Massachusetts: Guaranteed State Money (But No Oversight?)

Imagine getting money from the state on a no-bid basis. Even better, a state law names you as the sole entity eligible to get the cash.

If you are lucky enough to be BDC Capital, you don’t have to imagine. As recently as 2008, the program it runs, the Capital Access Program, got $5 million in the life sciences bill. BDC Capital (known as the Massachusetts Business Development Corporation) receives money from the state and other sources and supposedly uses it to support small businesses.

And someone is looking out for them, an attempt to open the program to other providers in the last Economic Development bill was dropped in conference.

I say ‘supposedly’ above, because no one cares to explain exactly what is being done with the money, beyond a two page description last updated in 2009. The law (which names them as the sole recipient of state funds for the Capital Access Program) also calls for a contract to be signed every two years and a yearly evaluation to be conducted.

But the state’s Executive Office of Economic Development, led by Secretary Greg Bialecki, has consistently refused to release the documents, ignoring multiple Open Records Law requests. (An outcome that is sadly not uncommon in this administration, despite claims of transparency.)

So, we have a situation where public funds are disbursed on a no-bid basis to a private organization (which refuses to disclose information about its activities with the funds). And the state entity responsible for oversight has failed to produce even a page of documentation that said oversight is being performed.

We made our request on January 15, 2011. The Public Records law states that requests must be complied with or contested within 10 days. We’re still waiting.


Crossposted on Pioneer Institute’s blog.