By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
Michigan lawmakers’ decision to double contribution limits in advance of the 2014 election ballooned campaign coffers by at least $6.3 million in contributions that previously would have been prohibited.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) analyzed thousands of contributions to candidates in the last election to determine how much money came in from donors above the state’s previous contribution caps. MCFN is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that works to shine light on the role of money in Michigan’s politics.
By analyzing contributions in 2014’s statewide races, the top five most expensive State Senate races and the top five most expensive State House races, MCFN identified $6.3 million in contributions that would have been impermissible under the old limits.
Gov. Rick Snyder, the Republican who signed the bill that doubled the campaign contribution limits in 2013, was by far the biggest beneficiary of the change in the 2014 election.
Snyder’s campaign for governor received about $2.1 million in contributions above the previous limits. Snyder collected contributions above the old limits from about 685 donors.
Snyder received more than $2 over the past limits for every $1 his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, received, the MCFN analysis found.
Schauer received $839,822 in campaign contributions that would have been prevented under the state’s past giving limits. Schauer had about 221 donors who surpassed the previous limits.
The $2.9 million in contributions added to the gubernatorial race because of the change was about 14.3 percent of the $20.3 million the candidates’ campaign committees raised for the election.
The bump from increased contribution limits was about 4.5 percent of the total of $64 million spent on the race including independent expenditures and unregulated TV ads. For statewide candidates, the limits went from $3,400 for a donation from an individual to $6,800 and from $34,000 from a political action committee (PAC) to $68,000. The limit for statewide political parties’ contributions to a statewide candidate went from $68,000 to $136,000.
For the 2014 election, Snyder’s campaign didn’t accept contributions from PACs while Schauer’s did. Schauer benefited from $68,000 contributions from the United Auto Workers’ voluntary PAC, the Service Employees International Union Local 79 PAC, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, the Communication Workers of America Action Committee, the Democratic Governors’ Association and an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees committee.
However, Snyder had a far larger array of individual donors who gave his campaign more than $3,400 each in the run-up to the 2014 election.
Other Statewide Races
Outside of the gubernatorial race, Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, was the top individual candidate to benefit from the increase in contribution limits.
Schuette received $477,755 over the state’s old giving limits. That’s about $9 for every $1 his Democratic opponent, Mark Totten, received over the former limits.Totten received just $50,400 over the old limits.
The new limits also allowed more money to flow into the Michigan Supreme Court races.
Justice Brian Zahra, a Republican nominee, received the most in contributions that exceeded the past limits at $171,743. Justice David Viviano, another Republican nominee, received $121,600. Justice Richard Bernstein, a Democratic nominee, received $88,775.
Unsuccessful Supreme Court candidates, James Robert Redford and William Murphy received $87,842 over the past limits and $72,007 over the past limits, respectively. Nominee Deborah Thomas saw no benefit from the increased limits.
In the Secretary of State race, the impact of the new giving limits was limited.
Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who won by 10-percentage points, received about $73,006 over the former limits while Democrat Godfrey Dillard received just $34,000 over the previous limits.
State House, Senate Caucus Committees See $1.5M More
The caucus PACs of the four state legislative caucuses received about $1.5 million in 2013 and 2014 that would not have been permitted under the state’s old giving restrictions.
Under the change, legislative caucus committees could receive $40,000 from a donor per year instead of $20,000.
The House Democratic Fund received about $548,500 beyond the old limits. The House Republican Campaign Committee received about $548,150. The Senate Republican Campaign Committee received $309,000. And the Senate Democratic Fund received $161,700.
The increase in contributions to the caucus PACs allowed them to provide greater supporter to their candidates.
Here’s a breakdown of how the increased contribution limits impacted the candidate committees specifically in five most expensive State Senate races:
— 20th Senate District: Winning candidate Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage) received $41,252 over the old limits while Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) received $76,382;
— 7th Senate District: Winning candidate Pat Colbeck (R-Canton) received $19,905 over the old limits while Dian Slavens (D-Canton) received $29,500;
— 32nd Senate District: Winning candidate Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) received $47,606 over the old limits while Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw) received $45,595;
— 17th Senate District: Winning candidate Dale Zorn (R-Ida) received $31,280 over the old limits while Doug Spade (D-Adrian) received $37,975;
— 34th Senate District: Winning candidate Goeff Hansen (R-Hart) received $27,700 over the old limits while Cathy Forbes (D-Hesperia) received $18,250;
Here’s a breakdown of how the increased contribution limits impacted candidate committees in the five most expensive State House races:
— 76th House District: Winning candidate Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) received $39,083 over the old limits while Donijo DeJonge (R-Grand Rapids) received $31,478;
— 91st House District: Winning candidate Holly Hughes (R-Montague) received $34,075 over the old limits while Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) received $40,660;
— 71st House District: Winning candidate Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) received $42,668 over the old limits while Theresa Abed (D-Grand Ledge) received $19,904;
— 101st House District: Winning candidate Ray Franz (R-Onekama) received $7,450 over the old limits while Tom Stobie (D-Frankfort) received $27,608.
— 99th House District: Winning candidate Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) received $23,750 over the old limits while Bryan Mielke (D-Union Twp.) received $17,860.