Nessel's Office Look Into $20M Grant Used by Businesswoman to Buy $4500 Coffee Maker

The office of Attorney General Dana Nessel is investigating a $20 million grant given to a businesswoman in Metro Detroit. The grant money was used for various expenses, such as a $4,500 coffee maker, a $11,000 first-class plane ticket, and $408,000 in salaries for two individuals over a period of three months.

Nessel’s office has confirmed that they are investigating a grant given to Fay Beydoun for a nonprofit organization. The organization was incorporated just 10 days after the spending bill containing the earmarked funds was passed. The office refused to give more details, including why they became interested in the issue.

“We cannot provide any additional comments at this time,” said Kim Bush, a spokesperson for Nessel’s office. Beydoun, who often donates to the Democratic party, gave $750 to Nessel’s campaign from 2021 to 2022. They did not reply to a text message on Thursday when asked for comment.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which manages grants like Beydoun’s, has not yet commented on the investigation. The MEDC stated that it receives quarterly reports from grantees about their spending. However, they do not officially audit the expenses until the first half of the grant is spent. In Beydoun’s case, this means that an audit would be done after she had spent $10 million.

In July 2022, the Legislature allocated $20 million in the annual budget for a nonprofit business incubator called Global Link International. Beydoun incorporated the nonprofit with the state 10 days after the budget was passed.

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At that time, Beydoun held two positions: executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and a member of the executive committee of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The committee is responsible for supervising the grant that she received.

Beydoun, who used to be the vice chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, has donated money to various Democratic causes and campaigns. This includes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Democratic Party, Biden’s re-election campaign, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s U.S. Senate campaign, and former state Sen. Curtis Hertel’s congressional campaign.

The Slotkin Senate campaign ended its relationship with Beydoun, who was an unpaid finance co-chair, two days after The Detroit News reported on how Beydoun was using taxpayer money.

Beydoun’s term on the MEDC executive committee ended on April 5. Whitmer has not yet announced who will replace Beydoun on the executive committee, so it’s unclear if Beydoun will continue in the oversight position. Beydoun was chosen to be part of the executive committee soon after Whitmer became governor in 2019. She was selected again in 2020 to serve for four more years.

The News recently reported that there were disagreements about how Beydoun’s $20 million state grant was acquired and concerns about how some of the money was spent. Beydoun spent $4,500 on a Jura coffee maker, $11,000 on a first-class airfare to a conference in Budapest, and $408,000 on salaries over a three-month period. These expenses were reported in state records obtained through a public records request. It seems that the salaries were for Beydoun and one other employee.

Overall, by December, Beydoun had used over $800,000 from the first $10 million installment of her grant for the business incubator Global Link International.

Beydoun has explained and supported her spending. She told The News that the salary expense included backpay for previous months when she and another employee were not paid. She also mentioned that the $11,000 first-class airfare was a mistake and could not be changed to a cheaper fare. Earlier this month, she chose not to answer questions about the coffeemaker.

One of the disagreements about the grant is about who actually provided the sponsorship. Former Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth said he was not the sponsor, but the State Budget Office, Beydoun, and political donor Sharif Hussein insisted that he was.

The investigation has begun into the second grant associated with Wentworth in the 2022 budget. The attorney general is now looking into it. Last year, Nessel started investigating a grant that Wentworth obtained. The grant was for $25 million and was meant to fund a community health and recreation center in Clare. The grant involved David Coker Jr., who used to work as a legislative aide for Wentworth.

Both Hussein and the American Arab Chamber of Commerce said they were supposed to benefit from the grant. The chamber said it had asked Beydoun to request money from the Legislature to support a business incubator within the chamber.

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