The Center for Economic Accountability and organizations from across the ideological spectrum have come together in a coalition to launch the “Ban Secret Deals” campaign in opposition to nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in state and local economic development subsidy deals. The coalition is calling for state-level bans on the use of NDAs by elected officials and bureaucrats to keep information out of the public eye, and is working with legislators across the country to advance legislation to that effect.

For more information, visit the Ban Secret Deals website, read a Fast Company article on the coalition or read the launch press release below.

Ban Secret Deals Coalition Launches to Bring Accountability and Transparency to State and Local Economic Development Deals

MARCH 31, 2022

Washington, D.C. — Today, a coalition of national and state-based policy and advocacy partners from across the political spectrum are launching the Ban Secret Deals campaign. Calling for state-level bans against the use of non-disclosure agreements in economic development deals, the Ban Secret Deals campaign features a website spotlighting bad deals, a petition for the public to support bills that ban the practice, and a tool to help the public report new secret deals in their communities.

Across the country, large businesses often demand that public officials keep economic development negotiations secret, forcing local officials to sign non-disclosure agreements. This practice prevents input from community members, local business owners, and other concerned parties, and it shields businesses and politicians from accountability.

These NDAs are corrupt, plain and simple, and states have the power to ban them.

Ban Secret Deals argues that with more information and officials who keep the public clued into ongoing negotiations, voters, activists, and other local organizations can work to secure a more equitable distribution of resources and ensure that their communities are not being shortchanged or corrupted by dealing that is never made public.

“Corporations, with the consent of state and local officials, use economic development deals to extract resources from local communities, harm local businesses, and then hide their actions from the public by using NDAs,” said Pat Garofalo, Director of State and Local Policy at the American Economic Liberties Project. “From $1.2 billion to a mystery corporation in Kansas to $16 million for Amazon in Fort Wayne, Ind., and beyond — these deals are plaguing communities everywhere. It’s time to ban these secret deals and help bring increased transparency and accountability to state and local government.”

“When big business and big government get together behind closed doors, it’s the rest of us who pay the price,” said John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability. “If a company wants taxpayers to invest in its business, then it should be required to give those taxpayers access to the same details they’d share with any other prospective investor. And let’s be honest, any company that’s going to be scared off by some basic transparency and accountability probably isn’t one you’d want to be tying your community’s long-term prospects to anyway.”

“It is long overdue for the lawmakers doing the bidding for dominant corporations to be able to hide behind NDAs, without fear of sunlight,” said Helen Brosnan, Executive Director of Fight Corporate Monopolies. “If these deals were actually going to create jobs and improve the lives of working people, they wouldn’t be negotiated behind closed doors. This effort will lead the charge on banning these deals, and hold the enablers accountable.”

“The tax break-industrial complex that extracts economic development spending relies upon absolute information control,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “NDAs are one element of that control, allowing corporations to spread misinformation about how jobs are actually created.”

“Healthy democracies do not let corporations seeking taxpayer subsidies silence government officials,” said Tom Speaker, policy analyst for Reinvent Albany. “It is the public’s money – our money – not some grifting company or pandering elected official. Secret deals invite waste and corruption. No more NDAs.”

“Keeping economic incentive deals secret until they are approved promotes the ability of states and localities to be played against one another in an often fake competition,” said C.J. Girod, Founder and Managing Principal of Responsible Incentives. “NDAs aid and abet the siphoning of public funds by big business for investments that would occur with or without the incentives. These subsidies largely have zero impact on corporate decision-making, and it’s time to start reigning in the abusive tactics used to fuel this wasteful spending.”

“Any deal that seeks to use public resources but only if it can hide the details from the public is a bad one,” said Charles Khan, Organizing Director at the Strong Economy for All Coalition. “The last thing we can afford with cost rising and affordability falling is more corrupt and ineffective deals. Every year billions of dollars are rerouted from the working class, our schools, our healthcare, and our neighborhoods to the pockets of wealthy donors and mega-corporations while they use NDA’s to hide their tracks. Enough is enough.”

Members of the coalition include: American Economic Liberties Project, The Center for Economic Accountability, Fight Corporate Monopolies, Good Jobs First, Hedge Clippers, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Reinvent Albany, Responsible Incentives, and Strong Economy for All.

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