OTTAWA COUNTY — With six days to go until Michigan's August primary election, the picture is becoming clearer as to who is financing a Jenison-based political advocacy group that is backing nine far-right Republicans for the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners.
The deadline for filing campaign finance reports for candidates and political action committees for the period of January-July were due at 5 p.m. Friday, July 22.
Ottawa Impact did not file its financial documents with the county clerk's office until Tuesday evening, July 26.
Ottawa Impact was formed in 2021 by parents and residents critical of the state and local government’s response to containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The August primary will determine a large part of the board’s makeup. Of the 11-member commission, 10 are Republicans; Ottawa Impact is fielding candidates for 9 of those 10 seats. Primary-race victors will face Democratic opponents in only three of those nine races, meaning the primary will decide the winner of at least six commission seats.
All of the Ottawa Impact-backed candidates listed donations from Ottawa Impact PAC and its affiliate, Ottawa Impact Education PAC, ranging anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Ottawa Impact PAC raised more than $70,000 through December 2021, and reported $14,720 for the January-July 2022 period, for a total of $90,903.41 for the election cycle leading up to the primary election.
The biggest donors to that PAC included family and friends of the Ottawa Impact-backed candidates, as well as the candidates themselves and the PACs founders. The majority of individual donors listed reside in the east side of Ottawa County.
Ottawa Impact's other affiliated PAC, Ottawa Impact Education PAC, reported $24,090 in donations for the most recent reporting period, for a total of $27,520 for the election cycle.
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The largest individual donor was Donna Moss, who gave $17,500 in three separate donations. Moss, 62, listed herself as a homemaker in Hudsonville; it could not be confirmed by publication time if Moss is affiliated with Ottawa Impact founder Joe Moss, who resides in Jenison.
The largest single donor for the separate Ottawa Impact-backed candidates, who filed individual campaign finance reports, was Sandy Betten, a founder of the Ottawa Impact group. Betten donated more than $10,000 in the reporting period through December 2021. The candidates also donated to each others' campaigns, as did their family members.
Another PAC, TGIF Victory Fund PAC, made significant contributions to the Ottawa Impact-backed candidate campaigns. That group raised more than $100,000 in 2022, primarily from by Daniel Hibma, a prominent West Michigan developer and lead supporter in a controversial push to dredge the Grand River in 2019.
The other major donor of the TGIF Victory Fund was Harold Voorhees, a former Kent County commissioner.
The incumbent Republicans seeking re-election all reported self-donations, donations from family and friends or sought waivers if they did not anticipate receiving nor spending more than $1,000 in each financial reporting period.
Ottawa County recently launched an online public portal for viewing campaign finance documents. View the documents at ottawacountymi.easyvotecampaignfinance.com/home/publicfilings.
The commission race that drew the most money, by far, is District 10, the seat where Republican incumbent Roger Bergman faces Ottawa Impact-backed Jenni Shepherd-Kelley, as well as Republican Thomas Elhart.
Bergman raised $22,599 in the last reporting period, totaling $23,099 for the election cycle. Shepherd-Kelley raised $12,359 in the last reporting period, also the total for the cycle. Elhart raised $5,020 in the last reporting period, also the total for the cycle.
Two candidates received waivers for the current reporting period: Republican incumbent Randy Meppelink in District 5 and Republican newcomer James Steigenga, who is seeking the seat in District 7 after Republican James Holtvluwer decided not to seek re-election.
A candidate committee that does not expect to receive or spend more than $1,000 for an election can obtain a reporting waiver. A committee that maintains a waiver is exempt from filing detailed campaign statements unless it exceeds the $1,000 threshold.
— Sarah Leach is editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Campaign finance reports: Ottawa Impact primarily self-funded through members, family, friends