Gubernatorial air war: $47.6 million

Three-fourths of ad spending not reported to the State

LANSING - Television advertising for Michigan's 2014 gubernatorial campaign ran to $47.6 million, gross sales. That total for TV spending in a Michigan gubernatorial campaign ranks second, all time, to the $54 million spent in the 2006 campaign between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Dick DeVos.

This year's campaign did establish a new record for spending by nominally independent committees: $36.6 million. That is double the previous record of $18 million from the 2006 campaign.

The candidates' accounted for just 23 percent of TV spending in this year's campaign. Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign spent $7.7 million and Mark Schauer's campaign spent $3.3 million.

The biggest spenders were the two partisan national governors associations. The Democratic Governors Association spent $15.4 million supporting Mark Schauer, while the Republican Governors Association spent $10.4 million backing Gov. Snyder.

The other television advertisers supporting Gov. Snyder were Independence USA PAC, $2.7 million, and the Michigan Republican Party, $5.7 million.

Independence USA PAC is a federal superPAC that is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The other television advertisers supporting Mark Schauer were the National Education Association, $1.45 million, the Michigan Nurses Association, $180,000, and Workers' Voice for Michigan, $691,000.

Workers' Voice is a state superPAC funded by Union Privilege, an entity whose address is the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC. It was the only one of the non-candidate television sponsors that reported any spending for television to the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

The State of Michigan does not require independent committees that sponsor advertisements about state candidates to disclose their activity unless their communication includes an explicit exhortation to vote for, or against, a candidate. Merely defining a candidate's suitability to hold office is not considered to be a campaign expenditure.

"The notion of campaign accountability in Michigan is a total sham," said Rich Robinson of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "Just one-quarter of all TV spending in our gubernatorial campaign will be reported to the State of Michigan."

"The reason that matters is that transparency is inoculation against corruption. When there is no record of who is spending all those millions of dollars, there is no way to evaluate when considerations given to secret donors cross the line to the unethical or illegal."

"Michigan is the dark money capital of American politics," Robinson said.

Records of the gubernatorial campaign television advertising were compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network from the public files of state broadcasters and cable systems. Adjusted estimates from the Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) were used for those stations that withheld records of "issue" advertising about the candidates.

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