LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – The Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee voted on Wednesday to hand over $410 million of Michigander taxpayer money in state incentives to the Ford Motor Co. and Our Next Energy, but China-tied Gotion Inc. has been left out in the cold due to recent  scrutiny and media coverage of the controversial Big Rapids battery plant venture.

The new spotlight on Gotion project, that was given the code word “White Elephant,” has led to the committee, which has 13 Democrats and six Republicans, to take a pass, at least for now, on consideration for the request of a transfer of $175 million in incentives involved in a $710 million ask for the China-based battery maker.

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Because the plant, which would reside in Green Charter Township, has been tied by many to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), community protests and concern about the project from former ambassadors Peter Hoekstra and Joseph Cella, have caused a multitude of individuals and legislators in Michigan to question if the plant is an environmental and/or security risk. So much so, that many Michigan Democrats are now examining the project more closely and asking more questions.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) is “not yet” on board with transferring $175 million for the development. She said, ”There are still some outstanding questions that I have about some of the wages, some of the protections, some of the clawbacks.”

Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) told reporters, “Our members still have some more questions. That’s really the function of this committee – to ask the questions, to vet (projects) before we review.” When asked what will happen in the future with funding for the project, Anthony said, “I think anything is possible…at the end of the day, we have to do our due diligence and that’s just what it is.”

Residents who are against the project and drove two hours from Big Rapids to get to Lansing, although happy with the delay, were frustrated that they weren’t able to speak at the committee hearing. Bridge Michigan reports that there was no public testimony allowed and said that Gotion wasn’t even officially on the agenda – it only said “legislative transfers.”

Jason Krusc, the owner of a veterinary clinic in Green Township, told Bridge Michigan after the hearing that he’s concerned about how the battery plant will change his community. He said, “You’re talking almost one square mile. You’re putting a freaking city right there.”

White Cloud resident Theresa Emshwiller is concerned about the hatcheries and trout streams located near where the battery plant would be located. She was also excluded from speaking at the hearing but talked with the Detroit News about all of her concerns and added, “The Chinese communist connections are very concerning.”

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Former ambassadors Peter Hoekstra and Joseph Cella, who serve with the all-volunteer run organization the Michigan-China Economic and Security Review Group, have been sounding the alarm on the security risks involved with moving ahead with the Gotion project. Their latest attempt at delaying or ending the project was sending a letter to the Michigan Senators asking for them to stop the funding of the project. The letter included the warning, “For the sake of our national security and the security of the State of Michigan, the Gotion project should be rejected.”

The ambassadors also recently sent a letter directly to U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to ask him to intervene with the issue. Peters is Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and the ambassadors asked him to join Congressman John Moolenaar’s (R-MI) call for a CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) review of the Gotion project.

The ambassadors also want Peters to appeal to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice and its FARA Unit to review likely violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act by parties advocating for the project as unregistered foreign agents. The ambassadors said in a statement, “Considering Senator Peters’ leadership bona fides through his strong statements and other legislative leadership recognizing the national security threat the PRC and the CCP present to the United States of America, his bi-partisan leadership on this grave national security matter facing Michigan is urgently needed right now.”

Many, like Republican State Senator Lana Theis, who represents the state’s 22nd district, have pointed out Gotion Inc.’s parent company, Gotion High-Tech’s articles of association require the company to “set up a Party organization and carry out Party activities in accordance with the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.”

However, Gotion’s Vice President of North American Operations, Chuck Thelen, has said that Gotion Inc. is a subsidiary and noted that the communist party does not influence that company. He said recently during a panel discussion, ”I can tell you that never in my time with this company did I ever hear one of the people in a North America office discuss politics or party alliance.”

State Rep. Angela Rigas (R-Caledonia) has a different take on things. She said that moving the CCP into the district is “against liberty and freedom and the American way. My constituents are not for this. They’re not for the communist government, the communist Chinese government in our state. There’s no place in the United States of America for the CCP. That’s what this is about.”

State Senator John Demoose (R-Harbor Springs) of the 37th District has similar concerns and spoke to Michigan News Source about the project. He said, “We need to rebuild American manufacturing. It is a matter of national security. But, we need to do it the right way. With the Chinese Foreign Minister recently predicting “conflict and confrontation,” with the Chinese President seemingly building an alliance with Vladimir Putin, and with recent overt examples of Chinese espionage, now is not the time to be using public funds to support Chinese based companies.”

The next earliest date that the Gotion plant funds could be discussed by the Senate Appropriations Committee would be April 19th unless a special meeting is called before that.

Meanwhile, Gotion continues to get hammered in the press for other reasons as well. The Center Square reports that Green Charter Township trustee, Dale Jernstadt, is going to get a “tidy personal profit” (about $35 million) if Gotion Inc. moves ahead with the battery plant on property that he owns. Another report by The Midwesterner shows a video of the same trustee calling a constituent a “bitch” after she criticized the board during public comment.

She’s one of many in the Big Rapids community who are opposing the project. A majority of voters in the rest of the state seem to be on board with them as well, at least as it pertains to the taxpayer funding part of the issue.

Gov. Whitmer, who is a strong proponent of the Gotion battery plant, has been advocating and supporting a plethora of taxpayer-funded projects across the state, many of them, like Gotion, having to do with making Michigan the EV Capital of the country. However, a recent poll done by MRG, an award-winning public opinion survey research firm based in Lansing, shows that Michiganders don’t support Gov. Whitmer’s massive spending of their tax dollars to attract these new companies and new jobs to the state. Voters in Michigan told MRG by a two-one margin that they don’t support her job subsidization program that is costing taxpayers $640K per job. In fact, 56% are against her current rate of subsidization.