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Always Follow the Money: Campaign Finances for State Senate Races in West Michigan

July 24, 2022

Last month, we posted an article looking at the policy platforms of the candidates for State Senate that were on the ballot for the upcoming 2022 Elections.

We noted that most of the candidates had very limited information about public policy issues, often used vague language for what they stood for and often said things like, “I am running to bring back Michigan Values.” I’m not sure what “Michigan Values” means, but if we look at the history of Michigan, one could say that the values of this state are rooted in Settler Colonialism, theft of land from Indigenous people, systemic racism directed at Black and other BIPOC communities, and giving too much power to corporations and members of the Capitalist Class.

During the next week or so, we will be posting information on the most recent campaign finance data on these same candidates and races for various offices, particularly regarding candidates that are on the ballot for 2022. Today, we will look at campaign finance data for the State Senate races.

Campaign finances can tell you are great deal about who is backing a candidate, who is buying access and who wants to influence public policy if the candidate they are contributing to ends up winning. Campaign finances have always been a tool for the wealthiest members of the Capitalist Class to control the outcome of elections in the US.

In addition, we must always keep in mind that no matter how much money members of the Capitalist Class, political action committees or corporations contribute, it is “protected speech.” This reality underscores one of the fundamental contradictions of US democracy, which is – the more money you contribute, the more protected speech you have. This is just one major flaw of the US electoral process, what Sheldon Wolin dissects in his book, Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Wolin provides us with critically important analysis about money in US elections, which ultimately makes a mockery out of the notion of free and fair elections.

Each candidate is hyperlinked to the Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Data page.

18th District State Senate Race

Thomas Albert (R)

Michigan Laborers Political League $21,000

Several GOP Funding sources, like the Michigan Values Leadership Fund
Self-funding through the Albert Majority Fund
Realtors PAC $8,500
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $4,000
DTE $2,500
Nancy Kennedy $2,100
John Kennedy $2,100
Michael Jondernoa $2,000
GR Chamber of Commerce $1,500
Mark Murray $1,000

Ryan P. Mancinelli (R)

$0 funds raised

Kai W. Degraaf (D)

$0 funds raised

20th District State Senate Race

Aric Nesbitt (R)
Small Biz PAC $5,000
Michigan Farm Bureau $3,650
GR Chamber PAC $1,000
Michael Jandernoa $1,000
Susan Jandernoa $1,000

Kim Jorgensen Gane (D)
Primarily self-Financed, with a few other large donors

29th District State Senate Race

Tommy Brann (R)
Self-financed $103,750
Michigan Farm Bureau $3,000
Daniel Hibma $2,100
JC Huizenga $2,100
GR Chamber PAC $1,000
MI State Police Troopers PAC $1,000
Mark Murray $1,000
GR Rental Property Owners PAC $500

Winnie Brinks (D)

Teamsters $12,000
MI Regional Council of Carpenters $10,000
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers Ass. $6,000
GR Firefighters PAC $5,500
MI Credit Union League $4,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shied of MI $3,500
MI Education Association PAC $3,000
Realtors Political Action Cmte $1,600
Home Depot PAC $1,500
GR Chamber $1,350

30th District State Senate Race

David LaGrand (D)
GR Firefighters PAC $12,694
Brinks for MI $10,000
PAC for America’s Future (DC-based) $10,000
MI Regional Council of Carpenters $10,000
MI Education Association $5,000
Stephanies Changemaker Fund $5,000
MI League of Conservation Voters $2,000
Mike Kolehouse $1,000
John Hunting $1,000

Mark Huizenga (R)
Nesbit Majority Fund $14,500
Realtors PAC $12,500
MI Beer & Wine Wholesalers $6,500
GR Chamber PAC $2,300
Nancy Kennedy $2,100
Susan Jandernoa $2,000
Amy Van Andel $2,100
Stephen Van Andel $2,100
Marcia Tubergen $1,500
MI State Police Trooper PAC $1,500
Mark Murray $1,000
GR Rental Property Owners PAC $1,000

Keith Hinkle (R)
Only 10 contributors

33rd District State Senate Race

Mark Bignell (D)
Only 24 contributors, some self-financing

Rick Outman (R)
Health Care Ass. Of MI PAC $8,000
Delta PAC $7,000
Realtors PAC $6,750
MI Petrolium PAC $3,250
Auto Dealers of MI PAC $3,000
JC Huizenga $2,000
Realtors PAC $1,750
MI StateTroopers PAC $1,000

There are several patterns one can see, with large contributions coming from both corporate PACs, Labor PACs, other candidate PACs and a fair amount of self-financing.

There were also numerous members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure making contributions, such as John and Nancy Kennedy, Michael and Susan Jandernoa, Stephen and Amy Van Andel, JC Huizenga, Mark Murray and Marcia Tubergen. In addition, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce made numerous contributions, and not always to Republicans, as in the case of Winnie Brinks.

There were also contributions from PACs that represent hot button issues like policing, with the MI State Trooper PAC making contributions to three GOP candidates, along with the Realtors PAC and Rental Property Owners PAC, since housing is also a critical issue. Again, Winnie Brink received funding from Realtors PAC.

Lastly, there were also candidate that either had most of their funding through self-financing, others with very few contributors and still others will no funding raising at all.

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