By SIMON D. SCHUSTER
Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING (Oct. 30, 2020) — More than $15 million will be spent in broadcast advertising for races for the Michigan House of Representatives, according to data from Advertising Analytics analyzed by Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN).
The money spent on broadcast advertising has also outpaced 2018 spending in legislative races — and only one of two chambers are in contention this year. Nearly $14. million has been spent so far this year and has increased dramatically in recent days, according to the firm Advertising Analytics, as compared to about $9 million spent for the House and Senate combined in 2018.
An interactive district-by-district breakdown of that spending is included below. Select a specific district to see the broadcast ad spending to support each candidate. (Report continues after the break.)
While candidates have spent a fair amount themselves, it's the statewide committees that have produced the ads and bought the lion’s share of air time. The House Republican Campaign Committee and Michigan Republican party have together spent $7.4 million, while the Michigan House Democratic Fund and Michigan’s Democratic party have spent about $5.1 million, according to Advertising Analytics tracking.
The ten highest-spending House races in broadcast advertising:
38th district, Chase Turner (R) and Kelly Breen (D): $1.6 million
19th district, Laurie Pohutsky (D-Inc.) and Martha Ptashnik (R): $1.5 million
45th district, Barbara Anness (D) and Mark Tisdel (R): $1.4 million
104th district, John Roth (R) and Dan O’Neil (D): $1.3 million
96th district, Brian Elder (D-Inc.) and Tim Beson (R): $1.2 million
61st district, Christine Morse (D) and Browyn Haltom (R): $1.2 million
98th district, Annette Glenn (R-Inc.) and Sarah Schultz (D): $683,000
71st district, Angela Witwer (D-Inc.) and Gina Johnsen (R): $581,000
23rd District, Darrin Camilleri (D-Inc.) and John Poe (R): $497,611
Advertising spending on other mediums, such as streaming services like Hulu and embedded in websites, is nearly impossible to track. Facebook makes some information available, though it’s difficult to survey exhaustively.
And on the world’s largest social media platform, dark money has flourished.
In the 39th district, which is likely to be this election’s most expensive state House race, a host of outside groups have emerged to support Democratic challenger Julia Pulver. They include organizations with names like Michigan Action, West Michigan Families First (which is the Michigan Democratic Party under an alias), For Our Future, Michigan Prosperity Action Fund (a dark money group) and others.
Incumbent Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), on the other hand, has received ads from groups called Working Together For A Better Michigan, The Devos family-backed Great Lakes Education Fund, Great Lakes Job Alliance and Americans For Prosperity.
These are examples from just one district, and while other races may see a lower volume of Facebook ads, the nature of the platform makes it much easier for advocacy groups with deep pockets to support a large number of candidates cheaply.
Notably, an organization that came to prominence in 2018 for establishing an independent citizens redistricting commission, Voters Not Politicians, has stuck around and broadened its mission. Now its nonprofit wing is running issue ads supporting House candidates in the election’s last days.
A fair number of their ads are presented as almost public service announcements about voting options for Michiganders. Others follow a classic issue ad format, praising legislators who align with their aims, all of whom are Democrats in competitive districts like Pulver.
Their most recent ads take a different tack, attacking legislators in part for not supporting a House resolution, and misrepresents the resolutions' powers and intent. One is for the 104th district and attacks Republican candidate John Roth for failing to expel Rep. Larry Inman from the Grand Traverse County Republican Party after his indictment on federal bribery charges. Voters Not Politicians did not reply to a request for comment from MCFN.