By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — The interest groups and caucus committees that will help finance the fight for control of the Michigan House in 2016 are on a record fundraising pace for a presidential election year.
It’s an indication that the 2016 State House campaigns could rank among the most expensive in Michigan’s history.
At the end of the last reporting period, which closed on April 20, the top 150 Michigan political action committees (PACs) had raised $26.0 million. The number is a 17 percent increase over the same point in the 2012 cycle. That cycle, the top 150 PACs had raised just $22.2 million by April 20.
The pace of PAC activity for 2016 falls behind only one other cycle when gubernatorial years are added to the mix.
The record pace came in 2014, when the top 150 PACs had raised $32.0 million as of April 20. However, for that year, the PACs were gearing up for a gubernatorial campaign and 38 State Senate races in addition to the State House campaigns.
For 2016, spending by state PACs will likely focus on the House races. Democrats will attempt to flip nine of the 110 House seats to win a majority. Currently, the breakdown is 63 Republican seats to 46 Democratic seats. There is one vacant seat, which is expected to return to Democratic hands.
As it stands, the 2014 House campaigns were the most expensive ever at $25.3 million.
However, as of April 20, 2016, the House Republican Campaign Committee and House Democratic Fund — the committees that directly raise dollars for the two caucuses — were outpacing their 2014 fundraising. The two caucus committees had combined to raise $3.77 million as of April 20 (the House Republicans were at $2.22 million and the House Democrats were at $1.54 million). At the same in 2014, the caucus committees were at $3.63 million.
Of the Michigan committees included on the top 150 list for 2016, the House Republican Campaign Committee had raised the most as of April 20 at $2.22 million. The Senate Republican Campaign Committee was in second place at $1.65 million.
Third went to the House Democratic Fund at $1.54 million, and fourth went to the Senate Democratic Fund at $805,755.
So far this cycle, the four caucus committees had combined to raise $6.233 million. That’s the most at this point in a two-year cycle since 2006, when they were at $6.316 million.
While the caucuses are helping to drive the PAC fundraising total so are Super PACs, which can take unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations as long as they spend the money independently of candidates.
A total of 14 Super PACs made the new top 150 fundraising list. At the same point in 2014, there were only eight on the list.
The most active Super PACs have been the Michigan Pipe Trades Association Independent Expenditure Committee ($461,157), Business Leaders For Michigan PAC II ($440,000) and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Powering the Economy Super PAC ($434,014).
In terms of traditional PACs, the top fundraisers were the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan PAC ($796,808), the Realtors PAC ($661,174) and the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers PAC ($553,640).
A listing of the top 150 PACs is available here.