Grand Rapids Charter Township News

What’s New with the 616 PAC?

Four years ago I filed a complaint with the Michigan State Department of Elections alleging campaign violations from Bill Jackson’s 616 PAC.  You can see the details in earlier posts.

For some reason, the process has been remarkably slow.  I occasionally ask the department for an update, but they generally don’t respond.  However, interesting documents keep showing up on the Department of Elections web site.

A March 30, 2016 letter from the state pointed out suspicious elements in previous 616 PAC filings:

The 616 PAC’s response was to refile and claim the expenses were other than I think they were.

We shall see if anything ever happens to resolve my complaint.

What Can One Say about the 616 PAC?


It’s hard to know what to say about the 616 PAC. Bill Jackson who runs it seems remarkably lackadaisical about following the law.  My complaint, evidenced in earlier posts, is still outstanding.  I’ve talked with the Michigan Department of Elections staff, who inform me that he simply doesn’t respond to their requests.

Meanwhile, he also doesn’t believe in filing the necessary reports.  Recently he received a second notice with a $250 penalty for failing to file timely reports.

The whole electronic paper trail is available on the state Department of Elections site.

I shall report on any future developments.

The Mills of Government Grind Slowly for the 616 PAC


Back in 2012 I made an interesting but entirely unsuccessful effort to win a seat on the Grand Rapids Township Board.  The incumbent trustees found it unnecessary to do much, if any campaigning, depending on the work of Bill Jackson’s 616 PAC.

At the time it seemed to me that the 616 PAC had played rather flexibly with the Michigan campaign finance laws, providing more support for the incumbent trustees than was legally allowed.  I filed a complaint with the Bureau of Elections in Lansing.

They have moved with less than haste to resolve my concern. Initially they assessed a $500 penalty for filing an inaccurate financial report.

About ten months after my initial complaint the Bureau of Elections made a preliminary conclusion that the 616 PAC had indeed violated the law, sending this letter dated September 20, 2013:

In the eleven months since, nothing further has happened.  I check with the Bureau of Elections occasionally, and am told that “the conciliation process is still ongoing” with regards to my complaint.

I’ll post the eventual outcome of my complaint, whatever it may be.

616 PAC Doesn’t Pay Its Fine


Back on March 4, I noted that the 616 PAC, which supported the re-election of the four incumbent Grand Rapids Township Trustees in the August 2012 primary, had been assessed a $500 penalty for faulty reporting.  It doesn’t seem to have paid the penalty, as indicated by the following document from the Michigan Secretary of State’s web site.

The 616 PAC is also in some difficulty for possibly spending more than the legally permissible amount to support the election of the incumbent trustees — but I will post on that once the Department of Elections has reached its conclusions.

New Grand Rapids Township Website — A Start


Eight months later than originally announced, the new Grand Rapids Township website is finally up.  Jan Holst has the details in a Cadence article.

It is an improvement over the previous version, but so far the changes are largely cosmetic.  For example, the agendas and minutes are still so lacking in detail as to be useless.  Take a look at the website for neighboring Cascade Township.   The full documents township boards and commissions will consider are available on-line before the meetings.  I hope that once the Grand Rapids Township staff gets used to the new site, they will take the simple steps that will help citizens know what is going on.

616 PAC Fined $500 for Campaign Violation

The 616 Political Action Committee, which funded the campaigns of the incumbent trustees in the August 2012 Grand Rapids Township primary has been fined $500 for faulty campaign reporting.  The PAC is headed by Bill Jackson, a lobbyist who works for Trustee Rusty Merchant’s law firm.

All of the various documents are available on the Secretary of State web site:

I also think that the committee overspent the legally permitted amount in funding the campaign. Funneling campaign contributions through a PAC allowed the incumbents to make larger contributions to the PAC than they would have been able to spend on their individual campaigns.  Under the law, a candidate who spends less than $1,000 is exempt from most reporting requirements.  Several of the incumbents donated more than that amount to the 616 PAC. Clicking on the document below will bring up a full-sized copy.

The 616 PAC Files Dubious Statements

I got rather soundly trounced in August primary for Grand Rapids Township trustee.  The four incumbents were supported by the 616 PAC, a political action committee that is rather loose in meeting the requirements of the Michigan Campaign Finance Law.  PACs are required to file financial reports.  The material for the 616 PAC is available here.

Although the PAC spent significant sums to elect the seven incumbents, the original required July and October financial statements showed no contributions and no expenditures, a rather surprising situation.
I asked the 616 PAC treasurer Bill Jackson for an explanation.  He never replied, but some weeks later amended statements were filed showing both significant contributions and expenses.  These are available on the Secretary of State website linked to above.
The reports show that  all but one of the existing trustees contributed to fund their re-election, a quite reasonable thing to do assuming they are supporting a PAC that follows the law.  Trustees David VanDyke and Robert Roth each contributed $3,000 to the 616 PAC.  Lee VanPopering and Michael DeVries gave $500.   Chris Afendoulis and Edward Robinette (whose name is misspelled in the report) gave $250.  Rusty Merchant is the only trustee who apparently did not contribute.
If I  understand the Michigan campaign finance law correctly (and I may be wrong), the 616 PAC was limited to $2000 to support the four incumbents.  It spent $7500.  I’ve asked for more details, which I will post here if I get them, but it looks to me as if the 616 PAC violated Michigan law in financing the campaign to re-elect the incumbent trustees.


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