Skip to content

Again, local news doesn’t provide adequate coverage of changes the Ottawa County Government are implementing

January 11, 2023

Last week we reported that much of the coverage of the political takeover in Ottawa County did not provide the public with much contextual reporting or background information on the group Ottawa Impact.

We made the point in that article, that none of the changes that elected officials who were vetted by Ottawa Impact made would have been a surprise, had the news media reported on the very clear far right ideological positions that these elected officials have taken, especially since they signed a contract with Ottawa Impact to do exactly what they are doing.

This week, the Ottawa County Commissioners voted to hire the Lansing-based law firm, the Kallman Legal Group. WXMI 17 reported on this, but the only background information they provided was that the Kallman Legal Group had filed lawsuits for people regarding COVID mandates, particularly in 2020.

MLive also reported on the Ottawa County Commission decision to hire the Kallman Legal Group, but also failed to provide much background information on their support for far right clients. MLive did mention some of the COVID shutdown clients they represented, along with a few businesses that wanted to deny services to people who identified as LGBTQ, but this information was near the end of the article. 

In October of 2022, there was a wedding venue on the westside of Grand Rapids that refused to rent to an LGBTQ couple and the lawyer that represented the business was David Kallman, with the Kallman Legal Group. In fact, this was not the only omission on the part of local news media, when it came to the Kallman Legal Group a law firm that has a history of representing and supporting far right organizations and issues throughout Michigan.

If the local news media were to scratch the surface a bit more on who David Kallman is, they would not have to look very hard to find out that he is one of the preferred lawyers for those in the far right camp. For instance, this is not the first time that Kallman has defended people or organizations that are anti-LGBTQ. 

David Kallman is also legal counsel for the Great Lakes Justice Center, which has a long history of defending religious groups that are anti-LGBTQ. GRIID wrote about the Great Lakes Justice Center in 2020, when they sued Gov. Whitmer for the Stay at Home orders. At that time we wrote: 

The Great Lakes Justice Center, which filed the lawsuit, has a long history of defending religious groups that actively discriminate against the LGBTQ community. A Lansing-based news source, City Pulse, reported on one example  and the ACLU has documented other cases against the Great Lakes Justice Center.  The Great Lakes Justice Center is part of group Salt & Light Global, which was founded by William Wagner. Salt & Light Global embraces a far right political and religious worldview. The “Resources” section on their homepage is a who’s who of far right religious groups, including the Federalist Society, Hillsdale College, Wall Builders, the Discovery Institute and the Acton Institute.

Kallman has represented numerous businesses that sought to challenge the Stay at Home orders that were put in place as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic, beginning in late March of 2020, cases that are sourced here.

In The Center Square article sourced in the previous paragraph, Kallman is standing with a business owner in front of a backdrop put up by the group Stand Up Michigan. Stand Up Michigan has been a group that came into being in response to the COVID 19 pandemic and believes that, “COVID was weaponized to rip away our constitutional liberties, close our businesses and fundamentally alter our psyches.” 

Some of the leadership of Stand Up Michigan host a podcast known as Live with Stand Up Michigan. Here is a sample of one of their shows where David Kallman was the guest. 

The last important piece of background information on the Kallman Legal Group, is the issue of abortion. Again, the local news media wouldn’t have to look far to find information showing that David Kallman was representing two Republican County Prosecutors in Michigan regarding the 1931 Abortion Ban law that the courts have said are not enforceable. An MLive article from August 16 states:

Oakland County Circuit Judge Jacob Cunningham quashed the subpoena and David Kallman, a Lansing lawyer representing prosecutors Jerard Jarzynka of Jackson County and Christopher Becker of Kent County, appealed to the higher court. Becker and Jarzynka previously said they would charge providers under the law, which makes procuring a miscarriage illegal except to save a mother’s life.

The fact that Kallman was representing Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker, should have been relevant background information, especially since the issue of abortion has been front and center over the past year in Michigan. 

There was one news example that was pretty good, in terms of exploring deeper issue that the frustrations of some people in Ottawa County over the recent government changes. On January 10th, Michigan Radio did a pretty good story on the contract Ottawa County signed with the Kallman Legal group. The focus of that ration story centered around the connection between the Ottawa County Board Chair and the Kallman Legal Group. Now other news outlets did make this an issue, but they only provided comments from both sides. 

The Michigan Radio story actually investigated the connection between the Kallman Legal Group and the Ottawa Impact members. Michigan Radio found out that a Kallman Legal Group relative had raised money for the Political Action Committee that Ottawa Impact was running.

One of the main functions of news agencies is to report on people who have financial and political power, along with the decisions they make. When the local news fails to do that and only provides us with superficial coverage, not only is the democratic process weakened, but real harm is being done, most often to the most marginalized people in our communities. Good journalism can counteract that.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: