By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — With individual donations reaching as high as $100,000, political action committees (PACs) tied to 25 top Michigan officeholders raised $799,522 over the first months of 2017.
Traditionally, interest groups use PACs to raise money and then to make contributions to candidates they prefer. But state officeholders, seeking to advance their own influence within Lansing, also use them. Through the PACs, officeholders can accept unlimited contributions — which they can’t do for their own campaign committees — and can give the money to their caucus and their party mates or spend it on other activities, like official travel, official meals or consultants.
The amount the PACs can give to candidates is capped: $68,000 to a gubernatorial campaign or other statewide campaign; $20,000 to a Senate candidate; and $10,000 to a House candidate.
PACs used by lawmakers, which are often called leadership PACs, are especially helpful to House and Senate leaders who control the legislative agenda and are top beneficiaries of donors seeking sway.
From Jan. 1, 2017, through April 20, 2017 — 110 days — PACs connected to just four top officeholders combined to raise $506,082, a majority of the $799,522 PACs connected to 25 officeholders raised.
MIPAC, a committee that has been running digital advertisements promoting Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, raised the most of the officeholder-connected PACs: $162,700. However, $150,000 of that total came from just two donors: $100,000 from William Parfet, who was chair of MPI Research; and $50,000 from Jim Nicholson, of PVS Chemicals.
Individual donors can give only up to $6,800 to a statewide candidate’s campaign committee.
However, MIPAC, like other lawmaker-connected PACs, is an independent PAC, not a campaign committee.
MIPAC has been running pro-Calley advertisements, which have indicated some type of announcement is coming from Calley on May 30. Calley isn’t currently a candidate for governor, but many believe he will make his campaign announcement on May 30.
MIPAC ads feature Calley speaking into the camera, and when a person signs up for the group’s email list, the person receives an email “from the desk of Brian Calley.” The email is signed “Sincerely, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.” The committee’s treasurer is Michael Stroud, who’s previously been listed in media reports as an assistant to Calley.
While MIPAC seems to put a new spin on lawmaker-connected PACs, others drawing big donations have a more traditional approach.
Sen. Mike Shirkey, a Republican from Clarklake, is running for a leadership position within the Senate Republican caucus next term. His leadership PAC, Compete Michigan, which will likely support his caucus mates in hopes of gaining backing for his leadership bid, raised $135,500 over the first 110 days of 2017.
Of that haul, $23,626 came from Shirkey himself and $19,000 came from Shirkey’s candidate committee. The biggest donor, however, was Jon Cotton, an executive with Meridian Health, a health insurance plan. Cotton, who has been advocating for a budget provision that would be favorable to health plans, gave $25,000 to Compete Michigan on April 19, according to the PAC’s disclosure.
The current leader of the House Republicans, Speaker Tom Leonard, from DeWitt, has raised $111,290 across two PACs so far in 2017. His PACs are Michigan Values Leadership Fund and Michigan Values Leadership Fund II.
The PACs received $50,000 from the Business Leaders for Michigan PAC, $20,000 from John Kennedy, of Autocam, and $10,000 from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce PAC.
The Business Leaders for Michigan also gave $50,000 to Sen. Arlan Meekhof’s Moving Michigan Forward Fund II.
Over the first 110 days of 2017, Meekhof, a Republican from West Olive, raised money through three different PACs, to which he’s connected. The total raised was $96,592 — not including $54,858 he transferred from one PAC to another.
In addition to the Business Leaders for Michigan contribution, Meekhof’s PACs received $5,000 from Comcast & NBC Universal and $5,000 from the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association.
So far in 2017, the Business Leaders for Michigan, a roundtable of state business executives, has been supporting a set of bills that would allow for new tax incentives tied to business growth.
Below is a list of the 25 lawmakers who have raised the most through PACs so far in 2017 (as of April 20). Information about the PACs’ top donors is available by clicking on the officeholders’ names.
Lawmaker, PAC(s) Name(s), Total Raised
1. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, MIPAC, $162,700
2. Sen. Mike Shirkey, Compete Michigan, $135,500
3. Rep. Tom Leonard, Michigan Values Leadership, Michigan Values Leadership II, $111,290
4. Sen. Arlan Meekhof, Moving Michigan Forward, Moving Michigan Forward I, Moving Michigan Forward II, $96,592
5. Rep. Sam Singh, Singh for Michigan, $39,325
6. Sen. Jim Ananich, Ananich Future Fund, Ananich Senate Majority Fund, $32,768
7. Rep. Lee Chatfield, Chatfield Majority Fund, $30,100
8. Rep. Gary Glenn, Growth Liberty Enterprise Now Network, $25,595
9. Sen. Mike Kowall, Kowall Majority Fund, $21,500
10. Sen. David Hildenbrand, Hildebrand Leadership Fund, $17,250
11. Rep. Chris Greig, Greig Women In Leadership Fund, $16,510
12. Rep. Daniela Garcia, Garcia Majority Fund, $15,750
13. Gov. Rick Snyder, Relentless Positive Action PAC, $12,850
14. Sen. John Proos, Great Southwest Fund , $12,050
15. Rep. Dan Lauwers, Growing Michigan, $11,150
16. Rep. Laura Cox, Shamrock PAC, $8,628
17. Rep. Jason Sheppard, Sheppard Leadership Fund, $7,600
18. Rep. Peter Lucido, Lucido for a Brighter Tomorrow, $7,350
19. Rep. David LaGrand, LaGrand PAC, $6,981
20. Sen. Jim Marleau, Marleau for Michigan, $6,000
21. Sen. David Knezek, Knezek for Michigan, Knezek Majority Fund, $6,000
22. Rep. Kristy Pagan, Kristy Pagan Leadership Fund, $5,740
23. Sen. Tory Rocca, Citizens for Accountable Government, $5,100
24. Sen. Rebekah Warren, Rebekah Warren Envision Michigan Fund, Rebekah Warren Leadership Fund, $2,690
25. Rep. Jim Tedder, Jim Tedder Vision Fund, $2,503