New reporting from Detroit Metro Times details the Senate Majority Leader’s business dealings in China
LANSING — Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey has never wasted an opportunity to stoke anti-Asian racism when speaking about COVID-19, calling the virus the “China flu” on multiple occasions. New reporting from Detroit Metro Times shows that while Shirkey was projecting his toughness on China, his company Orbitform was “quietly profiting from the country” in the form of an LLC registered with the Chinese government named Orbitform’s China Sales to facilitate the selling of his products overseas.
The extent of those profits are not known because Michigan is the only full-time legislature in America that doesn’t require lawmakers to disclose their finances — an unacceptable lack of transparency for Michiganders that Shirkey has used his leadership position to maintain. Shirkey continues to oppose bipartisan legislation that would institute disclosures, claiming that it gives him “heartburn.”
Over the course of this pandemic, Shirkey managed to secure nearly $4 million in Paycheck Protection Program funding for his company over the past year. Disclosure legislation would shed more light on how this funding was used.
“It is very rich of Shady Mike Shirkey’s spokesperson to claim their boss can’t get behind bipartisan financial disclosure legislation because it would ‘intimidate people from running’ when the Senate Majority Leader has made it his business to intimidate Michiganders from voting thanks to his disastrous 39-bill suppression package,” said Rodericka Applewhaite, MDP spokesperson. “It’s a struggle to find logic in Shirkey’s rationale because there’s none to be found. His fellow Republicans and colleagues across the aisle understand that Michiganders deserve to know which lawmakers are either bought and paid for by special interests or have personal business dealings that may pit their own bottom line against the priorities of our working families.”
Read key excerpts below on the business Shirkey’s office attempted to pass off as “just a distributor” after initial denial that the two companies are related:
Detroit Metro Times: Sen. Shirkey Secretly Profits From China While Posing as a Hawk and Fighting Transparency
After Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey recovered from COVID-19 in January, he blamed the pandemic on China.
“The Chinese flu army sent in one of their best soldiers,” the Clarklake Republican said on “The Bart Hawley Show” on JTV. “His name was Rona. I’m not as young as I used to be, so he and I wrestled for nine days, but I finally pinned him.” […]
It’s not the first time Shirkey criticized China. He also praised former President Donald Trump for imposing tariffs on the country.
Tough talk on China is nothing new for Republicans, who have adopted harsh rhetoric by blaming China for the COVID-19 outbreak and the loss of manufacturing jobs.
But as Shirkey poses as a China hawk, he’s quietly profiting from the country, Metro Times has learned.
Shirkey is the founder and owner of Orbitform, an engineering company that builds assembly machines for manufacturers.
The machines are sold in China by OCS Automation Technologies Co., which registered as a limited liability company with the Chinese government in 2018. According to the company’s website, OCS stands for Orbitform’s China Sales. The company exclusively sells Orbitform machines and equipment to Chinese manufacturers. The equipment is used for auto parts, medical supplies, and industrial automation, according to a translated version of the company’s website.
OCS Automation has multiple locations in China and describes itself as a “leading company in the press fitting industry and riveting industry.”
Shirkey’s office initially denied any ties between Orbitform and OCS Automation until Metro Times provided a link to the Chinese company’s website.
Shirkey’s spokeswoman Abigail Walls equates OCS Automation to a “distributor in the bar and wine industry.”
“It’s not Mike’s company. It’s just a distributor,” Walls tells Metro Times. […]
Shirkey is under no obligation to disclose his financial ties to China because Michigan’s is the only full-time Legislature that does not require lawmakers to divulge their financial interests.
As the Senate majority leader, Shirkey has been one of the primary obstacles to bipartisan proposals to require such disclosures, allowing him to effectively conceal his connection to OCS Automation. It’s one of the reasons Michigan ranks dead last among states in a 2015 national study of state ethics and transparency, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit government watchdog organization.
At a press conference in January, Shirkey said he opposes a bipartisan transparency bill that would require lawmakers to divulge their finances, saying it gives him “heartburn.”
“It’s fodder for (the media) to go after people, and it’s unnecessary,” Shirkey said. “We already have rules in place for eliminating conflicts of interest, and I haven’t had anybody show me where those rules were spoiled or breached in my tenure, frankly.”
Other Republicans disagree.
“This is something that has to be done,” Sen. Jim Runestad told WXYZ in February. “People are getting sick and tired of this kind of garbage.” […]
“We must do better and hold ourselves to a higher standard,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, said in a statement last month. […]
Walls insisted Shirkey’s business interests in China have nothing to do with his opposition to financial disclosures.
“You’re looking for a connection that isn’t there,” Walls tells Metro Times. “His main concern is it could discourage people from running. … If you’re asking people to disclose a lot about themselves personally, it can intimidate people from running.”
“Spewing racist language in an attempt to be tough on China while secretly profiting off of the distribution of his company’s products in the country reeks of the default hypocrisy we’ve come to associate with how Republicans do business in Lansing,” Rodericka Applewhaite, spokeswoman for the Michigan Democratic Party, tells Metro Times. “Even worse, Shady Mike Shirkey is blocking financial disclosure legislation that allows him and other politicians to keep potential conflicts of interest a secret. He should immediately come forward and inform Michiganders of which interests he and his ilk are prioritizing above their own.”