West Michigan’s Wealthiest Families funded the Trump Transition after the 2016 Election

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

I recently came across an article on from the well-researched site of the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). 

The article is about the corporations and billionaires in the country that provided funding to Donald Trump after the 2016 Election in November.

According to CPI, “The nonprofit formed to handle President Donald Trump’s transition raised about $6.5 million in private contributions, fueled in part by corporate interests, billionaires and lobbyists, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of a new federal filing.”

According to Federal law, the transition of administrations only allows donations up to $5,000 at one time. This money is separate from the money raised during the election and could only be used after the election results were in. As you can see from the list below, most of these contributions took place in December of 2016.

Amongst the billionaires who contributed to Donald Trump’s transition to…

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DeVos Declares: In Public Schools, the Child Becomes a Constituent, the State Replaces the Family

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” With a helping hand from Sister Betsy.

janresseger

Uh-oh!  Last week Betsy DeVos got in trouble again. Every time she speaks about her work at the U.S. Department of Education, DeVos gets herself in trouble.  We’ll see if it happens again today as she testifies in Congress before the House Education Committee.

A little review:  The last time DeVos embarrassed herself was in March, when she went on 60 Minutes, where she told Leslie Stahl how education should be improved:  “What can be done… is empowering parents to make the choices for their kids… Families that don’t have the power…. and they are assigned to that school, they are stuck there. I am fighting for the parents who don’t have those choices. We need all parents to have those choices.” After Stahl followed up, asking DeVos about how to improve the public schools in the neighborhoods where families live, DeVos pronounced her standard, convoluted answer: “Well, we…

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The War on Drugs is alive and well in Kent County, after commissioners unanimously approve new anti-marijuana vehicle for drug search warrant raids

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Friday, MLive reported that the Kent County Sheriff’s office had recently order a, “rapid deployment vehicle” to combat violators of Michigan’s medical marijuana law and illegal grow operations.” Costing taxpayers $175,000, the Sheriff’s office had converted a Ford F-59 step van into a vehicle that would be used to, “deploy tactical teams for drug search warrant raids.”

According to MLive, about two thirds of the cost of this new anti-drug vehicle had come from the state of Michigan and the other $54,812 would come from the County’s Drug Forfeiture Fund. Like all law enforcement agencies, whenever they make drug-related arrests, they often seize assets belonging to those arrested – homes, boats, cars, tech equipment, money, etc.

Again, according to the MLive article:

In 2017, the multi-jurisdictional Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team conducted 613 marijuana-related arrests, confiscated 1,238 marijuana plants, seized about 138 pounds of marijuana…

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Federal Blue Lives Matter bill passes in the House: The only member of Congress from Michigan to vote against it was Rep. Justin Amash

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

In the past year there has been an effort to pass legislation in Michigan that make it a more severe crime for people to target law enforcement officers. The Michigan legislation was HB 4590, and was introduced by Rep. Kesto from the 39th House District. 

Now there is legislation at the Federal level, which would do the same thing that many state legislatures have attempted to do. On Wednesday, May 16, the House passed HR 5698, also known as the Protect and Serve Act of 2018. This federal legislation reads: 

Whoever, in any circumstance described in subsection (b), knowingly assaults a law enforcement officer causing serious bodily injury, or attempts to do so—

(1)shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

(2)shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or…

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White Fear is code for White Supremacy: Calling Cops on people of color

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

In recent weeks there have been numerous posts on social media about white people calling the police on people of color. There was the Starbucks incident, the student of color relaxing in the campus lounge, the black golfer and the black family that was grilling at a public park.

In each of these incidents, it was white people calling police, most often it was reported that these white people were “feeling unsafe,” because the people of color didn’t “belong there” or because people of color were not speaking English.

Each of these incidents are deplorable, they are a form of violence and it really underscores the very notion of how White Supremacy functions in the US.

However, it is important that we not single out certain white people for their decision to call cops on people of color. As I stated, these recent examples are deplorable and should be condemned…

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Members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure have contributed to some of the largest Political Action Committees in the current election cycle

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

A few weeks ago, the Lansing-based organization, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, posted an article about the largest Political Action Committees (PACs) in the 2018 election cycle

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network research, PACs have raised $34.5 million so far for the 2018 Election. This is the most ever raised by PACs in Michigan at this date just before a state election. You can see from the graphic below, which PACs are the largest, four of which are part of the GOP and the other three with the Democrats.

There are a few members of the Grand Rapids power structure that have contributed significantly to the top PACs in the state, specifically members of the DeVos family and AutoCam CEO John Kennedy.

For the PAC known as Calley Continues Comeback Inc., DP Fox Ventures President and CEO Daniel DeVos, gave $200,000. Daniel DeVos also gave $250,000

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A Grand Rapids Power Analysis revisited

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Six years ago, we posted an article that provided a power analysis of Grand Rapids, looking at economic power, political power, state power, media power and NGO/social service power – as seen in the graphic below. 

While much of the analysis for 2012 remains the same, there have been many changes in Grand Rapids, with a noticeable increase in the gap between those with power and those without. Another way of looking at this growing power gap is that there is greater concentration of power from the capitalist class.

This concentration of power can be seen in the significant levels of gentrification in Grand Rapids, with the skyrocketing cost of housing, both in the price of buying a home and the cost of rent.

Another area of concentrated power can be seen by looking at Grand Rapids through a racial lens. The wealth gap has been increasing between the…

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ICE continues to terrorize the immigrant community in West Michigan

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Editor’s note: For sake of transparency, I am part of the GR Rapid Response to ICE project and some of the information included here is based on my own experience of being involved in that work.

Yesterday, another immigrant family was terrorized by members of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), in the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

The Spanish language news service, El Informador, reported on the ICE arrests yesterday morning, which included pictures and a video interview.

It was estimated that 9 ICE officers broke in the door of (pictured here) an immigrant family and then pointed their guns at everyone inside, including the children. A member of Child Protective Services had accompanied the ICE officers, with the intent of taking the children as well, but this didn’t happen.

However, ICE officers did take the father, arresting him right in front of his wife and children. Based on…

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Teachers in AZ, WV, OK, KY, and CO Turn Narrative from Test Score Outcomes to Shortage of Inputs

janresseger

In the New Yorker,E. Tammy Kim summarizes the meaning of the mass walkout by teachers last week in Arizona:

“In Arizona and other states where teachers have recently gone on strike, pay is a central issue: the average American teacher earns five percent less than he did in 2009. (In Arizona, the average teacher salary fell from fifty-three thousand to forty-seven thousand dollars in that time.) But the protests are about more than salaries. In recent years, educators have been blamed by politicians and parents for an array of social problems, from bankrupt municipal pensions to low graduation rates in poor neighborhoods.  Standardized testing has constrained teacher autonomy and creativity, and charter and private schools have competed more aggressively for government funds…  Per-student spending has fallen fourteen percent in the past decade, and some two thousand classrooms have no permanent instructors.  Between 2010 and 2015, Arizona’s rate of teacher…

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Betsy DeVos Watch: Another speech at a religious university founded by Billionaire Christian Tom Monaghan

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

As we reported on in December, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education has a penchant for speaking at organizations or educational institutions that shares her ideological perspective. 

It seems clear by now that DeVos choses to speak in public at places where she is welcomed, because virtually every other place she has given a speech has been met with significant resistance

Therefore, it is no surprise that on May 5th, Betsy DeVos chose to give a commencement speech at a University that shares her values. The Secretary of Education spoke at Ave Maria University last week, a conservative Catholic university that was founded by Domino’s Pizza CEO Tom Monaghan.

Just days before Betsy DeVos delivered the commencement speech at Ave Maria University, it’s president, Jim Towey, wrote an article on the school’s blog, entitled, Why We’re Honored To Host Betsy DeVos At Our University’s Commencement. In that…

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