By THE MICHIGAN CAMPAIGN FINANCE NETWORK
LANSING (SEPT. 7, 2018) — The race to be Michigan’s next governor has already attracted about $50 million.
With two months to go before the general election, the contest is closing in on the money total for the 2014 race, which was Michigan’s second most expensive race for governor ever. That 2014 race cost about $63 million.
The $50-million total for 2018, at this point, is according to an analysis of new fundraising disclosures from the candidates, other campaign finance reports, filings with the Internal Revenue Service, filings with the Federal Communications Commission and ad-tracking data from Kantar Media/CMAG.
The majority of the money in the race has been raised by candidates who have to disclose their donors to the public. Candidates had to report new fundraising numbers on Thursday.
New disclosures from candidate-focused super PACs, other PACs and 527 organizations won’t come until October. Spending by these types of funds and other groups outside of the campaigns will likely increase as November nears. These types of groups can raise unlimited amounts of money. They’ve already raised or spent about $12.5 million to influence the 2018 race for governor, according to the analysis.
The state’s priciest race for governor happened in 2006 between businessman Dick DeVos and incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm. It cost about $79 million. The 2014 race between incumbent Gov. Rick Snyder and former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer cost about $63 million. Both the 2006 and 2014 races didn’t feature competitive primaries.
Candidates running for governor have combined to raise about $37.5 million, according to their new reports.
Th primary winners, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, Republican Bill Schuette and Libertarian Bill Gelineau, have raised $8.19 million, $6.55 million and $54,785 respectively. Those figures include public funding available under the state’s public-financing program.
You can find all of the candidates’ top disclosed donors so far at this link.
Under Michigan’s campaign contribution limits, the most a PAC can give a candidate’s campaign for governor is $68,000. An individual can give up $6,800. But candidates can give unlimited amounts to their own campaigns.
Two candidates who lost in the primary, Democrat Shri Thanedar and Republican Jim Hines, took advantage of their ability to self-fund. Thanedar’s campaign raised about $12.72 million with about $12.69 million coming from himself. He did report paying himself back $2.3 million of the money he gave his campaign. That $2.3 million amount is not included in the $50-million overall figure.
Hines’ campaign raised about about $2.9 million with about $2.7 million coming from Hines himself or his wife, Martha.
As for other candidates who lost in the primary, Democrat Abdul El-Sayed raised about $5.46 million, Republican Brian Calley raised about $3.78 million and Republican Pat Colbeck raised about $538,000.
Candidate-focused super PACs are a new phenomenon in Michigan races for governor. They can accept unlimited contributions from corporations or individuals and can spend unlimited amounts to help elect candidates. But they are supposed to act independently of the candidates.
Better Jobs, Stronger Families, a super PAC backing Schuette, raised $2.4 million, as of July 20. Calley Continues Comeback, a super PAC backing Calley, raised $948,560 as of July 20.
A 527 organization, Build A Better Michigan, has been working to promote Whitmer. It reported raising $2.2 million by the end of June. It files its reports with the Internal Revenue Service.
Other big spenders in the race so far include the conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, which has reported about $2.2 million in expenditures against Whitmer. The group launched new ads this week, meaning its spending total will go up. The national group doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
Three other national groups began airing ads after the primary. A Stronger Michigan, a 527 connected to the Democratic Governors Association, had aired about $944,000 in ads promoting Whitmer as of Monday. Two groups connected to the Republican Governors Association have also aired ads since the primary. State Solutions, a nonprofit organization that doesn’t disclose its donors, has aired about $923,000 in ads promoting Schuette. And a super PAC, also called A Stronger Michigan, has aired about $406,000 in ads criticizing Whitmer.