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Justin Amash, the GR Press and voting records

January 1, 2012

Every Sunday the Grand Rapids Press runs what they call the “Political Polpouuri” section, which consists of a few political sounds bites that are something one would find read at the top of the hour on a classic rock station.

This Sunday’s polpouuri included a short blurb about 3rd Congressional Representative Justin Amash. The sound bite mentions that Amash is only one of 12 members of Congress to not have missed a vote in 2011 and that he posted explanations of all his votes on his facebook page.

The brief news piece also quotes Amash and states he is asking all of his facebook friends to donate $9.48 each for his re-election campaign this year. While there is certainly something to be said for members of Congress who show up for all the votes, the Press tidbit on Amash is problematic in many ways.

First, it appears that the Grand Rapids Press is just reprinting information directly from Rep. Amash without questioning or challenging any of his claims. The Press would better serve the public by publishing Amash’s voting record, which is easily attainable at People can search by most recent votes or by category.

Showing up for every vote might say that Amash is consistent, but it doesn’t tell us anything about where he has stood on key issues. Amash did recently vote against the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the US military the power to detain US citizens without charging them of anything. In October, Amash voted for the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which many environmental groups opposed since it weakens regulations on coal ash disposal. Amash also voted for legislation that would repeal EPA emissions regulations for cement manufacturers, which environmental and public health groups opposed because of the toxic pollution that humans and animals are exposed to from cement production.

This past fall, Amash voted for three separate trade bills that restructure trade policies with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. These trade agreements pave the wave for greater corporate profits and drastically reduces worker rights in the three countries and the US, according to the analysis of Public Citizen.

Second, while it is useful at some level for Congressman Amash to post information on why he voted the way he did at his facebook page, it does not replace the necessary role that an independent news source should play in investigating and critiquing said voting record. The news media cannot just act as stenographers for those who have political power, they need to create real transparency and hold elected officials accountable for their actions.

Lastly, for the GR Press to report that Amash is asking his facebook friends to donate $9.48 for his re-election campaign is a bit misleading in terms of who is primary funding sources are for the 2011-2012 election cycle. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top 25 campaign donors so far are all corporations, such as Michigan Industrial Tools (owned by the Amash family), Amway/Alticor (DeVos & Van Andel), Windquest Group (DeVos), Koch Industries and Bank of America. All of these entities gave between $2,500 and $28,500. These amounts make the $9.48 that individuals might give to his re-election campaign seem ridiculous since it is the large donors, which truly influence policy.

This is the first 2012 election “article” the Grand Rapids Press has run and based on previous election coverage monitoring it is reflective of the weak reporting we are likely to see all year.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Patrick permalink
    January 2, 2012 1:29 am

    Perhaps Justin would agree to an interview with GRIID?

  2. January 2, 2012 1:39 am

    Patrick, he hasn’t agreed to one in the past or ever responded to e-mail inquiries.

  3. kswheeler permalink
    January 2, 2012 4:14 pm

    Jeff, great article. It’s been clear to me since Justin’s election that his primary concern has been to protect the business interests of his family and other corporate elites in the area–particularly the DeVos/Van Andel/Prince gang of three. You’ve noted some key votes in your article. Here are a few more:

    When he was a state legislature, he voted against unemployment benefits for part-time workers; holds on foreclosures; laws to increase liability of pharmaceutical manufacturing; strengthening the state laws against hate crimes, as just a few examples.

    But when he went to Congress his attention shifted to promoting such bills as school vouchers (Dick DeVos’s special baby), preventing new taxes on gas and oil; easing off-shore leasing restrictions; removing restrictions on clean water oversight by the EPA.

    He’s worked against the working class by voting against unions; providing free neonatal care through Planned Parenthood; ending the emergency mortgage relief program; and ending the requirement to disclose golden parachutes, stock options, and bonuses for executives, as just a few examples.

    As you wote, he’s been enthusiastic about extending trade agreements overseas or loosening/removing restrictions. And that will help his family, whose “MIchigan” tools are currently made mainly in China and Southest Asia, as well as the Amway/Prince contingent.

    The Press has focused on none of these, making Justin’s so-called “integrity”in his voting record to be the only story slant it usually provides.

    I’m interested in the regular and substational contributions by David Kammeraad from Preusser Jewelers. I’d love to know if there’s some kind of family connection there, but wasn’t able to find one on a quick search.

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