By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING (Oct. 26, 2018) — New fundraising disclosures help reveal that at least $75 million has now made its way into Michigan’s 2018 race for governor, with the Democratic candidate leading in fundraising over the past two months.
Republican Bill Schuette, the state’s current attorney general, from Midland, reported Friday that he raised about $2.4 million during the most recent reporting period, from Aug. 28 through Oct. 21. Over that same time period, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the former Senate minority leader from East Lansing, reported raising about $4.0 million.
But the candidates’ own fundraising and spending is only a portion of the money flowing to the race for governor this fall.
Other groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money outside of the candidates’ campaigns have poured in huge amounts ‒ about $23.5 million more into the race since the primary election.
Michigan’s most expensive campaign for governor occurred in 2006. The battle between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and businessman Dick DeVos, who put about $35 million of his own money into his campaign, cost about $79 million. But that was a far different race from the 2018 one, making direct comparisons difficult.
One, the 2006 race occurred 12 years ago under a different campaign-finance system. Second, the 2006 race didn’t include competitive primary elections. In 2018, the primary races helped drive up the overall cost. One primary candidate, Democrat Shri Thanedar, put $10 million of his own money into his campaign.
The following is a summary of the money in the 2018 race for governor and where some of it is coming from.
— Since her campaign launched, Whitmer has raised about $12.2 million, including in-kind contributions and public financing she received in the primary. Her top donors include the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, which gave $100,000, and a series of PACs that have given the maximum they can give to a candidate: $68,000. In the last two months, Whitmer has received $68,000 from the Blue Cross Blue Shield PAC, the League of Conservation Voters PAC and the Operating Engineers Local 324 PAC, among others. Whitmer’s campaign reported having $885,794 cash available on Oct. 21.
— Schuette’s campaign has raised about $8.5 million since it launched, including in-kind contributions and public financing he received in the primary. On Oct. 21, the last day of the campaign-finance reporting period, he gave his own campaign $325,000. With that contribution, the campaign ended the period with $103,807 cash available, according to its disclosure. The Realtors PAC, the Michigan Farm Bureau PAC, and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce PAC have made maximum contributions of $68,000 to Schuette’s campaign.
— Bill Gelineau, a Libertarian from Grand Rapids, has raised $89,663. He has self-funded much of his campaign, giving $44,005. The Libertarian Party of Michigan gave $4,486.
— The biggest spender so far has been A Stronger Michigan, a political organization connected to the Democratic Governors Association. It’s been running positive ads about Whitmer and negative ads about Schuette. Because the group is a 527 political organization and its ads don’t tell viewers expressly how to vote, it’s been reporting its spending — $7.9 million as of Sept. 30 — to the Internal Revenue Service. Its top donors include the following: another 527, Progressive Advocacy Trust, ($1.5 million); the Democratic Governors Association ($1.5 million); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Special Account ($750,000); and Michigan Corrections Organization ($750,000).
— The Republican Governors Association has poured about $6.2 million into the race through two vehicles. A super PAC called RGA Michigan 2018 reported spending $4.7 million as of Oct. 20. A nonprofit tied to the RGA called State Solutions has aired an estimated $1.48 million in broadcast TV ads, according to an analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG ad-tracking data. State Solutions doesn’t have to disclose its donors. According to its fundraising disclosure, RGA Michigan 2018’s top donors include Pfizer Inc., which gave $250,000, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which gave $200,000, and Karen B. Wright, of the Ariel Corporation, who gave $189,999.
— Americans for Prosperity, a national conservative nonprofit organization, has reported spending $3.9 million in opposition to Whitmer. The group, which has previously received funding from the powerful, conservative-leaning Koch family, doesn’t have to disclose where its money comes from but has been reporting its spending to the Secretary of State through independent-expenditure filings.
— A variety of outside groups have combined to spend about $5.3 million as Oct. 20 to influence the race, according to disclosures. Their spending has often been for mailers, digital advertisement or campaign workers. The spenders include Conservation Voters of Michigan ($1.9 million), the Michigan Republican Party ($322,000) and the Michigan Planned Parenthood Voters Super PAC ($418,000).
— Driving up the fundraising numbers is Democrat Shri Thanedar, of Ann Arbor, whose campaign reported raising about $12.7 million. Of that, about $12.6 came from Thanedar himself. Thanedar paid himself back $2.3 million of the money he gave his campaign. That campaign raised a net total of about $10.4 million.
— Better Jobs, Stronger Families, a super PAC that supported Schuette, reported spending $2.5 million as of Oct. 20. Its top donors include Roger Penske and the Penske Corporation, which gave $385,000, the nonprofit Fund for Michigan’s Tomorrows, which gave $300,000, the nonprofit Better Jobs, Stronger Families Policy Solutions, which gave $275,000, and Kojaian Properties Inc., which gave $250,000. Both of the nonprofits don’t have to disclose where their money came from.
— As of Sept. 30, Build a Better Michigan, a 527 promoting Whitmer before the primary, had reported spending $2.4 million. That total doesn’t include money the group gave to A Stronger Michigan. Build a Better Michigan’s top donors include the following: Progressive Advocacy Trust, ($300,000); Michigan State Council SEIU ($300,000); American Federation of Teachers ($250,000); and the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club ($250,000).
Other outside groups involved in the primary spent about $3.3 million.