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GR Chamber endorsements for the 2018 Election: Pro-Business Candidates who get money from Grand Rapids Power Structure members

June 7, 2018

Over the past 48 hours, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has sent out media advisories with their endorsements for candidates running in the 2018 Election.

On June 5, the GR Chamber formally endorsed Brian Calley for Governor. Their media advisory stated:

“Michigan’s economic growth and business climate transformation over the last eight years has been tremendous,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. “We must maintain this trajectory, and we believe Lieutenant Governor Calley is well positioned and qualified to continue the Michigan comeback.

Of course, there is nothing surprising about this endorsement, since the GR Chamber looks out for the interests of its members, which is the business community. However, this does affirm our analysis about the Grand Rapids Power Structure, in that the GR Chamber of Commerce supports policies and candidates that benefit those who already have tremendous economic power in our community. 

One way to verify our analysis that the GR Chamber of Commerce is part of the local power structure, is to see who has been the primary financial backers with Brian Calley. Since 2010, when Calley ran as Gov. Snyder’s running mate, the number one financial contributor to Brian Calley was the DeVos Family, with a total of $478,200. The other member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, which has contributed significantly to Brian Calley, is John Kennedy. Private financial power always endorses those who will help expand private financial power, which is exactly what Brian Calley will do.

In the race for the Senate, the GR Chamber is endorsing John James, who is third behind Senator Debbie Stabenow and the other Republican challenger Sandy Pensler, in terms of fundraising

In the 2nd Congressional District race, the GR Chamber is endorsing Rep. Bill Huizenga. Huizenga has raised five times the amount of money that his Democratic challenger has raised. Bill Huizenga gets the GR Chamber endorsement not only because he protects the business interests in West Michigan, he also serves on the Financial Services Committee, as is evidenced by who his major contributors are – Nasdaq Inc, Cantor Fitzgerald, Rock Holdings, etc.

The GR Chamber of Commerce is also endorsing Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard for Attorney General. Leonard has supported some of the strongest state economic austerity measures in recent years. Therefore, it is no surprise that Rep. Leonard has received the financial backing of John Kennedy and Peter Secchia, both members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

Here is the complete list of GR Chamber of Commerce endorsements for state office, along with the major financial backing of members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

Michigan House of Representatives:                                               

District 61: Brandt Iden – DeVos & Meijer 

District 70: Jim Lower – DeVos 

District 73: Lynn Afendoulis –

District 74: Mark Huizenga

District 75: David LaGrand

District 76: Amanda Brand

District 77: Tommy Brann – DeVos 

District 80: Mary Whiteford

District 86: Thomas Albert – Kennedy 

District 87: Julie Calley

District 88: Luke Meerman

District 89: Jim Lilly – DeVos 

District 90: Bradley Slagh

District 91: Greg VanWoerkom

District 100: Scott VanSingel


Michigan State Senate:

District 19: Mike Callton

District 20: Margaret O’Brien – DeVos 

District 26: Aric Nesbitt

District 28: Pete MacGregor – DeVos, Meijer, Kennedy, Van Andel, Jandernoa 

District 29: Chris Afendoulis – Kennedy & Meijer 

District 30: Daniela Garcia – Kennedy & DeVos 

District 33: Rick Outman

District 34: Holly Hughes

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has also endorsed candidates for Kent County Commission seats. The GR Chamber has only endorsed 14 of the 19 seats as listed below.

Kent County Board of Commissioners:

District 1: Ted Vonk

District 2: Tom Antor

District 4: Diane Jones

District 5: Mandy Bolter

District 6: Stan Stek

District 7: Stan Ponstein           

District 10: Emily Post Brieve

District 11: Jim Saalfeld

District 12: Monica Sparks

District 13: Jessica Ann Tyson             

District 14: Carol Hennessy

District 15: Jim Talen

District 16: Dave Bulkowski

District 18: Dan Koorndyk

One thing that is obvious from this list is that the GR Chamber has endorsed 4 Democratic candidates. This is the case with David LaGrand getting the Chamber endorsement in the 75th House District race. It begs the question as to why they would endorse Democratic candidates. Our answer is that each of these Democratic Party candidates does not challenge the current economic policies in the state or the county, which is the primarily measuring stick for the GR Chamber. As a member of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, the GR Chamber doesn’t just follow partisan lines, they support and endorse politicians that endorse neo-liberal economic policies that disproportionately benefit the business class and expand of their wealth. This is exactly why we believe that private wealth has more power than government.

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