategic Site Readiness Program grant and a $125 million Critical Industry Program grant. The money for those grants will come from the state’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund. The Michigan Legislature last weekapproved a $1 billion spending plan with $846 million going to the SOAR Fund [Emphasis added].
However, former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Peter Hoekstra told Fox News Digital, “When it was time for a Michigan voice to speak on the national security threats from the CCP emanating from companies based in the PRC … Slotkin and her staff needed to ask for an NDA, never took a position, and said nothing.”
Hoekstra and fellow former U.S. Ambassador [ to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu] Joseph Cella recently founded the Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group to study Chinese economic investments across the country with a particular focus on Michigan. The two have raised the alarm on Gotion’s proposed facility and similar projects involving other Chinese companies.
On April 4, the pair asked the Department of Justice to open a federal investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration (FARA) related to the five-year NDAs signed as part of the Gotion negotiations. They argued officials may need to register under FARA “on account of their direct agreements and engagements” with Gotion.
In addition to Slotkin, officials with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and The Right Place, a western Michigan economic development agency pushing the Gotion proposal, have also entered into NDAs to discuss the project.
“The State of Michigan, the MEDC, The Right Place, and others advocating for Gotion have said they do not know anything about national security when it comes to this project,” Cella told Fox News Digital before slamming the congresswoman by adding:
Slotkin is a former CIA analyst and Defense Department official who knows that state and local officials were warned by our intelligence agencies not to sign deals with PRC-based companies with ties to the CCP. It is shocking that rather than helping educate the Whitmer Administration and other parties why to end their support of this project because of its national security threat, Congresswoman Slotkin signed a non-disclosure agreement and looked the other way.
Fox News acknowledged that the revelations that Sloktin signed the NDA only came after national security experts, lawmakers, and locals became increasingly concerned about the company’s Chinese ties.
At the time, Breitbart News reported that Gotion, the company’s United States subsidiary, was incorporated in California in 2014. But, Gotion was actually founded in 2006 in Hefei, China, and was China’s first power battery company to enter the capital market. In China, the company appears to go by Guoxuan. Breitbart News further explained:
The company is headed by Li Zhen, a Chinese billionaire with deep ties to the CCP. Zhen is the second-largest shareholder of Gotion, behind only Volkswagen, according to Electrive, and is considered the company’s “de facto controller.” He was a member of the 13th, 14th, and 15th National People’s Conference Hefei Committee, a local affiliate of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
According to the Diplomat, “the CPPCC today is a key part of China’s ‘united front’ work, which is designed to liaise with non-Communist Party members — and ultimately see them work with the CCP to advance its interests.” Mao Tse Tung infamously called the United Front one of his “three magic weapons,” along with the Communist Party and Red Army, in quelling pro-democracy republican forces in the Chinese Civil War.
Given all of this, Zhen’s position within the CPPCC means he was either a direct member of the CCP or a member of a satellite party with the mission of supporting the “United Front” and Communist policies in his region of China.
Despite all of this, Gotion announced in February — after all the plans were set and the taxpayer-funded incentives were finalized by Whitmer and MEDC — that the project would be put on hold after strong local objections.