By CRAIG MAUGER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — Michigan’s most active political action committees (PACs) continue to set a record fundraising pace for a presidential election cycle.
As of July 20, 2016, the largest 150 state PACs — a combination of interest groups and committees connected to officeholders — had raised $32.3 million since the beginning of 2015. That’s an 18 percent increase over where the top PACs were at the same point in 2012 and 2008.
The bump is being driven by major interest groups, like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, increasing their fundraising and by the two House caucuses raising more than in past years.
Preparing to battle for control of the Michigan House in November, the House Republicans’ House Republican Campaign Committee and the House Democrats’ House Democratic Fund have combined to raise $4.8 million.
The House Republican Campaign Committee, which will fund GOP campaigns in swing districts, has raised $2.76 million. At the same point in 2014, which produced the most expensive House campaigns in Michigan’s history, the committee had raised $2.46 million.
The House Democratic Fund, which will help Democratic candidates in swing districts, has raised $2.06 million so far this cycle. At the same point in 2014, the fund had raised $1.83 million.
The increases indicate pricy Michigan House races are on the way this fall when Democrats will try to cut into Republican’s 63-45 majority.
The top 150 PACs’ fundraising total as of July 20, 2016, is the second highest total for a two-year cycle as of July 20 and is the highest total for a presidential election cycle.
In the last two presidential election years, 2008 and 2012, the top 150 state PACs had raised about $27.3 million, as of July 20.
In Michigan, gubernatorial election years tend to drive more dollars into state PACs because races for governor, attorney general and the State Senate are all on the ballot along with State House races. However, by July 20, 2010, the largest 150 PACs had raised only $30.0 million.
The record fundraising pace for the top PACs through the July 20 reporting period was set in 2014 when they had raised $39.5 million. Helping push that total up were the Republican Governors Association’s Michigan state PAC, which had raised $4.6 million, and PACs focused on the 2013 race for mayor of Detroit.
Below is a look at the top 10 fundraising committees for 2015-2016 as of July 20, 2016. The full top 150 list is available for download at the right of this page.
1. HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE, $2,764,239: HRCC is the fundraising arm of the House GOP caucus. So far, its committee is on a record fundraising pace. As of July 20, 2014, the committee had raised $2.4 million. Its top contributors included members of the DeVos family, who’ve combined to give $360,000.
2. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC FUND, $2,062,304: The Michigan House Democratic Fund, the fundraising arm of the House Democratic caucus, is also on a record fundraising pace. In comparison, at this point in 2014, the committee hadn’t surpassed the $2.0-million mark. It was at $1.8 million. The fund’s top donors include the Michigan Association for Justice ($80,000) and the Michigan Education Association ($80,000).
3. SENATE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE, $1,894,958: SRCC is preparing for the 2018 election. It has raised about twice as much as the Senate Democrats’ fund and has raised more money than it had at the same point before the 2014 election. As of July 20, 2012, the committee had raised $1.4 million.
4. SENATE DEMOCRATIC FUND, $958,148: While getting out-fundraised by Senate Republicans, the Senate Democratic Fund is beating its 2014 pace. As of July 20, 2012, the fund had raised $839,493.
5. BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD OF MICHIGAN, $933,166: Among interest groups the PAC of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has been wielding the most cash. Blue Cross Blue Shield is also raising more money than it did in previous cycles. At this point in 2014, the PAC had raised $907,976. In 2012, it had raised $885,093.
6. MICHIGAN HEALTH AND HOSPITAL ASSOCIATION (Health PAC), $774,892: The Michigan Health and Hospital Association is also bringing in more money than it has in past cycles. In the last months, the Health PAC made a large $7,500 contribution to Rep. Rob VerHeulen’s (R-Walker) leadership PAC. VerHeulen is running to be the next House GOP leader and if Republicans hold their majority, the next House speaker.
7. REALTORS PAC OF MICHIGAN, $757,622: As this point in 2012, the Michigan Association of Realtors’ PAC was the 12th largest in the state. It’s now moved up to seventh with a 16.7 percent fundraising increase.
8. MICHIGAN BEER & WINE WHOLESALERS ASSOCIATION, $745,683: The Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Associations gives to candidates on both sides of the aisle and is usually among the largest PACs in Michigan. In the last three months, the PAC has given $14,500 to the House Republican Campaign Committee and $10,000 to the House Democratic Fund.
9. MICHIGAN REGIONAL COUNCIL OF CARPENTERS, $618,272: The PAC for the council of carpenters has boosted its fundraising over 2014. At this point in that cycle, it had raised only $505,313. The PAC has been giving heavily to Democratic causes and candidates, including a $20,000 contribution to the House Democratic Fund in May.
10. GREAT LAKES EDUCATION PROJECT, $590,050: The PAC tied to the pro-school choice Great Lakes Education Project has also moved up the fundraising rankings. At this point in 2014, the GLEP PAC was ranked 20th. Members of the DeVos family are the primary funders of the GLEP PAC. They made $250,000 in contributions to the PAC this summer. In recent months, the PAC has given to numerous House Republican candidates in contested primary elections.