Michigan political campaigns topped $192 million in 2006

Completeness and timeliness of state disclosure remain deficient

LANSING – Political campaigns in Michigan raised and spent over $192 million in the 2006 election cycle. Data and analysis for the record-breaking campaign spending are compiled in the 2006 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance, released today by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Campaigns for state offices, including governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state representative, state senator, state board of education, elected university boards and the judiciary, totaled $134.8 million. State candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives raised $19.3 million and the Stabenow–Bouchard U.S. Senate race cost $19.1 million. Committees that supported or opposed the various ballot questions raised another $19.4 million.

The gubernatorial campaign totaled $78.9 million, more than twice the cost of the 2002 gubernatorial campaign. It included $35.5 million in self-funding by Republican challenger Dick DeVos, the fourth highest total ever for an American gubernatorial candidate and the most ever by a Republican. The campaign also featured $18.1 million in candidate-focused issue advertising that was not reported in any campaign finance report. The Michigan Democratic Party sponsored $12.8 million of that total, while DeVos supporters spent $5.3 million. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network collected issue ad spending data from the public files of state broadcasters and cable systems.

General election candidates for the Michigan Senate raised $16.1 million in the 2006 cycle, up by 39 percent compared to 2002, and four races cost more than $1.95 million each. General election candidates for the Michigan House raised $15.1 million, up by 52 percent compared to 2002, and four races topped $1 million each. Of the 148 winning candidates for the Legislature, 139 had greater financial support than their opponent, or no major-party opponent.

The top 150 state political action committees raised $51.9 million in the 2006 cycle, up by 55 percent compared to the 2002 or 2004 cycles. The ten largest PACs, including the legislative caucuses’ PACs, raised $26.5 million, more than the next 140 combined. Elected officials had 92 leadership PACs that collectively raised $8.3 million. The Coalition for Progress became the biggest PAC in Michigan history by raising $5,460,000. Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo and Pat Stryker of Colorado Springs gave Coalition for Progress 98 percent of its funds.

For the first time this century, the Michigan Democratic Party had more money in its state account than the Michigan Republican Party: $6.8 million to $5 million. Thirty-eight individuals and one PAC gave the Republicans a total of $3.5 million. Three PACs and one individual gave the Democrats a total of $3.5 million.

Two ballot initiative campaigns each ran to a cost of $6.5 million: Proposal 2, the successful anti-affirmative action Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, in which opponents outspent proponents three-to-one; and Proposal 5, the unsuccessful education funding carve-out, where proponents spent more than twice what opponents spent. The National Education Association spent $3.4 million supporting Proposal 5.

One national campaign finance story that largely ran beneath the public’s attention had a Michigan chapter in 2006. The proposed Stop OverSpending initiative that did not qualify for the ballot received $933,000, or 85 percent of its funding, from two non-profits directly connected to libertarian activist Howie Rich of New York City. Michigan’s Stop Overspending (SOS) committee was one of at least 18 active ballot committees across the nation that were mainly or entirely funded by Rich-related non-profits.

“The SOS story illustrates a profound deficiency in Michigan’s campaign finance disclosure system,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “More than 99 percent of that drive was funded by just three out-of-state committees that wanted to make Michigan a part of their national social engineering agenda. Yet we didn’t see any reporting on the money until late October.”

“Clearly, all political committees should be filing campaign finance reports at least quarterly. It’s important that voters have a chance to learn who is giving what to whom. It helps them understand who is behind an initiative and what their motivations are,” Robinson said.

The 2006 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance contains summaries of candidates’ campaign finances, lists of top contributors to all electoral winners, and lists of top contributors to the legislative caucuses’ PACs, politicians’ leadership PACs and state party committees. The report includes 30 data tables and 17 appendices of campaign finance data, and policy reform recommendations. The Citizens’ Guide is available online at www.mcfn.org.

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