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The Press’ selective eulogy of Peter Cook

November 29, 2010

Today, MLive.com posted a story about the death of local businessman and former Chairman of Mazda Great Lakes, Peter Cook.

The article frames Cook as person born who “rose from near poverty to become a visionary businessman and generous philanthropist.” The Press reporter recounts the “influential encounter” Cook had that made him a successful businessman, his relationship with his wife and a short listing of some of the recipient’s of his philanthropy.

The story ends with a comment from Mary Angelo with the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association who speaks highly of Cook’s donations to non-profit institutions along the Grandville Avenue corridor, where Cook grew up.

While it is clear that Cook donated to entities which have benefited working class communities (arts center, library and Hispanic Center) in the Grandville Avenue corridor, Cook has also donated significant amounts of money to the Republican Party and to some far right entities around the state and around the country. This information is unfortunately not included in the Press eulogy of Cook.

According to OpenSecrets.org Cook donated in just the 2009/2010 Election cycle thousands of dollars to the Michigan Republican Party and to individual GOP candidates in West Michigan. This information is relevant, particularly as it relates to where candidates and the GOP stands on issues like education, health care and the public funding of these basic human rights. One could argue that Cook has financed politicians who have a history of advocating for less public funding of basic social programs.

The other area of funding, which is worth looking at, are the donations he has made to groups like Campus Crusade for Christ, Michigan Family Forum, the Mackinac Center, the Acton Institute, Teach Michigan and Gospel Films in Muskegon. In addition, Cook served as a member on the board of the Council for National Policy, which serves as a mechanism for religious right and conservative individuals across the country. (see Russ Bellant’s The Religious Right in Michigan Politics)

MLive’s exclusion of Cook’s funding of far right groups and his involvement with organizations with overt political agendas is not only misleading, it does a disservice to the public by not providing comprehensive disclosure on someone who had tremendous influence on many levels locally and nationally.

 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jared permalink
    November 29, 2010 9:44 pm

    Everything’s a conspiracy of the far right….. Since when is donating to religious causes considered far right? Those causes promote equality and compassion for one another. You make it out like he’s some bad guy on an agenda to somehow make people care for each other. Give me a break. In the article you said: “One could argue that Cook has financed politicians who have a history of advocating for less public funding of basic social programs.” I could argue that this man has spent a lifetime not only looking out for himself, but his family, community, and state. Less over analyzing and more appreciation for people who give back to the community

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    November 29, 2010 10:26 pm

    Jared, the posting says nothing about any conspiracy, rather it lays out an argument that this is what people with economic or political power do – they support certain causes. Cook supported anti-gay policies, privatization of public education, and religious groups that are against equality for women. This is what I mean by far right policies.

    In addition, his support for the GOP and it’s candidates has also led to de-funding of social programs, support for war and the degradation of the environment.

    I did acknowledge his support for programs such as the arts academy and the Grandville Ave library, but I was pointing out that not everything Cook funded was for the benefit of the “community,” depending on how you define community.

  3. November 30, 2010 6:29 pm

    The best anecdote to the Grand Rapids Press fawning eulogy to Peter Cook is a piece published on MediaMouse.org back in 2006. While the article has plenty of problems, it offers a critical look at Cook’s philanthropy, his politic contributions, and the mythology of his upbringing:

    http://www.mediamouse.org/news/2006/12/wellknown-grand.php

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