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Grand Rapids Power Structure dominates campaign contributions in West Michigan on the eve of Primary Elections

August 1, 2022

Last week, we looked at campaign financing from the most recent state deadlines, first the State Senate races in West Michigan, then the State Representative races, and lastly the Kent County Commission races.

There were clear patterns that emerged in terms of which names of individuals, families and organizations were making the largest campaign contributions. Specifically members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, have overwhelmingly funneled thousands into the campaigns for political seats in West Michigan. What follows is a run down of campaign contributions, from the largest on down, plus there are three more months until the November elections. 

  • DeVos family $86,550
  • Terri Land/Dan Hibma $24,950
  • Michael & Susan Jandernoa $20,000
  • John & Nancy Kennedy $9,450
  • Mark Murray $6,250
  • Van Andel family $5,200
  • JC Huizenga $4,450

Total GR Power Structure $164,850

  • GR Chamber of Commerce PAC $29,900
  • Realtors PAC $71,750

There are several things worth noting about these campaign contributions. First, most of the money was contributed in the Kent County Commission races, specifically when it came to the DeVos family contributions. Too often we don’t think about how influential the DeVos family is when it comes to buying political influence right here in Kent County, but people would be wise to come to terms with that fact.

Second, while the majority of the GR Chamber PAC campaign contributions went to GOP candidates, 9 different Democrats also received money from them. What is even more interesting about this dynamic, is the fact that the Democrats who received campaign contributions from the GR Chamber PAC, were those who are more likely to win the seats they are running for. This means that the GR Chamber PAC is strategic in their thinking, making sure that no matter who is in office, they have purchased access and influence. 

Third, although they are not exclusively based in West Michigan, the Realtors PAC, which represents the Realtors Association, the very entity which dictates the cost of housing in Michigan, also contributed a sizable amount of campaign money in 2022. This is important, since housing costs are a critical issue facing thousands of families in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Thus, the Realtors PAC also wants to make sure that they have purchased access and influence with candidates in the upcoming election. And like the GR Chamber PAC, the Realtors PAC did primarily contribute to GOP candidates, but they also provided campaign contributions to 8 different Democrats, specifically Democrats that are more likely to win their seats in November. 

Fourth, there are still a few months before the November election, so we can anticipate a whole lot more money from the GR Power Structure leading up to that time. There were significant campaign contributions from the GR Power Structure to candidates who were on the August 2nd Primary, but one that is done, we’ll have a clearer picture of the partisan battles that will be on the ballot in November. We will be tracking that information after the October 25th deadline for candidates to report campaign contributions. 

Lastly, if we then combine the amount of campaign contributions from the Grand Rapids Power Structure families, the GR Chamber PAC and the Realtors PAC (power structure organizations) – which are just nine different entities – we are talking about $266,500 that are going to candidates running for seats in the Greater Grand Rapids area. This means that these 9 entities will not only have a great deal of influence in the outcome of the 2022 Elections in West Michigan, they will have significant influence with the candidates who become State Senators, State Representatives and Kent County Commissioners through the end of 2024. Lastly, this influence will be driven by what benefits the members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, which is always at the expense of the rest of us, politically, economically and socially. If we ignore their influence, we do so at our own peril. 


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