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Follow the Money: Campaign Finance reports and notable West Michigan Campaign Contributors

October 26, 2021

The deadline for this quarter’s campaign finances were due on October 25th. As always, if you want to understand electoral politics you have to follow the money.

Campaign contributors, especially those with economic power, only contribute in order to gain access and often to get politicians to adopt policies that are beneficial to their interests. For example, at the federal level, the Oil & Gas industry has contributed just over $790 Million since 1990. This industry is not contributing just for the fun of it, they are expecting easy access to politicians, but more importantly, they want politicians to propose and pass legislation which will benefit their industry.

There are other reasons for campaign contributions. People sometimes contribute to a candidate for ideological reasons, or they contribute because they just want the opposing candidate to lose. However, the dominant reasons for contributions are access and to influence policy.

Michigan Governor’s Race

MLive recently reported that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had raised $3.1 Million in the last quarter. The article also noted that since Whitmer is facing a recall, the amount that individuals can contributed exceeds the normal limit. The largest contributor to Whitmer’s campaign this quarter was, “William Parfet, a businessman and heir to Upjohn Co. founder W.E. Upjohn, and retired Western Michigan University Professor Timothy Light, who each gave $50,000.”

There are several Republican candidates running for Governor, with James Craig raising the most during this quarter, at $1.4 Million. Some of the notable contributors to Craig’s campaign are Timothy Schowalter (CEO of Pioneer Construction) $14,300, former Michigan Governor John Engler $7,150, Michele Engler $7,150, Mark Murray (Engler administration, former President of GVSU and the Meijer Corporation) $7,150, and other members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure – Sam Cummings (CWD) $2,500, John Kennedy (Autocam) $1,039, and Michael Jandernoa (42 North Partners) $1,000.

28th Senate District

The 28th Senate District is on the ballot in November, since Peter MacGregor vacated the seat to run as Kent County Treasurer. Republican Mark Huizenga is the top candidate in fundraising, with over $60,000 from the Michigan Catholic Conference and thousands of dollars from several members of the DeVos family.

According to the most recent quarterly filings, Huizenga also received $5,000 from the Grand Rapids Fire Fighters Union. I sent the union a message on Monday asking why they had contributed $5,000 to Huizenga’s campaign, but have not received an answer as of this posting. 

Huizenga’s Democratic challenger is Keith Courtade, who has only raised $450. It seems that the Democrats have already conceded this race, thus allowing the GOP to continue to control the Michigan legislature,. 

Other notable contributions

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, like all Chambers, have a long history of contributing to candidates. For this quarter, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce has contributed to numerous state races, mostly GOP candidates, but one Democrat. The GR Chamber also contributed twice to a Kentwood City Commission candidate, Jessica Ann Tyson, who is the sister of Kent County Commissioner Monica Sparks. 

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