Michigan hired Democratic data firm to collect sensitive, personal COVID-19 health information

Michigan hired Democratic data firm to collect sensitive, personal COVID-19 health information

The state should not politicize efforts to trace the spread of the virus.

Michigan is trying to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through contact tracing, which means following the physical contact of a person who has tested positive and warning those contacts of potential exposure.

But leaders recklessly politicized that process, according to a new report.

In addition to employees from the state Department of Health and Human Services, some 2,000 Michiganders have been trained in making phone calls to warn individuals potentially exposed to the virus. One of those volunteers was Livingston County Commissioner Wes Nakagiri, who discovered a highly political data vendor was at the heart of the operation.

In his training, Nakagiri said information was being passed along to NGP VAN, a technology provider described on its website as “the leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations,” boasting “nearly every major Democratic campaign in America is powered by NGP VAN’s software.” The firm’s past clients include Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also used the firm for her 2018 campaign.

Nakagiri said that “according to training documents, confidential medical information gained from contact tracing is entered into the NGP VAN database.”

On his website, Nakagiri said “Providing confidential information collected from contact tracing to Democrat candidates is an egregious violation of the public trust,” because “state taxpayer dollars are funding a scheme which benefits Democrat candidates while degrading citizen trust in our public health process.”

After being questioned by the media about using NGP VAN, including by The Washington Post, the state said it would instead work with Every Action VAN, a company that was contracted through Great Lakes Community Engagement. However, according to state business records, Great Lakes Community Engagement is connected to Democratic campaign consultant Mike Kolehouse. Every Action CEO Stu Trevelyan is also an executive at NGP VAN.

By April 21, after being caught, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office announced they would cancel the Every Action contract and switch vendors. Additionally, Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for Whitmer, said the original contract was not approved by the State Emergency Operations Center although it should have been. In an e-mail, Brown said “The state is committed to ensuring this important tracing work can begin quickly to help save lives, while also ensuring that public health data is safe and secure.”

While the contract with the partisan firm was canceled after being exposed, Michiganders should never have to fear that their leaders are giving sensitive health information to political operatives – Republican or Democrat.

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