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Where did the GR elite spend their money in the 2012 elections?

November 9, 2012

Well, it’s finally over. One thing we can say about the 2012 elections is that they were the most expensive ever, with roughly $2 billion dollars spend on the Presidential race alone and that is without the last few weeks of the spending being accounted for yet.

Billions more were spent on Congressional and Senate races, with nearly $20 million spent in the race in Michigan between Debbie Stabenow ($14 million) and challenger Pete Hoekstra ($5 million).

However, what is interesting to look at is how the economic elite from Grand Rapids spent their money in the most expensive US election ever. When we say GR elite, we are referring to some of the same people identified in a September posting that provided what we called a Grand Rapids Power Analysis.

Many of the local elites have residence in the 49503 zip code area and according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the 49503 zip code also set a record for money contributed to candidates or political parties in the 2012 Election cycle. The total money spent from the 49503 zip was $1,556,252.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics this amount contributed from zip code 49503 was 28 times as much as the average zip code area. The average for zip code areas spent on buying influence is $54,969.

The top contributors from 49503 are people we have identified as part of the local ruling class, people with economic wealth who also influence policy is a variety of ways. Most of them own businesses, are CEOs, sit on board(s) of directors or are part of organizations such as the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Econ Club of Grand Rapids, The Right Place Inc., Grand Action and the West Michigan Policy Forum.

The top financial contributors from zip code 49503 are several members of the DeVos family, such as Doug DeVos, President of Amway/Alticor. According to the data Doug DeVos contributed $68,300 to several Republican National committees and some directly to Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Another member of the DeVos family, Dick DeVos contributed $82,300 in 2012, mostly to the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Michigan. Combined with other members of the DeVos family who claim residency in the 49503 zip, the collectively gave over half a million dollars, mostly to the Republican Party or candidates like Mitt Romney and Justin Amash.

Another resident from 49503 who is part of the local elite is Peter Secchia. According to Open Secrets, Secchia contributed $66,600 in the 2012 election cycle. Like the DeVos family members, he also gave to the Republican National Committee and Mitt Romney.

Another member of the local elite is Michael Jandernoa, business owner who sits on the boards of the Van Andel Institute, Grand Action and the West Michigan Policy Forum. Jandernoa contributed $160,000 to the Republican Party and Republican candidates in this most recent election cycle.

In the 49506 zip code area Crystal Flash owner Tom Fehsenfeld contributed $40,800 to the Democratic Party and Debbie Stabenow. Another 49506 resident Mark Murray (Meijer), contributed $71,100 to the Republican Party, Mitt Romney and Fred Upton.

From the 49546 zip code there was a sizeable amount contributed. For example, former Calvin College President Gaylen Byker, contributed $44,300 to the Republican National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party and Justin Amash.

Another member of the local elite, CEO of Autocam John Kennedy, was a major contributor. According to Open Secrets, Kennedy contributed $323,850 is the 2012 election cycle to, Restore Our Future, the Republican National Committee, Republican Party of Michigan, Pete Hoekstra, Justin Amash and Mike Rogers. Kennedy also sits on the boards of the Right Place Inc., the Van Andel Institute and the Acton Institute.

David Frey, with the Frey Foundation, contributed $92,550 during the 2012 election cycle. He directed his money towards the Republican Party, Mitt Romney, Justin Amash, Tim Walberg and Pete Hoekstra. Frey is also part of Grand Action.

This is just a sampling of the local power elite and how they try to influence electoral politics. While one could argue that the Republicans did not win the White House, they did retain control of the Michigan House of Representatives and the 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts are still held by Republicans. Also, it should be noted that all of the state ballot proposals in Michigan opposed by the reactionary right and the business community were defeated, except for Proposal One. Either way in the two-party dominated system we have big money wins, since the Democrats also relied on wealthy individuals and corporations to win or maintain the seats they held in the 2012 election.


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