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DeVos Family decides to end their financial support of Congressman Amash: What the news media reported and what it omitted

May 23, 2019

Whenever the DeVos family does anything, it becomes major news. This is understandable, in part, because they are the most powerful family in West Michigan. However, it is also a reflection of how the local news media panders to the family behind the pyramid scheme known as Amway.

The recent news that 3rd Congressional District, Representative Justin Amash, calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, has become the biggest news story in the US, since the release of the Mueller Report. While there have been some calls from the Democrats for the impeachment of Trump, no one was expecting a Republican Congressman to do the same.

Rep. Justin Amash, who identifies as a Constitutionalist and a Libertarian, doesn’t always vote the same way that most Republicans do. This is partly motivated by Amash’s ideological views, but it also has to do with the fact that the 3rd Congressional District has been dominated by the GOP in recent decades. When Vern Ehlers held the same seat, he would vote outside of the GOP framework, particularly on environmental issues. Like Amash, Ehlers was never really challenged, so he could vote outside of party lines, because the district has been considered a “safe” district since Paul Henry first came on the scene in 1984.

This history of the 3rd Congressional District is completely absent from the local news coverage of the DeVos family announcing that they would no longer be contributing to Congressman Justin Amash.

Another aspect of the local news coverage regarding the DeVos family announcement is rather predictable. In looking at the three West Michigan TV station coverage and MLive, the story is driven by what the DeVos family spokesperson (Nick Wasmiller) says in a formal statement. The primary statement reflected in West Michigan news coverage was:

DeVos family members have not made campaign contributions to Congressman Amash during this political cycle and based on earlier discussions have no plans to do so.”

“Family members have expressed increasing concerns about a lack of representation for their district, the Third Congressional, and I would say an inability to advance efforts connected to important policy matters.”

Like most statements from the DeVos family they are calculating and vague. These comments are calculating, because the DeVos family doesn’t do anything on a whim. Whatever one thinks about the most powerful family in West Michigan, they are strategic and calculating. These statements are also vague, since the DeVos family never fully wants to show their hand. They always hold their cards close to the chest and therefore, only reveal the bare essentials.

West Michigan News Coverage

The WZZM 13 story, along with the WXMI 17 story are both very short. These stories cite the DeVos spokesperson as a reaction to Amash’s call for Trump’s impeachment.

The WZZM 13 story also mentions that there are already two GOP challengers for the 3rd Congressional District.

The WOOD TV 8 story is a bit longer, since it included a twitter post from Justin Amash on his conclusions of the Mueller Report. The other major difference was that channel 8 cited Kent County Commissioner Jim Saalfeld, who said that what Amash was doing was a publicity stunt for his possible Presidential run.

The MLive article was longer than any of the three TV news stories, especially since the MLive reporter actually provided some information about how much money the DeVos family had provided previously to Congressman Amash. MLive cited some data from the 2013-2014 election cycle on how much money the DeVos family contributed, data provided by Craig Mauger, with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

However, even though MLive did include some data on DeVos political contributions to Amash, it was a lazy form of journalism, especially since it would be easy to provide comprehensive information on how much money the DeVos family has contributed to Justin Amash since he was first elected in 2010.

According to OpenSecrets.org, the DeVos family has contributed the following to Justin Amash between 2009 – 2018: 

  • Amway/Alticor Inc. $162,205
  • Windquest Group $89,875
  • DP Fox Ventures $38,700

By comparison, here is what the DeVos family has contributed to Rep. Bill Huizenga, from the 2nd Congressional District during the same time frame: 

  • Amway/Alticor Inc. $122,000
  • Windquest Group $40,300

The local news media also could have provided data on how much the DeVos family has contributed to Michigan political candidates in recent years, with data provided by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Doing so, would provide another example of how much money the family contributes to electoral outcomes in Michigan.

In the election cycle leading up to the last Presidential Election (2015 – 2016), the DeVos family contributed a total of $14 million. 

In the 2017 – 2018 election cycle, the amount provided to candidates in Michigan by the most powerful family in West Michigan was $11 million. 

In both cases, one can see from the data and analysis provided by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, most of the candidates that received money from the DeVos family ended up winning their election. Again, this family is calculating and strategic.

Therefore, the fact that Amash will no longer be receiving money from the DeVos family is significant. What we do not know for sure, are the reasons why. Again, the statement from the DeVos spokesperson are rather vague, which is by design. It is possible that the call from Amash for the impeachment of Trump is the main reason for the DeVos family to end their financial support for Amash, or they could have already made that decision based on Amash’s announcement that he may run against Trump in 2020.

It is possible that both of the reasons factor in to the family’s decision to no longer back Amash. What is important to consider, based upon the strategic approach that the DeVos family takes in terms of political contributions, is that any political change that is a threat to their wealth and power will result in a reaction from the family. If the GOP is divided, that is certainly a threat the DeVos’s cannot tolerate and they will do whatever it takes to make sure that any politician or candidate that threatens their wealth and influence will incur their wrath. This is the real issue that journalists need to explore, but as of yet have failed to do.

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