Independent spenders dominating senatorial, gubernatorial campaigns

LANSING - Independent spenders are dominating television advertising related to Michigan's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns. Through the Memorial Day holiday, the candidates' campaign committees had spent just $2.9 million out of the total of $12.8 million spent for advertisements about the candidates.

Television advertising data were collected from the public files of Michigan broadcasters and cable systems by the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

In the U.S. Senate campaign, Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters has spent $1,230,000, while Republican former secretary of state Terri Land has spent $940,000.

Independent nonprofit corporations have spent $4.6 million attacking Peters and touting Land. Those groups include Americans for Prosperity ($3.6 million), Freedom Partners ($545,000) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($477,000).

None of the independent spenders backing Land disclose their donors.

Independent groups that are backing Peters have spent $2.2 million. Those groups and their spending are: Senate Majority PAC, $1.55 million; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), $305,000; and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), $300,000.

Senate Majority PAC is a federal SuperPAC that reports its receipts and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. AFSCME and SEIU bought their advertising through their respective PACs, which also report their donors.

The gubernatorial campaign has been dominated by the major parties' national governors associations. The Democratic Governors Association has spent $1,686,000 touting Mark Schauer and attacking Gov. Rick Snyder. The Republican Governors Association has spent $1,508,000 attacking Schauer. Both committees are 527 organizations that report their receipts and expenditures to the Internal Revenue Service.

Gov. Snyder spent $497,000 to run a 60-second ad during the February 2nd Superbowl in all media markets except Marquette. His campaign committee has spent $200,000 for subsequent cable advertising.

"So far, the candidates have largely been bystanders at their own campaigns," said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "That is the political environment created by the Roberts court's campaign finance jurisprudence."

A significant trend that is emerging is the shift of advertising away from broadcasters and toward cable. In past campaigns cable typically comprised roughly 10 percent of all television advertising. Fifteen percent of this year's gubernatorial ads have run on cable stations, and 35 percent of senatorial ads have run on cable.

Press Release 2014 News