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Where the money comes from matters: The Press and campaign finance disclosure

October 19, 2010

On Sunday, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story on the current campaign finance data for the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts. The 3rd Congressional District was the focus of the article, which included the headline, “Amash keeps financing edge over Miles.”

In many ways this article is similar to one the Press ran on campaign contributions in this race back in late August, a story which we critiqued for its limited information on who was giving how much to which candidates. The same criticism could be applied to the October 17 story.

The Press reporter provides readers with totals for each of the candidates – total raised during the last quarter, amounts from political action committees (PACs), cash on hand and total raised for the entire election cycle. This is all data you can find about the 3rd Congressional race at the Center for Responsive Politics.

At one point the Press reporter states, “Nine members of the DeVos family contributed $40,000 to the Amash campaign and Alticor’s PAC gave $5,000.” While this statement is true it could easily be misinterpreted, since there are numerous other large donations from area business owners and families. (Entire contributions list for Amash) For instance, there are numerous Arab American business owners who have donated large sums of money to Justin Amash, which the Press does not highlight. However, to make such a statement would carry some baggage in the same way that stating there is a sizeable amount of money coming from the DeVos family does.

In addition, since the Press reporter decided to highlight the DeVos family contributions why not also then ask the question(s) about their relationship to Amash and whether or not such large sums of money will provide the DeVos’ will political access in the event that Amash is elected?

The Press reporter then includes some names of big donors to the Miles campaign and states that, “most of his individual donations were under $2,000.” While this may be true, many of those donations to Miles that were under $2,000 are $500 to $1,000 with some donors giving that amount more than once, which makes their donation total $2,000 or more. (Entire contributions list to Miles)

Besides limited information on individual donations to the Mile campaign the Press reporter also included one sentence about PAC money the Democratic candidate has received. “He got $20,000 from UAW-V-CAP out of Detroit and $5,000 each from the Kent County Democratic Party and Third Democratic Congressional District.

The reporter doesn’t pursue any further investigation as to why a union from the eastside of the state would give $20,000, although that seems to be a fairly basic question that should be asked. In addition we should ask why the Press reporter includes no information on which PAC entities donated to the Amash campaign since they are larger in number ($58,518) than the PAC money Miles has received ($36,325) to date.

The last few paragraphs of the article provide limited campaign finance information for the 2nd Congressional race between Democrat Fred Johnson and Bill Huizenga. Again, since the Press provides little information on how much money these candidates received from which individuals and PAC entities voters are left in the dark about how money influences these races and which sectors are more likely to have political access after the election.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    October 20, 2010 9:05 pm

    During election cycles, I always think of Emma Goldman, who wrote, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

    One way that our voting power is stolen from us is through massive campaign contributions. They allow one candidate to drown out the voice of the others, which is part of their intent. The other part, of course, is to buy the loyalty of the winning politician.

    It’s really vital that we all understand whose money bought which candidates. I’m grateful that you continue to give this issue coverage and gather together what information is available.

  2. circle that a permalink
    October 21, 2010 11:27 am

    “Our voting power” isn’t “stolen from us”: normal folks never had the power to begin with. The whole system is stacked against us from the start. Elections exist merely to give the appearance of choice when in fact the wealthy are going to win no matter what the outcome of any particular election. It doesn’t matter one iota if we understand whose money bought which candidates, rather we should simply understand that the whole electoral process is bankrupt and is nothing but a distraction.

    The best lesson to remember from Emma Goldman is that she was an anarchist and spent her life working towards an ANARCHIST revolution. She didn’t waste time worrying about which scumbag politician was getting money from which capitalist or how the capitalist media was reporting on elections.

  3. Kate Wheeler permalink
    October 21, 2010 5:38 pm

    Circle, I think that you and I are saying the same thing, only in different ways.

  4. missing comment permalink
    October 25, 2010 11:49 am

    Hey, my comment didn’t post for some reason. I also saw someone else commenting about missing comments on another post, maybe something is wrong?

    Anyway, here it is:

    I don’t think we are saying the same thing. In another recent thread you wrote:

    “Joe, I definitely agree with you that a government run by the people for the benefit of the people would be a great thing, and worthy as a goal.”

    A government run “by the people for the benefit of the people” is neither possible by definition nor a worthy goal. Government is tyranny and Emma Goldman would agree. The historical record is pretty clear on that.

    She dedicated her life to the struggle for a stateless society and advocated direct action to achieve that goal, including support for “propaganda by the deed” (a term used by a segment of the 19th century anarchist movement to describe their support for violence as means of achieving their political goals).

    It was disingenuous to use an Emma Goldman quote to make a point about voting power being “stolen” because she didn’t care at all about that, nor did the larger anarchist movement at that time (or the contemporary movement for that matter).

    Also, could we get a recent comment widget up in here? Seems like lots of good discussions (like the Joe Spaulding discussion) are getting lost under all the great content being posted! Pretty sure I have seen one on other WP.COM blogs.

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