Campaign spending for open statewide seats on a blistering pace

Spending by candidates to be governor, attorney general and secretary of state appears sluggish this year compared to the last time the offices were on the ballot in 2006, when incumbents occupied all three offices. But campaign spending so far is two and a half times what it was at this point in the 2002 cycle, the last time all three offices were open seats.

This year’s field of gubernatorial candidates has raised 42 percent more than their counterparts in 2002: $8,302,048 to $5,862,205. But spending by gubernatorial candidates is up by 162 percent compared to 2002: $4,261,109 to $1,623,542.

This year’s secretary of state candidates have taken in more than four times as much as the field in 2002: $599,067 to $117,145. At this point in 2002, neither eventual Democratic contender for the office even had an active campaign committee.

This year’s field of attorney general candidates has raised $779,287 and spent $280,000. In 2002, Mike Cox had the only active AG committee at this point in the campaign and he had raised $29,825 and spent $904. His Democratic opponent in the 2002 general election, Gary Peters, didn’t file his statement of organization until March 4, 2002.

In comparison to the two cycles with open seats, the two person gubernatorial field in 2006 had raised $9,944,902 at this point in the cycle and spent $4,447,598. Governor Granholm alone had raised 97 percent of the total of this year’s entire field. Incumbent Terri Lynn Land had raised more money, $627,576, than this year’s entire field of SoS candidates. Incumbent AG Cox had raised $1,029,313 by this point in the 2006 cycle, also more than the entire field in 2010.

“These data show two things quite clearly,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “First, incumbency is a tremendous fundraising advantage and no one has it this year. And secondly, it’s much too early to tell whether or not the campaign sector is in recession. Compared to 2002, things look quite robust.”

Candidate-focused television issue advertisements have been a major feature in each of the last two gubernatorial campaigns, amounting to some $12 million in 2002, and more than $18 million in 2006. That spending is entirely outside the campaign finance reporting system.

“There is no doubt that issue ads will be a huge factor again this year,” said Robinson, “And it’s impossible to predict how the Citizens United decision will affect things. We need a much stronger disclosure law so the voters of this state can tell whose money is doing the political talking.”

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