After it was revealed that the battery manufacturer Gotion High-tech has close ties to the Taliban and the Chinese Communist Party, Michigan State Senators Lana Theis, Ed McBroom, Joe Bellino, Dan Lauwers, and Kevin Daley are investigating Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s deal with the company. In Whitmer’s deal with Gotion, Michigan taxpayers will fund the company’s construction in exchange for a Michigan plant.
As part of their investigation, the state senators requested federal legislators’ help in a statement released on Tuesday. “We are writing to urge you to use all federal resources available to immediately investigate whether Gotion High-tech Co., Ltd., as registered on the Swiss Stock Exchange, has ties or contracts with foreign countries that have an adversarial relationship with the United States of America, In light of the time sensitivity of this matter, we kindly request that you work to take swift action. Your prompt attention to this issue is greatly appreciated, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.”
As part of the lawmakers’ statement, Gotion was described as:
A Chinese Communist Party-affiliated battery manufacturer, along with The Right Place economic development group, is proposing a multimillion square feet facility on hundreds of acres near Big Rapids. Part of the contentious deal, which has largely been crafted in secret, includes the transfer of $175 million in Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) funding, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars more in various incentives. All told, the project would receive over $800 million in combined cash and incentives from the state.
In addition to the company’s direct ties to the CCP, which presents a national security risk, the plan has come under scrutiny for its secrecy and lack of oversight, which may present environmental and public safety risks as well.
They recently released a statement praising their collaboration with the Taliban. “The representative of the company thanked the leadership of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum and asked for an investment in the lithium sector of Afghanistan and said that he wants to invest $10 billion in the Lithium Mines of Afghanistan, which will provide employment for more than 120,000 people directly and one million people indirectly.”
Neither Gotion nor Governor Whitmer has responded to the letter released by the Michigan State Senators.
“Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., ignored multiple requests for comment when asked why she signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to engage in closed-door discussions about a Chinese battery company’s proposed factory,” according to a Fox News report out on Thursday.
Slotkin’s office confirmed to The Detroit News earlier this year that the Michigan lawmaker and her deputy legislative director Austin Girelli signed NDAs to discuss the proposal from Gotion, a subsidiary of the Hefei, China-based Gotion High-Tech, to build an electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Big Rapids, Michigan. The proposed factory would be located outside of Slotkin’s congressional district.
Austin Cook, a spokesperson for Slotkin, explained to the outlet in February that Slotkin believed it was important “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.” He acknowledged Slotkin and her staff signed NDAs to “be part of those conversations.”
Several Fox News Digital inquiries about the NDA this week were ignored by Cook and Matt Hennessey, Slotkin’s chief of staff, including whether Cook signed it to shield herself from questions about Gotion, and whether such negotiations should have been kept secret.
“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 and protect the State of Michigan, Congresswoman Slotkin and her staff needed to ask for an NDA, never took a position, and said nothing,” Peter Hoekstra, a former U.S. Ambassador, told Fox News.
“Hoekstra and fellow former U.S. Ambassador 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,” the Fox report added.
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 informed Fox. “Congresswoman 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,” he warned.