Gubernatorial air war: $19.2M - and counting

LANSING - Spending for television advertising about Michigan's gubernatorial candidates has reached $19.2 million with five weeks to go before Election Day. That figure represents gross sales.

The data were compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network from the public files of state broadcasters and cable systems. For the three state stations that refuse to publicly disclose contracts for "issue" advertisements about state candidates - WXYZ, ABC-7 in Detroit, WJBK, FOX-2 in Detroit and WZZM, ABC-13 in Grand Rapids - spending estimates from the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) were used in lieu of contract records. CMAG compiles records nationally on ad spending and spot counts.

Team Snyder - the campaign committee of incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican Governors Association - has spent $9.9 million through September 29th.

Team Schauer - Democratic challenger Mark Schauer's campaign committee, the Democratic Governors Association, the Michigan Nurses Association and the National Education Association - has spent $9.3 million.

Team Snyder has outspent Team Schauer in the Detroit and Grand Rapids media markets. Team Schauer has outspent Team Snyder in the state's remaining four media markets.

Gov. Snyder's campaign committee ramped up its spending in September with a robust advertising schedule statewide. Gov. Snyder's campaign and the Republican Governors Association have contracts in place every week in all markets for the remainder of the campaign.

Mr. Schauer's campaign advertised the last three weeks of August and it has been in hiatus since then. It will resume advertising statewide on October 7th and it has contracts in place for the last four weeks of the campaign. The Democratic Governors Association has advertised without interruption and it will continue to do so for the remainder of the campaign.

It is likely that total gubernatorial television advertising will exceed $30 million.

"These are typical of contemporary political campaigns," said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "Proxy groups that may, or may not, be operating independently of the candidates are doing the heavy lifting. It remains to be seen how accessible relevant records will be."

Both of the governors associations have organized state political action committees (PACs) but it is unclear whether the advertising Michiganders are seeing is being sponsored from those vehicles. The parent organizations are 527 committees that file their schedules of receipts and expenditures with the IRS, and it is probably more likely that those parent organizations will be paying the bills. The transparency shortcoming with that arrangement is that the Michigan activity will be impossible to differentiate from activity in a number of other states.

The total number of gubernatorial broadcast spots through September 29th is 28,078, according to CMAG. Spot counts by market are:

• Detroit: 8,382

• Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo: 9,144

• Lansing: 1,822

• Flint/Saginaw: 5,977

• Traverse City/Alpena: 1,943

• Marquette: 810

Spot counts for gubernatorial cable advertisements are unavailable.

This release has been corrected to say that total television spending for the gubernatorial campaign through September 29th is $19.2 million. It originally said that total spending was $19.3 million.

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