Agreement for Michigan Gubernatorial Debates Excludes Third Party Candidates; Paves Way for Continued Dominance of Two Party System

The agreement governing the debates that are to be held in the Michigan gubernatorial race between Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm and Republican candidate Dick DeVos, are the product of the two candidates’ campaign committees and exclude third parties and any hope of a genuine discourse on substantially divergent viewpoints.

Rather than being designed to provide for the goal of having an informed voting public, the guidelines agreed to by Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm and Republican candidate Dick DeVos and instead focus on specific details regarding the formatting of the debates rather than addressing larger questions about who has access to the debates and the ramifications of excluding viewpoints from the debates. Instead, the “Agreement Governing Debates and Joint Appearances in Michigan’s 2006 Gubernatorial Campaign” is essentially an agreement between two representatives of a plutocracy rather than a blueprint for a truly democratic debate process. The agreement is not the product of a non-partisan organization with a truly impartial interest in informing the state’s voters, but is instead an agreement between the two candidates’ campaign committees and does not even provide empty rhetoric about how candidates can obtain access to the ballot if they meet some fairly impossible requirements as is the case with presidential debates. The corporate media, who generally excludes third party candidates in their coverage, also agreed to the debate restrictions. The agreement focuses on how the sets will be displayed, how controlled the format will be, what type of refreshments will be in the candidates’ staging areas, and how the debate schedule will be publicized.

The agreement governs not only debates but also public appearances, and restricts the candidates, their spouses, running mates, and campaign committees from making any calls for additional debates or joint public appearences and reveals the extent to which the debates are highly controlled and choreographed. The agreement stipulates that there will be three debates and one joint appearance consisting of three one-hour debates and a joint appearance at the Economic Club of Detroit. At these debates, candidates are restricted from using notes, holding up documents such as newspaper articles, or even wearing lapel pins. The physical environment is similarly controlled, with the size of podiums, distance between the podiums, and the color of the backdrop all being agreed to before the debates. Cameras and camera angles are also outlined, as are restrictions on when the audience can be filmed and how many members of the candidates’ staff are allowed to inspect the stage and equipment used in the debate. Members of the media are required to view the debates in a separate room via closed-circuit television and the debates are not open to a public studio audience, but instead are restricted with no audience in the first debate, an audience eight persons selected by each candidate for the Grand Rapids debate, and a studio audience of “approximately 30 undecided” voters as deemed so by “independent pollster” Tim Kiska for the third debate. Time limits for answers and questions are also agreed upon, and questions by the so-called “undecided voters” in the third debate are to be pre-screened in advance. All of these measures combine to create a debate environment that is stale and predictable, with little opportunity for genuine spontaneity and no serious debate between viewpoints as their would be if third party candidates were allowed to participate.

Perhaps the only redeeming part of the agreement is its second provision, which places restrictions on when campaign ads can be aired before and after the debates. While both candidates have spent millions of dollars on television advertising, the debate agreement restricts this advertising by establishing a 30-minute window before and after each debate during which any station airing the debate cannot air advertisements from the two candidates. Of course, this is a minimal restriction, but with the lack of substantive regulations governing political advertising in Michigan, any break from the daily onslaught of misleading political advertisements should be welcomed. Regrettably, the two debates thus far have not provided many more specifics than what has been shown in the two major party candidates’ advertisements nor has there been any substantive discussion of campaign finance reform during the debates.

Transcript of the Devos-Granholm Debate in Grand Rapids

On Tuesday, Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm and Republican candidate Dick DeVos debated a variety of issues in the second debate of the 2006 Michigan gubernatorial race.

The following is a direct transcript of the debate between Democratic governor of Michigan Jennifer Granholm and Republican candidate Dick DeVos that took place on October 10 at the WOOD TV studios in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Susan Geha: Good evening. Four weeks from this moment the polls will have just closed and voters will have decided who lead Michigan for the next four years. The candidates with us tonight Democrat Governor Jennifer Granholm and Republican challenger Dick DeVos.

Tonight’s debate allows each candidate an opening statement. They will then be asked a series of questions by our panelists and questions submitted by our viewers at WOOD The candidate will have a two minute response, the opponent has a one minute rebuttal, and if criticized, the original candidate has an additional thirty seconds. At the end, each candidate will present a closing statement. Tonight’s panelists from left to right, from WDIV in Detroit, anchor Devin Scillian, from WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, political reporter Rick Albin, and from the Detroit Free Press columnist Mike Wendland. A coin toss determined Mr. DeVos has the first statement, so we’ll start with you, Mr. DeVos.

DD: Thank you, Suzanne. And thanks to our broadcast partners as well as to the journalists and panelists and people of Michigan who are tuning in to be with us this evening. You know I’m glad we’ve had this second chance to debate. I’ve learned a couple things from the first debate. You know I came to the debate thinking that we’re going to be talking about the issues that matter to the people of Michigan. Yet what happened was that I saw the Governor of the State of Michigan look straight into the camera and lie to the people of Michigan. She knew better. Her staff had been shopping that story to the news media for months. I can’t say I was disappointed, I’m furious. The Governor is willing to go anywhere and do anything or say anything to keep her job in Michigan. The people of Michigan deserve better. I hope we can discuss the issues this evening.

SG: Governor Granholm?

JG: Thank you. Thank you as well to all of you who are watching this evening and to our panelists, to WOOD and WDIV and the Free Press, and particularly to those of you who are watching tonight in light of the fact there is a Tigers game happening. I appreciate that you are interested in democracy and willing to share this with us. Tonight we are going to talk—I certainly hope—about our plans for the future of the state of Michigan. I have set in motion the most aggressive economic plan of any state in the country because we need it. Our state is in a transition. So for us it is critical that we invest in creating jobs today, invest in diversifying our economy to create jobs of tomorrow, and invest most importantly in all of our citizens. I look forward to speaking with you about the specifics of this economic plan and I very look forward to addressing the policies that are important for leading Michigan to the future. Let’s get to it.

SG: The first question is from Devin Scillian from WDIV, and that question goes to Mr. DeVos.

DS: About the lions share of the emails I received since the last debate kind of go to what you mention in your opening statement that there weren’t near enough specifics from either candidate. If you’re elected Governor, name three things—specific things—that you would do to reinvigorate the Michigan economy that aren’t already being done by the Governor.

DD: Absolutely, Devin. Thank you for asking. Number one: The one thing I would eliminate—and make sure it remains eliminated—is the SBT. This is a bad tax for Michigan. Second, I would expand the number of trade offices that we have around the world. Third, I would introduce a thirty day plan for shovel-ready permitting process. Number four, I would expand agriculture, ensure, include process agriculture and ethanol production. Number five, the person property tax that causes big problems for manufacturers in this state. Number six I would expand tourism. Is that sufficient?

JG: I’ve signed into law already a 600 million dollar tax cut to lower the cost for manufacturers. Second, we, I, intend to make sure that we train workers who are victimized by this global economy—we have more of those workers than any other state in the country. Third, we want to make sure that we lift our standards for public education to make sure we create a workforce for the 21st century. Fourth, we have to speed up building projects in Michigan, to put 40k people to work over the next 3 construction seasons. Fifth, we’re going to diversify our economy in a way that has never has been done before. We’re going to invest $2 billion dollars in diversifying Michigan in growing sectors of our economy. And sixth, we’re going to provide universal access to affordable healthcare for all of our citizens.

Moderator: The next question Rick Albin for Governor Granholm.

RA: Governor, this campaign has focused very heavily on jobs that have been lost both before and after you took office. For many of those people, when they lost their jobs, they lost their health insurance. Many people are paying more of their share of health insurance—some companies don’t offer health insurance at all. In light of all of this, would you as Governor be in favor of establishing a state-sponsored, universal healthcare program for every citizen in the state?

JG: In fact, Rick, what we have done is to propose something called the Michigan First Health Initiative. It is a universal access to affordable healthcare. What we’re doing is negotiating with the federal government, taking a page from what they did in the state of Massachusetts, providing universal coverage for about 550,000 people in Michigan who are currently uninsured, who are 200% of poverty and below. For those above 200% of poverty, because we have about 1.1 million people in Michigan alone who are uninsured, we would offer a no-frills benefits package that those people would be able to buy into on a sliding scale depending on their income, which would guarantee that we would be able to lower the premium for everybody in Michigan who has insurance, because right now you’re paying for those who are currently uninsured. The goal is here to have a rational policy for providing healthcare by partnering with the government. It would allow us to bring in about $600 million from the federal government in order to make sure that we are able to provide healthcare for all. I’m very excited about this because last year for the first time in Michigan history, more cars were built in Ontario than in Michigan. And they weren’t going there, those automakers, because of wages or taxes or regulations, they were going there for one reason: and it was health care. We need a uniquely American solution to the cost of health care in this country. That’s what my Michigan First Health Care Plan will do. It’s to have Michigan lead the way in the nation in providing universal access to affordable health care, and this universal access would not be run by the government, but would, in fact, allow the private sector to administer it, but the government would be a connector, connecting people to health care plans. We’ve also lowered the cost of prescription drugs for individuals and I encourage people to go to our website and sign up for a MiRx card, to the extent that people right now have trouble paying for their prescription drugs, we want to lower the costs by cooling bodies.

SG: Mr. DeVos…

DD: Rich, uh, that’s a great question about uh, oh, what our goals are. And I think the governor and I share the same goal—we share the same objective. And that objective is to ensure that each citizen has access to health care. But I do know this: the best way to get access to health care is to have a job. And in Michigan today we have 85,000 less jobs. We’ve been running jobs out of the state, and that’s been damaging our citizens’ ability to have access to health care. And the governor talks about, uh, talks about, the, uh, the plan for the future, and as I say, we both want for every citizen to have the ability to have great health care. But we have 53,000 more people that are without health care today since this governor took office, then, then, then, then there were—53,000 more people—discussion of a plan with no results, no waver, no legislation, no additional health care, no results. And uh, we’ve got to, we’ve got to get Michigan, back to work. We’ve got to get this state back on track.

JG: I think I…

SG: You have 30 seconds rebuttal.

JG: That I do. Mr. DeVos has said that if you want health care, get a job. Well, let me tell you, there are almost 900,000 people in Michigan who are working, who don’t have health care. In fact, Mr. DeVos’s own company, I’m told, hires temporary workers so that often they don’t have to provide health care for those workers, through a man-power service. The bottom line is, for Michigan, we need to do this rationally, and provide health care up front for all of our citizens so that we can lower the cost for everyone.

SG: Mike Wendland from the Free Press, your question for Mr. DeVos.

MW: Mr. DeVos, a moment ago you called the governor a liar. Last week, you were very clear in talking about how disappointed you were with the negative tone of this campaign. But yet your own party, the Michigan Republican Party has in recent days uh unleashed a bunch of ads in which they’re attacking Democratic legislative candidates for supporting uh state aid and uh and uh the city of Detroit for Detroit schools. A couple of those ads say, one ad says it’s like pouring money down the drain. Another one says fight Detroit special interest and this seems certain to be an attempt to uh further divide Detroit from the rest of Michigan and with that comes all sorts of racial implications. I’d like to know, do you support this kind of advertising by your party?

DD: Well first of all Mike, I’m not familiar with the advertising that you’ve spoken of. The advertising that I focus on and the campaign that I’m focused on is this campaign and this campaign to be the next governor of Michigan and the issues that we have in this campaign and we wanted to, and my issues are issues that have are going to bring a state together. My issues are the kind of issues that are going to bring Michigan into a position that we can work together to achieve the objectives that we haven’t been able to achieve to this point. There’s plenty of division around and I’ve talked very openly and honestly about the division that exists. But we need, we need to bring this state together and we need a leadership that’s going to be better at addition than division and uh the sorts of advertising that that we talk about has been consistent fr-from the other side from the governor’s own campaign beginning right at the beginning with, with ‘roneous, with wrong information misleading the citizens of Michigan about sending jobs to China. I sent no jobs to China. Then misleading the people of Michigan about lobbying in Washington. I did go to Washington—to fight for Michigan jobs—contrary to what the advertisement asserts. The fact pattern with the governor’s ads continues to be suspect and one more time, one more allegation most recently raised at the debate, the last debate, was proven to be factually inaccurate, to be wrong. That’s the issue that I’m concerned about and that’s what concerns me greatly about this campaign. The people of Michigan deserve so much more. They-they deserve so much better because we have very serious issues in this state. We-we’ve we’ve got the list goes on and on of the number of problems and challenges from unemployment all the way down to the fact that our kids are leaving. This state deserves a discussion on those issues not a continued attempt by the governor’s campaign to divert the issue from the real issues that matter to the people of Michigan and the real issues that matter to me.

SG: Governor?

JG: The real issues are in fact what got us to this place in the first place. It is a fact that when my opponent became CEO of Amway, there were 5300 jobs under his employment. It is a fact that when he left, there were 3900 jobs. That is elimination of 1400 jobs. It is a fact that he invested 200 million to create thousands of jobs in China. It is a fact that he lobbied on behalf of his company Amway, to get a 19-million dollar tax break after he had, and his family, had contributed, a million dollars to the Republican Party. I do agree. But let’s talk about the issues tonight, about how we are going to create jobs going forward. But it is a fact, that when somebody complains about losing jobs in Michigan, and we find out that he contributed to the problem, that is fair game. He is not a jobs maker in Michigan

SG: Do you have a rebuttal, Mr. DeVos?

DD: Certainly, I have two. I have uh, a number of comments. The Governor has asserted facts, but the facts are quite different than what the Governor asserts. Once again, uh, this is a problem, the Governor has asserted, made an additional assertion earlier, uh, about temporary workers, uh, at our, at, at the company, uh, at the company that I used to head, where we had nothing but the best health care offered for our workers. And what we did by going to the international markets, what every company does, is to expand to the international markets to secure and preserve jobs. And that’s exactly what I did during my business career. I’ve been a job maker, at my company, in this community, as well as in other businesses.

SG: Time, Mr. DeVos.

DD: And there’s been no question about that.

SG: Thank you. Governor, and Mr. DeVos, we gave our viewers a chance to um, get in on this debate.

JG: Excellent!

SG: We ah, opened up the ah, the website, and we said send in your e-mail questions. And this is just a small sampling of them. We actually received 1900 here.

JG: Wow.

SG: And that’s at WOOD TV and I know WDIV had received some, I know the Free Press received some. They came all the way across the state and up to the U.P. We read every single one of them, and we picked some that we thought were representative of what a lot of the viewers had on their minds. So I would like to start with this question for you, Governor Granholm. Steve Yonker of Rockford says your ads are pounding DeVos on his special tax break for his Amway operations in China. Mary Heisinga, Granville, wants to know: What is the difference in the tax breaks that you as Governor give to businesses like Google, Electrolux, Whirlpool, and those given to Amway? Is it okay for you to give tax breaks to a business, but not okay for a business to receive them?

JG: The difference is, is that when we give tax breaks; we insist that jobs be created in this state. When Mr. DeVos got a tax break for Amway—19-million dollar tax break— he eliminated 1400 jobs and invested $200 million in China. That’s the difference. When we, when I go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs to the state of Michigan, which I do. If I go to Japan and bring jobs here for Michigan residents, we want to provide a competitive tax climate. But in exchange for that; they’ve got to create jobs in Michigan. You cannot give, and I would never give, a tax break as a subsidy to a company who then eliminated jobs in Michigan and decided to invest overseas. There is a guarantee that companies are supposed to make, by law, to investing and creating jobs in Michigan. And that’s the difference. Truly, I know that any CEO is going to go and make sure that they get whatever they can for their company. I understand that that benefits ah, Mr. DeVos, it benefits his company. But the question for me, as Governor, and the question that anyone who is running for Governor should ask is: Is it good for Michigan? It’s good for Michigan when a company makes products in Michigan and exports them around the globe. That is a great thing. It’s good for Michigan if the governor of the state goes to another country and brings jobs back here for Michigan residents. But as Governor of Michigan; there’s no scenario that I can see, where it’s good news, where it’s considered a success if you eliminate jobs in Michigan. It’s not good news for us. And that’s a strategy that’s not available to the Governor of Michigan. When Mr. DeVos uses his business expertise as a reason for us to look at him as a candidate; the business expertise that is available, is not translatable to Governor. When you’re governor, you want to expand employment. It’s not a success to lose jobs. It’s not a success when any jobs leave. And we have been more challenged than any other state in the country, by globalization, and the loss of jobs to low wage countries. Mr. DeVos contributed to that problem by lobbying for the policies that brought us here in the first place.

SG: Mr. DeVos?

DD: Here we go again. I mean, this is, uh, this is again said. The Governor is, doesn’t understand the facts. The facts are that I went to Washington to fight for Michigan workers. The facts are, there was no tax break. The facts are, that the tax, the U.S. tax code was going to fight, was going to require us to invest overseas, and that was wrong. And I said that was wrong, and that’s why we went to Washington. And that’s why Senator Levin and that’s why President Clinton agreed, and actually signed that legislation. We haven’t been sending jobs anywhere. We’ve been doing exactly what the Governor spoke of, making our products here and selling them around the world. And to be critical of what we have done as a business, is to send a chilling signal to every investor who would ever consider coming to Michigan. The Governor clearly does not understand the reality of international business. We need a Governor who understands that reality, who has lived it, who has worked it, and can bring those jobs to Michigan. Your viewers were right on the money. You guys understood.

SG: Go ahead with your rebuttal.

JG: Ha, yes! The reality is, if you are the Governor of Michigan, you need to bring jobs to Michigan, not eliminate jobs from Michigan. And if, I mean, if you invest overseas, that’s fine. But eliminating the jobs here is a whole other matter. There are 1400 people who had jobs who don’t have them anymore. My interest is in fighting for them, and in citizens like them. They’ve been in this movie before in Michigan, and we don’t want to have to continue to repeat it.

SG: Rick Albin, you have the next question for Mr. DeVos.

RA: A few years ago in Michigan, you were part of an operation, part of a campaign, that was in favor of school vouchers. That program didn’t pass in the state, but you have said, I’m not quoting you directly, but you have said in essence, that you would abide by what the people of Michigan have decided on that issue. Contribution records indicate that you continue to support groups that are in favor of school choice in other parts of the U.S. My question is: Do you, as a matter of belief as well as monetarily, support school choice, and if a voucher program came up in Michigan, if another voucher issue got on the ballot in Michigan, would you be in favor of it?

DD: Rick, I do support school choice. And I do support school choice because I think it’s the best choice for public education. I’m a great fan of public education; I believe in public education. I’m a gra- I’m a graduate, from the Forest Hills Public Schools right here in Grand Rapids. So, uh, the people of Michigan will not see a stronger advocate for public education than me. But uh, here’s, here’s the problem: the problem is that we have not been able to get it done in many of our schools. And that’s why I as governor, will fi- will fight to move money into the classroom of our public schools. That’s why I, as governor, will fight to recognize great teachers where great teaching exists. We need to recognize it with merit pay. That’s why I will fight to consolidate administrative costs in our schools so that we put more money into the classroom. We can move a billion dollars a year into the classroom if we get the job done right. We need to be willing to consider innovation, but I would not support vouchers. I said I would not bring them to Michigan, and I stand by that commitment. Per- but parental choice, and having parents have an option – absolutely. They should have choices, and they should have options. The parents of Detroit did not have a choice. Too many of them had to take their kids and had to wait for two weeks, while the adults sat in the classroom and argued. That was wrong. That was tragically wrong for the citizens of Michigan, tragically wrong for those parents. They should have had a choice. And then fortunately, for many of them, their choice now, is to drop out of school altogether—the most tragic of all choices that could be made. I support parental choice because I support our public schools. And I support our great teachers who work in those public schools. And I want them to have the resources they need to get it done. The governor’s cut funding – first governor in 20 years to cut funding for public education. This is a serious problem. We need someone who’s willing to consider new ideas, new solutions, and focus on our kids.

JG: I hope we get more questions on the issue of education, but let me just be very brief. One, I believe in the promise of public education too, and in fact, funding is at its highest level ever. We have now, and I pushed through the Legislature and signed into law, Democrats and Republicans agreed on new high school standards that are considered to be among the top three in the nation. I’ve also pushed to have small high schools that have the new three R’s: rigor, relevance, and relationships, so their theme, so parents do have choice within the public school system, which I absolutely agree, is an important factor. But it, and I’ve asked the Legislature, by the way, to pass a $4,000 scholarship for every child in the state of Michigan to help parents to get their children to go beyond, to be able to go beyond to college. We know as a state, if we double the number of college graduates in Michigan, we will have the most robust economy in the nation. My opponent says that he has given up on vouchers. However, he gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation two years after that voucher movement failed, and said that he would bring it back again to Michigan. He would bring it back more under the radar screen because he is donating, right now, to other groups who are promoting vouchers across the country. I question…

SG: Time, governor.

JG: Sorry, excuse me…

SG: It’s alright. Do you have a rebuttal, Mr. DeVos?

DD: Certainly. Certainly, its easy to have the highest education funding every, because there’s only one way to go and that’s up.

SG: Mike Wendland, you have the next question, and it goes to Governor Granholm.

MW: Governor, you’ve spoken a lot about the difficulties the state is facing economically, the downturn in the automotive industry. Nationally, your party has criticized President Bush for not declaring, uh, calling an auto summit. The Governor of Michigan, perhaps the hardest hit state by the auto downturn. If you could bring these leaders of the UAW, GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler into a room; what would you tell them? How could you as a governor help the auto industry?

JG: In fact, one of the first summits that I held when I became governor was called the Manufacturing Matters Summit, where we brought in the head of the UAW, the head of the labor movement, as well as the heads of the Big Three, and the suppliers as well. And the whole purpose there was to develop a joint agenda for manufacturing that we could take to Washington and that we could do inside of Michigan. For example, one of the things that they suggested was to work on the personal property tax. I’m proud to say that I signed this $600 million tax cut into law to reduce the personal property tax for manufacturers. Another thing they said was please take it to Washington, make sure we have a bipartisan agreement promoting manufacturing across the nation. We did that, with other Governors and a bipartisan delegation asking the President of the United States to develop a pro-industrial manufacturing agenda. We as a state are hardest hit because we have on average 700% more automotive jobs than any other state in the country. It’s not rocket science as why we are uniquely challenged. But this is why in a bi-partisan fashion, our delegation, as well as certainly the governors of other manufacturing states have gone to Washington, and demanded that several things, one that we have a uniquely American solution to the cost of health care. We in this country saddle our businesses and manufacturers with the burden of health care and legacy costs, and they compete with other countries that provide that for their workers. So it’s an extra cost for our manufacturers. Two, we stop the unfair trade agreements and enforce the trade agreements that we have. The Bush administration has brought only a handful of enforcement action to the World Trade Organization, where as under the previous administration there were over 60 actions that were brought. We need a tiger on behalf of our manufacturing industry at the World Trade Organization, and instead the Bush administration has been nothing but a pussycat.

SG: Mr. DeVos?

DD: The governor once again has a plan, but the plan is clearly not working. Auto companies are leaving Michigan, and Ford, most recently announced a departure, and, uh, we continue to see our jobs leaving the state. This is a very serious problem. The governor talks about reforming personal property tax, but so far not enough. We’re still the only state in the entire region that has personal property tax on manufacturing equipment, the only state that punishes our manufacturers. Leaders understand what needs to be done and gets the job done. And that’s the kind of leadership we need, not half-measures, not halfway. Our great auto workers in this state deserve full measures, to make sure the automobile companies find that Michigan is the best place to build an automobile, the best place to make things, the best place to come, and to be in business, and to do business. That’s what we need to have in Michigan. We need to transform this environment, get rid of personal property tax, and make this state a great state to do business in once again. That’s what leadership is going to be about. Now the governor has got to be a part of that.

SG: Time. Thank you.

JG: In fact, the Michigan Manufacturing Association came and testified in favor of my replacement for the single business tax because it was so strongly supportive of manufacturers. My opponent has been one of George Bush’s biggest backers. The president won’t even give the Big 3 the courtesy of a meeting. You need a governor who’s going to stand up to George Bush and not one who writes him a seven-figure campaign check.

SG: I would like to just remind our candidates, our panelists and also our audience that we are at, uh, just about the halfway mark.

JG: Wow.

SG: The next question – I know it goes by fast – or does it seem forever slower to you two?

JG: <laughs>

DD: <laughs>

SG: The next question I have, and it is for Mr. DeVos. Gloria Vaughn, it’s another email, Gloria Vaughn of Grand Rapids asking this: Which ad of your opponent’s ads goes the furthest in bending the truth about you?

DD: Boy, that’s a hard question. I mean there’s no straight shots there, they’re all bent. Let’s , let’s talk about the one that is probably most concerning to me, and that is the one that, uh, with regard to, uh, going to Washington and suggesting that somehow I went there for motives other than bringing jobs to Michigan and securing jobs in Michigan. Which really talks about the fact that I was somehow, operating under the radar screen, and that is just simply is not the case. The governor knows better, and the chairman of the Democratic Party knows better, and has been told so, and yet they continued to make those allegations. So that’s the one that goes the furthest. They all bend the truth, and uh, they bend it much further than it should be. The people of Michigan deserve so much better. And I want to respond, too, to the governor’s comments by the way, with regards to the meeting with President Bush. I too am pleased that the automobile companies are going to meet with President Bush. I would just note that it was my calling on the White House that finally got him to move. I wasn’t happy either. But I called at the White House, and called at it publicly, to say “You need to meet with our auto companies. You need to listen to what they’re doing. You need to hear their story, and you need to be responsive to what’s happening. And you need that meeting. And they’ve announced it, and the meeting is set, and it’s going to happen. The president needs to listen to what’s going on in Michigan and needs to pay attention to what’s going on in Michigan. We need to step up our game too, because we’re last in the country. The governor talks about all the problems that are happening in Michigan and it’s true, but we have to remember: We’re the worst economy in the country, we’re the only state, that for the last three years, has had less jobs than the year before. Only state. I mean we have the highest unemployment in the country, up 50% from when this governor took office. Other states are growing, other states are improving, Michigan is going backwards.

SG: Governor?

JG: I wasn’t aware that a meeting was set with the Big 3. That’s news to me. I don’t think it’s true. My opponent called for a meeting, as I did, months ago. And all we got from the Bush Administration was: ‘Oh, we’ll set a meeting, okay, but after the election.’ That’s not being responsive. Nor is it an industrial policy that will work for this country. My opponent has been running campaign ads that are also misleading and wrong. One of them that jumps to mind on this side is that he says that I have proposed $2-billion in tax increases. As the Detroit Free Press said in an article today; that was grossly misleading. In fact, the $2-billion comes from my effort to replace the Single Business Tax that has been eliminated, which is ironically, a $1.9-billion tax. So Mr. DeVos has been running ads that are misleading. But the bottom line is, can we talk, I hope, about our plans to move the state forward—whether it is environment or education or health care or the economy? Cause I’d love to talk about diversifying our economy.

SG: Mr. Devos, may I just ask you, since Governor Granholm said it was news to her, do you know uh, when the president intends to meet with the automakers?

DD: The president wasn’t willing to confirm a date. What was happening was the White House wasn’t willing to set a date and was waffling on the issue. And so they have committed to a meeting after the election, so as not to get in the middle of electoral politics. They’ve committed to a meeting, the sooner the better. I couldn’t agree more.

SG: The next question comes from Devin, and that is directed to Governor Granholm.

DS: Governor I also brought an email with me. I received this last week after the last debate and I think it was particularly poignant, strikes to the heart of what is happening in our state. My wife and I are independent voters who live in Macomb Township. We are considering job offers to leave the state of Michigan. Last debate with its childish in-fighting is only reinforcing us to leave the state I’m hoping to hear about a vision that involves how Michigan will remain the mitten or succumb to being a global kitten? Governor, since most elections boil down to: Are you better off than you were four years ago? Well, I guess you’ve got 120 seconds to convince this family that they are.

JG: What I want to do is convince them that we’ve set in motion an aggressive economic plan. And you need to know, we all know Michigan’s economy is not where we’d like it to be because of our over-reliance on the auto industry. We love the auto sector. But we need to diversify our economy. It’s why no other state is doing what we are doing. We have now a $2-billion investment, $2-billion-dollar 21st century jobs fund. I proposed it, pushed it through the legislature, and signed it into law. It will allow us to invest in companies that are going to come to Michigan and grow in Michigan and most importantly, hire people in Michigan in four emerging areas—areas that build on our strengths—areas like advanced manufacturing, or homeland security and defense, life sciences and my personal favorite, alternative energy. Just to give you an example of this, in the first round of funding, this is a multi-year deep-and-broad program. In the first round of funding, sixty-one companies decided that they’re going to come to Michigan or grow in these areas—companies that are doing amazing and marvelous things. In fact, since our emphasis has been on alternative energy, you know I hope anybody who sees this great mitten, knows anyone who lives here knows that our sectors are perfectly aligned to have Michigan be the state that breaks the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil. So in the past nine months, nine ethanol or biodiesel plants have announced that they are coming to Michigan to produce the fuels the biofuels that will power the engines. We’ve got the agricultural sector, we’ve got forestry which can be used in producing biofuels. We’ve got a university system that is second to none. And now we’ve got companies that are coming here that build the engines and that will produce the jobs that will keep our young people here. This is one of the things we are doing to create jobs for the future. This first round of funding created 3000 jobs and the second round will be before the end of this year.

SG: Mr. DeVos?

DD: The Governor keeps talking about plans but it’s been four years. And we’ve gone backward not forward. Why is it, why is it that this family should believe that the next four years will be better? This has been a pattern. This has been a consistent pattern from this governor—promises and then nothing happens. We see discussion. Back to early on. This even goes back to earlier than that, it goes back to 1994, when the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility was having serious problems with physical & sexual abuse. And when this governor was then part of the Wayne county management team—there were reports—that the governor said we’re gonna fix it. Seven weeks, it’s gonna be fixed. It didn’t get fixed. Promises, no results. Said a year-and-a-half, now we’ve got the economy on track, back in January, after taking office. It’s four years later. We need a change—a businessperson in the governor’s office, new hope for your family.

JG: We need the right kind of change in the governor’s office. And this is why this economic plan that we have set in motion is second to none. Our economy has been 100 years in the making. You can’t flip a switch and change it overnight. These changes have to be short term, medium term, and long term. This 21st Century Jobs Fund will transform our future. Five-hundred companies applied for the first round of funding— 500 companies who wanted to come to Michigan and grow in Michigan and hire people in Michigan in those four areas of emerging sectors. The transformation is beginning.

SG: Mike, you have the next question and it goes to Mr. DeVos.

MW: Let’s talk some more about the environment, Mr. DeVos. Michigan right now spends about $20billion/million dollars a year or 5%, environmental groups tell us, of the state’s economy is spent on fossil fuels from other states and other countries. If elected, as 21 other states have already signed on, would you support requiring 20% of all electricity to come from home-grown renewable energy sources like wind, solar and clean biofuels? Would you support conservation rules for new homes and buildings that they also use 10% less energy, as many of these other states have already signed on to?

DD: Well Mike I think that what you’re talking about is absolutely the direction we need to go. We have got to reduce our requirement of our fossil fuels, and our use of fossil fuels and expand alternative energy. And we can’t do it fast enough. And that’s why I am a great supporter of alternative energy. That’s why we need to move more quickly on ethanol. You know, we’re already behind? You know, I hear the conversation, again, once again, more talk from the governor, but did you realize that Illinois produces four times as much ethanol as we do in Michigan? Do you realize that Minnesota has eight times the number of ethanol production facilities that we do in Michigan? We’re already being beat to the punch. We have a lot of work to be done. Our electricity rates in this state are too high. They need to come down. We’ve got work to do, to make sure that renewable energy, that renewable energy is a part, and that we establish a clear goal and I’ll be happy to work toward that goal of 20% being a part of what we nee to do to make it renewable and to sustain Michigan’s future. But our citizens our citizens right now are paying too much for the current energy they have, and we can’t ask them to keep digging deeper, because we can’t get policies in place to be able to reduce energy cost. The governor doesn’t have a plan. There’s a commission now established and that commission is going to report out in a year about what the energy plan will be after four years. We’re gonna find out what that plan looks like. I’m hopeful that there will be a plan. I don’t know that I’ll be able to support the plan but I certainly hope that we’ll at least have one. We need a plan for our future.

JG: A state energy plan is now being produced by our public service commission and it will require renewable portfolio standard, which is what you’re describing, the reliance upon renewable fuels. When you do that, you can create demand, and therefore you can invite businesses who produce that kind of energy to be part of Michigan’s economy. That’s one of the areas that we are going to diversify in. Let me give you a quick example, In Greenville, Michigan, I started to say this during the last debate… Electrolux went to Mexico where they could pay $1.57 an hour under NAFTA. But what I said is we’re gonna replace those jobs and bring in companies that will allow us to create jobs for the 21st Century. So a great company called United Solar Ovoniocs has decided to put it’s first, second, and then build their third fourth fifth sixth plants all in Greenville Michigan. Montcalm Community College is going to be training the workers in Greenville to take on those jobs, those high-end manufacturing jobs. And of course solar panels are one way of course of focusing on renewable fuels. Very exciting as an opportunity for us as a state to create jobs and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

SG: I have the next question; it’s for Governor Granholm, again, another email. This is from Dennis and Diane Heferen of Bellevue—very concerned about illegal immigrants getting welfare, free medical care, and education in Michigan. They’re also really upset about illegal immigrants getting Michigan drivers licenses. Carolyn Jensen of Battle Creek asks: Will you support stiffer penalties and even criminal charges for those employers who hire illegal immigrants, and those immigrants who use false documentation to get jobs in Michigan?

JG: Clearly we’ve got… I’m a former law enforcement officer in the state of Michigan as Attorney General. And we are a nation of laws and we have to enforce the laws. And so enforcement again those employers who are hiring unlawful immigrants is certainly one way of doing that. We also know that this debate is going on, on a national level. On a federal level they just got permission to build a wall. I support that. I also support a sensible pathway to citizenship so that those who are here aren’t penalized but that in fact they end up having a pathway to citizenship. Not amnesty, but making sure that people who are here can earn their way to become a citizen of the United States. Many people know that I came to this country when I was three, four years old as a child, from Canada, and I greatly respect immigrants and those who choose to become members of our great country. And there’s nothin—I can’t tell you how incredibly powerful it was for me as Governor when I took the oath and swore allegiance–not as Governor, but when I became a citizen—when I was 21 years old and swore allegiance to this country. It was a very powerful experience and I don’t want to deny that to people who earn their way there. But you’ve gotta earn your way and you’ve gotta do it in a legal and documented way.

SG: Mr. DeVos?

DD: The question of penalties for hiring? Absolutely. Organizations that hire illegal immigrants uh, need to be dealt with and need to be dealt with firmly. Uh, as well as false documentation. If you’re here in this country illegally; it is a problem. It is a problem that we must solve. And that’s why I do support the efforts to secure our borders. We have to do a better job. And we have to do a better job of making sure that our communities are safe. And if we’re going to pursue these claims and these problems we’re gonna need more officers to be able to do that. Under this governor’s leadership, we’ve seen less than, we’ve seen a reduction of the number of police officers. Thirteen-hundred less police officers in Michigan today than when this governor took office. Under her watch, 1300 less officers available to do the duty and to make sure that our communities are safe, and make sure that the laws of this great country and this great state are supported . And most importantly, that our children and our citizens are safe.

JG: The Bush administration eliminated 10,000 police officers across the nation. Michigan took its hit when it eliminated the community policing program. But it is also true that when I got into this office I inherited a $4-billion budget deficit. I’ve had to resolve more budget deficits than any governor in the history of Michigan. It’s also true that when my opponent proposes a tax scheme that eliminates $2-billion from the state budget that you’re gonna se a lot more problems with respect to law enforcement and public safety if that hole is not filled. And I ask my opponent to explain how he would fill that hole.

SG: Do you want to give him the extra time to explain?

JG: Sure! I would be happy to.

DD: Sure, absolutely. I’ve explained it numerous times, Governor and I’m pleased that you are going to be listening. At the same time, I’ll be grateful for your explanation of where the $4-billion and how you.. where the $4 billion came from. Because I’m kind of an old-school guy, my math says that when you started, the budget was 39, now it’s 42, plus. That’s more not less. So I’m kinda curious about the cuts. I’ve never been able to quite figure it out. On the SBT, what I’ve said is very clearly: get rid of the SBT. It’s a bad tax. And then replace it. Replace at least half of it with a progressive tax that’s either corporate income based or that is going to be gross receipts based or a combination. Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber have put forward ideas about exactly how to get that done and get rid of SBT. Now I know you support SBT and want to keep with SBT, but I think we need to replace it.

JG: Alright, now you’ve got to let me respond, don’t you?

SG: Okay, how many rebuttals do we want here?

GG: I know. I know you’ve got to control it, but for him to say that I support the SBT is wrong. I’m the first person who has a plan to replace the SBT. I believe you just said you would cut half of it. Half of the Single Business Tax?

DD: I would replace at least half of it.

JG: Half. So now you’re talking about a billion-dollar budget deficit to a state that has already resolved, yes, $ 4-billion in budget deficits. There have been more federal money that has come in, for other funds, but as you may know, the general fund of the state is different, and the general fund has resolved $4-billion dollars worth of budget deficits. So I’d like to know how you’re going to fill that billion dollar hole without hurting individuals.

SG: We’re going to have to wait and include it in another response. Devin, you have the next question and it is for Mr. DeVos.

DS: Mr. DeVos, abortion law isn’t always germane to a gubernatorial race. You’ve talked before about living into the law of the land, and you told me several months ago that abortion law wasn’t the reason why you were running for governor, but we have seen renewed momentum to overturn Roe vs. Wade in this country, most recently under the pen of the South Dakota Governor. If a bill came to your desk that would place further limits on a woman’s right to receive an abortion in Michigan, would you sign it?

DD: Devin, I’m comfortable with the laws that we have in Michigan, and I see no change. In fact, I opposed, when there was a proposal, a petition initiative that was in this state that was going to change the law around in this state, I actually opposed that legislation. Our current laws are quite sufficient. I’m on the Pro-Life side of this debate, everybody I think in Michigan knows that today, but there are people of conscience on both sides of this very, very challenging issue and our current laws as it relates to abortion, as it relates to abortion in Michigan, are sufficient. I would say that with one exception, and that exception is this: We should be banning partial birth abortion. A terrible procedure, a terrible procedure that allows for a child that could be very late term, could be very sustainable outside the womb, to be terminated, to be killed. I just think that is completely unacceptable in Michigan. And the governor vetoed that legislation to change that. I would have signed that legislation. I just don’t think a procedure like that is something that should exist in Michigan, in fact, the vast majority of people in Michigan agree with me on that particular problem.

DS: Just so we’re clear, apart from that, you’re telling your Pro-Life colleagues in Michigan that if a bill were to come to you that would further limit abortion in Michigan, you wouldn’t sign it?

DD: The bills, the laws that exist in Michigan are sufficient. Thank you.

GG: I find it curious because my opponent has said that he doesn’t believe that there should be an exception for abortion even in the case of rape or incest. I, too, would ban partial birth abortion if there were an exception for the life and the health of the mother. That’s what the Supreme Court has stated would be constitutional. The bill that came to my desk was not constitutional. My opponent also does not support embryonic stem cell research, and I think that we need to do embryonic stem cell research in order to find cures for people with Alzheimer’s, or with Juvenile Diabetes, or with spinal chord injuries. I think that it is important if you do not clone embryos for the purpose of doing the research, but it’s limited to those embryos that would be discarded, it’s important to allow that kind of life-sustaining, Pro-Life research to go on.

SG: Do you have a response, Mr. DeVos?

DD: Yes, the Governor needs to remember that the Governor’s not the Governor…the Governor is the Governor and not the Judiciary. If it’s not constitutional, then that’s something the judges should decide. The governor should decide if it’s good policy or not and should make a decision. Partial birth abortion is just unacceptable in this state and it should be eliminated, and many of us have great concern about the use of human embryos for scientific research. We have grave concerns about it. We need to work on stem cell research with adult stem cells. We can all agree on that.

SG: Rick, you have the next question, and it is for Governor Granholm.

RA: The question would go for both of you, of course. In the last debate, each of you complained about the other’s career, about other’s decisions that have been made over the course of the years—and some of them went to accountability and leadership, and that’s fair game in the Governor’s race—but here’s the question for both of you: In this race for Governor, is the right tone being set? We’ve heard so much about negative ads and about negative comments. Are the people of Michigan really being served by this kind of a campaign? Or should voters be able to decide on merit instead of mudslinging?

JG: I..I love this question, Rick, because it allows me to jump up and say we need to talk about our economic plans to move this state forward. And that’s why I…I…want you to know that this economic plan that I have…has a continual improvement of the business climate, including reducing permitting, which we have done by 66-percent…the time that it takes to get a permit in Michigan, by 66-percent…Mike, you’ll love this, the Center For Digital Government, because of our putting permitting online and streamlining government, just awarded Michigan as the most digitally-friendly state in the nation for the second year in a row. To continue to reduce taxes for businesses but make it a pro-growth pro competitive business tax rates that is fair. Our Michigan Jobs and Investment Act that I have online you can find, to make sure that we retrain the workers who have been the victims of this global economy. I mention Montcalm Community College as training those workers in Greenville for the jobs that the United Solar Ovonics plant is coming in. We’ve divided the state into 13 different regions. In each of those regions, we have canvassed the employers. We’ve learned that despite having a 7.1 percent unemployment rate we have 250,000, excuse me, 90,000 vacancies in the state of Michigan today that are largely in two areas, again broadly speaking in health care and skilled trades. In each of those areas, we are teaming up with community colleges, with our Michigan Works agency, to do short term training and certification, and placing people in vacancies.

Last year, we placed 107,000 people in vacancies…revolutionizing workforce training. It’s also about education, which is why we have installed these high expectations for high school. High schoolers now in Michigan—wherever they are—will now be required to have four years of math, three years of science—whole array of high standards, which is why we to get every family to know that we have a $4,000 scholarship for every child in the state of Michigan. It’s why we’re speeding up road projects to put 40,000 people to work building and re-building our roads in this state right now, which is why I appreciate chance to be able to say that this should be about the issues and I’m glad to be able to speak about them.

DD: I too, agree that we need to be discussing the issues and I would welcome that discussion. I’ve spent a lot of time in this new campaign talking about who I am and introducing myself to the people of Michigan and then the shells began to drop to divert and distract the people of Michigan from the real issues. So we do need to talk about these issues. And I’ve put forward a very specific plan— DeVos for—65 pages, 134 specific ideas of how it is that we can build this economy in this state and how we can get Michigan turned around again and how a business person in the Governor’s Office can make a real and meaningful difference. And I’ve talked about some of those things. Getting rid of the Single Business Tax, and 30-day-permitting…60 days isn’t enough. We’ve got to be the leader in time and moving forward. More foreign offices selling Michigan-made products around the world. We have much to do. Why should we believe that the next four years will be any different because we haven’t changed leadership. We need new leadership and we need a change in this state…if we want to change direction. We are running out of time. So if I may, I would like to offer up one last question and just take 30 seconds each…umm, but we don’t have time for a last question…OK. Dick DeVos, because of the coin toss you will have to do the first closing statement.

DD: Well, thank you very much Suzanne, and to our panelists, and to the Governor…uhh, grateful for our listeners as well. You know, Michigan has a very serious question and a very serious situation. I mean, let’s just review the facts. The facts are that Michigan has the worst employment in the country. The facts are that Michigan has the worst real estate market for homes in the country. The fact is that Michigan has the worst jobs climate in the country. You know, I, our kids are leaving, parents and grandparents tell me all over the state that their kids are leaving and we actually have more personal bankruptcies in Michigan than we do college graduates—all under this Governor’s term—all while this Governor was on duty. You know, if I was head of a company and I had these kinds of results, I’d be gone by now. That’s just the reality. You know, many of us have been in this tough spot that the people of Michigan are in today. You know, we know somebody…there’s maybe a member of our team or someone we have a relationship with, or someone that we work with…someone that we just know isn’t getting it done. It’s not personal, but we know they’re not getting the job done, and it’s time to make a change. We have to sever the relationship and move on. So I suggest to the people of Michigan that—unfortunately—we have to fire the Governor— and head in a new direction. We need a change in this state. The people of Michigan deserve a change in this state. And I hope that in four years as your Governor, I hope you’ll hold me accountable to those same high standards: to be sure that we get results for the people of Michigan. Maybe a question that will help to guide your decision: Are you better off than you were four years ago? If the answer is no; it’s time for a change and I’m ready…to go to work…for you.

SG: Governor?

JG: Thank you. We have a lot of differences, my opponent and I. I guess the question for him would be: Is he better off than he was four years ago? My guess is he is. Because he is somebody that supported the unfair trade agreements that put Michigan into this mess in the first place. He is somebody who lobbied for them, who benefits from them when he was head of Amway, who eliminated jobs in this state and invested overseas to create jobs there. That is not leadership for Michigan. Nobody doubts that Michigan’s economy is challenged. Nobody doubts the statistics about where our employment rate is. The question is, why? And who is the best person to lead us out? My opponent, and believe me, if you think, for example, that it’s a good thing to shift public tax dollars to private schools and religious schools, then perhaps you should vote for my opponent. But if you believe that your public tax dollars should stay in public education, then I would ask for your vote. If you believe that the Governor of Michigan should be somebody who has lobbied for these unfair trade agreements that have hurt communities all over Michigan where we’ve seen our jobs go on a slow boat to China, or on the Internet to India, or on a fast track to Mexico…if you think that’s all right, then perhaps Dick DeVos is your man. But if you think that a Governor should stand up for fair trade and not unfair trade…if you think a Governor should stand up, yes, even to the President to insist that we have trade agreements that are not a one-way street, that we have jobs in this state, then I would ask for your vote. In fact, this economic plan that I’ve described in part tonight—we didn’t get all the way through it – has resulted in the planting of seeds across this state, the planting of seeds has sprouted plants, whether it’s the U.P. Agricultural Solutions or the expansion of United Solar Ovonics or…or…or Toyota, or Google, or Whirlpool…you name it, we have been working all over and there’s more to be done, believe me, and I will not stop. That’s why I’m going to go anywhere and do anything to bring jobs to this state.

SG: Time, Governor.

JG: I ask for your vote.

Granholm and DeVos Debate for the First Time

Last night, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and the Republican candidate, Dick DeVos, held their first debate. For those who missed the debate, it is available online. For the most part, Governor Granholm was far more prepared and professional than Dick DeVos, who seemed nervous and evasive. As always, we encourage our readers to watch the debate and decide for themselves, but there were two somewhat useful analyses posted on the web today:

Unfortunately, as is frequently the case with debates, the coverage both in the corporate press and in the “blogosphere” has been highly partisan and generally lacks substance.

Gubernatorial Television Spending Passes $26 Million

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) released new numbers today showing that television advertising in Michigan’s gubernatorial race has reached $26 million. As has been the case throughout the election, Republican Dick DeVos has spent the most money with the DeVos for Governor campaign spending nearly $18 million on television advertising with 80% of that money coming from DeVos’ own fortune. The Granholm for Governor campaign has spent nearly $2.5 million with the Michigan Democratic Party spending another $5.5 million on “issue ads” in support of her campaign. According to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, “Michigan voters have been subjected to an unprecedented barrage of shallow messages designed to drive an emotional reaction to the candidates” and that “it remains to be seen whether voters will be shown enough depth to make a thoughtful choice on Election Day.”

Pre-Campaign Gubernatorial Television Ad Spending Reaches $16.7 million

The gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat Jennifer Granholm and Republican Dick DeVos have spent a total of $16.7 million on television advertising through August 31. The Dick DeVos for Governor campaign has spent $12.8 million on advertising since mid-February, with DeVos being the source of 80% of his campaign funds. The Jennifer Granholm campaign spent $469,000 for a series of ads near the August primary and the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee has spent $3.5 million since early June. The Michigan Democratic Party ad campaign’s funding sources are undisclosed as they are running ads that define the two candidates but not making explicit references to the November election, thereby bypassing disclosure laws. Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the group that conducted the research, describe the ad campaigns as “…dueling marketing campaigns of one exceptionally wealthy individual against anonymous persons and interest groups.”

In the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo combined market, DeVos has spent $2,376,045 dollars while the Granholm campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party have spent $97,580 and $795,275.

DeVos Spending More on Television Advertising in Michigan Gubernatorial Race than any Previous Candidate

Republican Dick DeVos’ Michigan gubernatorial campaign has broken the record for the most television advertising spending in a gubernatorial race in the state according to data released this month by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The $5.4 million spent by DeVos thus far is equal to what presidential candidate George W. Bush spent in the state by this point in the 2004 election.

Republican candidate for governor Dick DeVos has spent more money on television advertising than any previous candidate for governor in Michigan according to the non-partisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The Dick DeVos for Governor campaign committee has already spent $5.4 million on television advertising, despite the fact that the traditional campaign season does not begin for three months. Already, the DeVos and Granholm campaigns have raised and spent more money than any gubernatorial campaign committees in Michigan’s history according to MCFN Executive Director Rich Robinson. In the 2004 presidential election, candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry had spent $5.4 million and $3.9 million on television advertisements in the state. The Grand Rapids market—where DeVos is well known—has been the second most targeted area for advertisements. The data was collected by the MCFN in a review of the public files of 28 commercial broadcasters in the state and Comcast’s central office. While the numbers accurately reflect the amount DeVos has spent on purchasing airtime, they do not track the amount that he has spent on actually producing the advertisements.

The advertisements run thus far by the DeVos campaign, according to information compiled by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy’s Election Watch 2006 effort have featured minimal details and a host of unsubstantiated claims. Viewers hear ads that claim DeVos is a “job-maker,” that he “turned around” Amway/Alticor, and that he was instrumental in the revival of downtown. However great these claims may be, little information has been given in the advertisements to prove that he is a “job maker,” to explain how he “turned around” Amway/Alticor in light of the layoff of 1,300 workers in Michigan in 2000, or his role in construction projects funded in part by his father, Richard DeVos. Other advertisements run by DeVos have made claims that he wants to make Michigan friendlier to businesses by doing things such as eliminating the Small Business Tax, although no details are given about how he plans to achieve any of these goals. Unfortunately, according to election coverage in the local media that has also been monitored by GRIID, neither the broadcast media nor the print media have provided the type of coverage necessary to fully understand the positions of either Dick DeVos or governor Jennifer Granholm.

Spending totals for Dick DeVos for Governor through June 1, 2006:

Detroit: $2,355,080

Grand Rapids / Kalamazoo: $960,995

Lansing: $643,681

Flint / Tri-Cities: $453,745

Northern Lower Peninsula: $415,586

Western Upper Peninsula: $142,455

Cable: $428,195

While polling data should always be viewed with a healthy amount of suspicion, the most recent polling data places DeVos and Granholm in a “statistical dead heat.”

Commentary: Imagine if Election Coverage was like Professional Wrestling

Jeff Smith’s latest column, “Imagine if Election Coverage was like Professional Wrestling”, has been posted in the commentary section of the website. In it, Jeff looks at Michigan’s gubernatorial race and the similarities between it and the WWE:

What if the electoral process was more like the WWE? You know on second thought it kind of is. No, really. Let’s think about this for a second. First, there is all the hype around the elections. Granholm vs DeVos, the Rumble in Michigan. Political commentators and pundits have been beating this drum for some time and it is only going to get better or worse, depending on where you sit in the audience. DeVos began running paid political ads in February, the earliest ever for a Governor’s race in Michigan. Granholm’s campaign responded by putting out a call to supporters for money so that they “can tell the truth about Dick DeVos and his wrong priorities for Michigan. Make the largest contribution you can today so that we can spread the truth immediately.” OK, so the paid political ads are just promo spots to either slam the opponent or to generate good ratings, right? This is exactly what professional wrestling does. “I’m gonna crush my opponent. He has been deceiving you, but I’m gonna expose him for what he really is.

Read “Imagine if Election Coverage was like Professional Wrestling

Granholm, Democrats, Tout Minimum Wage Increase

At a stop in Grand Rapids last night, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and local Democrats touted the recent passage of an increase in Michigan’s minimum wage while encouraging organized labor to continue to support the Democratic Party.

Last night at the Kent Ionia Labor Council, Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm celebrated the passage of the first increase in the state’s minimum wage in nine years. During her brief speech, which was delivered to a standing room only crowd, Granholm touted the increase in the minimum wage as a significant improvement to workers in the state of Michigan.

Granholm, who stated that she wanted to increase Michigan’s minimum wage in her 2006 State of the State address, said that the increase not only offered help to Michigan’s low-wage workers, but that it would also provide a boost to the economy. Granholm said that the increase puts money into the hands of those who spend it the most while describing minimum wage workers as a group that contained many taking care of families while working jobs in day care, elder care, and in the service industry. She stated that the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour meant that minimum wage earners made $5,000 below the poverty line and that the increase will give minimum wage earners an extra $288 per month. Earlier in the evening’s program, Shanon Faust, who worked with ACORN on the ballot campaign, described how she earned the minimum wage while taking care of two children as a single parent and that she did not make enough to cover what she has to spend on childcare. Faust also highlighted the fact that the money will not go into savings accounts but will be spent by those struggling to get by in low-wage jobs.

Granholm also talked about the need to stand up for “American jobs” and described how she believes international trade agreements need to be enforced to protect American jobs. She described NAFTA and CAFTA as “giving workers the SHAFT-A” and went on to state that she believes that workers “need a tiger at the World Trade Organization (WTO), not a pussycat” that will “stand up for jobs.” The statements, a clear appeal to the working people present, did not address how the WTO functions against workers around the world, nor were her comments made in a manner that moved beyond protectionism to statements of true solidarity between workers suffering under the neoliberal economic model of the WTO, who are all suffering regardless of nationality. Campaigners against the WTO have argued that it exists primarily for the benefit of multinational corporations and is essential to the functioning of global capitalism, yet Granholm’s advocacy of a stronger US role in the WTO displayed a lack of understanding of an institution designed to facilitate the profits of corporations operating within the so-called global “north” and “west” at the expense of those living in the global “south.” Granholm also expressed support for the so-called “mystery development” project in Grand Rapids because it would bring jobs to Grand Rapids in a brief statement to Mayor Heartwell.

Throughout the evening, various elected officials and candidates affiliated with the Democratic Party, encouraged the attendees—many of whom were affiliated with organized labor—to support the Democratic Party exclusively in upcoming elections. Kevin Kotos, who is running against Pete Hoekstra in Michigan’s 2nd District, told the audience that “we need to work to have a future” and that with Republicans in office, working people and the Democrats will have no future. He went on to state that “Democrats stand for prosperity, don’t forget it,” foreshadowing a common argument during the night that by voting Democratic labor, progressives, and environmental activists win along with the entire state. This theme was repeatedly echoed by candidates who stated that “we need to urge everyone to vote Democratic and we all win” while describing the minimum wage increase, endorsed by Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm but passed largely due to the pressure of a grassroots coalitions, as a victory for the Democratic Party. David LaGrand, a Michigan Senate candidate for the 29th District, said that the wage increase “shows the power of the Democratic Party” and said that he counts the wage increase as the first victory of his campaign. Strategies to increase the Democratic Party’s presence in both the state and federal governments were briefly mentioned, with County Commissioner Paul Mayhue arguing that Democrats need to put aside their differences and that they should not be afraid to say “God” or “Jesus” and that they need to reintroduce religion into their politics.

There was no discussion of the decision to call off the ballot campaign during the evening, despite the fact that significant differences exist between the measure signed by Granholm and that advocated by the campaign. Similarly, beyond the minimum wage, little was said in terms of specifics about how Democrats will improve the condition of working people in Michigan, a question that remains open considering the fact that the minimum wage stagnated for 9 years in the state and that governor Jennifer Granholm advocated not only the continued existence of flawed international trade agreements, but advocated that the United States’ take on a stronger role within such trade agreements. While the Democrats touted the minimum wage increase, an increase won due to grassroots pressure, they advocated a traditional electoral strategy instead of a more innovative approach that could have included independent grassroots organizing efforts, which with the success of the minimum wage increase, seem to offer the potential to win real victories.