Big bucks for Michigan Dems: Slotkin, Tlaib, Whitmer, Benson report hauls
- Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin leads fundraising race in bid for U.S. Senate
- U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib reported nearly $4 million in donations in a quarter where colleagues voted to censure her for Israel-Hamas war comments
- Gretchen Whitmer and Jocelyn Benson can’t run for re-election but are building influence by raising big sums for other candidates
LANSING — Democratic women in Michigan politics, who scored big wins in 2022, continue to raise big sums heading toward 2024 elections.
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin has outraised a dozen other candidates combined in her bid to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a race that is expected to generate national interest as Republicans attempt to flip the upper chamber.
Fellow Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress, raised an eye-opening $3.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2023 as mostly Republican colleagues led a push to censure her for comments about the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who can’t run for re-election themselves because of term limits, are using new PACs to raise money for other Democratic candidates as speculation swirls about their own political ambitions.
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- How Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could win the White House — this year
Money alone doesn’t win elections, but fundraising is a sign of organization strength that allows candidates to share their message with voters through advertising and events.
Here are some takeaways from federal and state campaign finance reports filed Wednesday, as analyzed by Bridge Michigan.
Slotkin's huge haul tops U.S. Senate field
Slotkin, of Holly, outraised all other Democratic U.S. Senate candidates combined in the fourth quarter of 2023 and has nearly doubled the fundraising totals of the dozen other U.S. Senate hopefuls who have reported contributions, including Republicans.
The third-term representative raised more than $2.8 million between September and the end of December, according to her new disclosure report. She has now pulled in more than $11.6 million total since declaring for the race in February 2023.
By comparison, the 12 other U.S. Senate candidates to report contributions have disclosed a combined $6.1 million in funding for the election cycle. Slotkin ended the period with more than $6 million in unspent cash left in her campaign war chest, compared to roughly $3.2 million for the rest of the field.
She reported that more than 340 individuals donated at least $3,300, the maximum allowed for each of the primary and general election (up to $6,600 combined), including Hollywood insiders including director Steven Spielberg, "Lost" show runner Damon Lindelof, DreamWorks co-founder Jeffery Katzenberg and Bad Robot founder Katie McGrath.
Top Michigan donors included Ann Arbor attorney Mark Bernstein, Bloomfield Hills attorney Joumana Kayrouz and Bavarian Inn owner Martha Kaczynski.
Slotkin's campaign says 92% of all donations were $100 or less, however, suggesting grassroots support for her campaign as well.
“Especially as Republican outside groups prepare to spend millions of dollars propping up their candidate, holding this Senate seat in 2024 has never been so critical to keeping the Democratic majority," campaign spokesperson Austin Cook said in a statement.
Other Democrats fell far short of Slotkin's numbers. Dearborn businessman Nassar Beydoun raised about $457,00 for the period and $682,000 overall. Hill Harper of Detroit, an attorney and actor expected to compete for the nomination, raised $303,000 for the period and $1.3 million overall.
Rogers, Pensler lead GOP fundraising race
In the GOP primary, former Congressman Mike Rogers has reported nearly $1.9 million in contributions since joining the U.S. Senate race in September, including around $1 million in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to his latest disclosure report.
Rogers reported $5,000 contributions from 13 political action committees, including the DC-based PricewaterhouseCoopers PAC, along with maximum $3,300 contributions from more than 140 individuals, including Christopher Yatooma of MSY Capital in Bloomfield Hills and Pilot Oil owner James Hallam of Tennessee.
Rogers is already getting help from at least one outside group. The Great Lakes Conservative Fund this week announced its second round of ad spending to promote Rogers, bringing its early total to more than $2 million.
Bloomfield Hills businessman Sandy Pensler reported $1,051,311 in fundraising during his first quarter in the race. But almost all of that — $1,050,000 — came from Pensler himself, who spent about $5 million of his own money in a failed 2018 Senate campaign.
Former Congressman Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids reported $508,162 in contributions during his first quarter in the race. He had more than 30 donors give him $6,600 (combined maximums for the primary and general elections), including former Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who entered the U.S. Senate race as one of its highest-profile candidates, raised just $60,581 during his first quarter. He had about $28,000 in cash reserves but owed $9,500 for a video shoot and related production services.
Donors back Tlaib amid censure
Tlaib, a third-term Detroit Democrat, raised nearly $3.7 million for the period and has now pulled in $4.6 million for her congressional re-election campaign. She began the year with $3.8 million in cash reserves.
Those are remarkable figures for an incumbent congresswoman who represents a solidly Democratic district and coasted to re-election in 2022 by winning more than 70% of the general election vote. The lone Republican who has filed to run against Tlaib has not yet reported any fundraising.
Her haul came in a quarter marked by a vote to censure Tlaib for comments about the Israel-Hamas war, including her use of a pro-Palestinian slogan often regarded as a call for the eradication of Israel but one she described as a call for "peaceful coexistence."
Tlaib’s disclosure report included more than $10,000 in contributions through The Squad Victory Fund, a joint account with fellow Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Presley.
Tlaib’s campaign also disclosed more than 370 maximum $3,300 contributions for either the primary or general election from individuals across the country.
"I am so grateful to my district, Michiganders and to our supporters all over the country who believe in my leadership and relentless advocacy for the people," Tlaib told The Detroit News.
Whitmer tops $2M for ‘Fight Like Hell’ PAC
Whitmer isn’t on the ballot this year and can’t run for re-election as governor in 2026. But she is raising and spending big bucks through a new federal political action committee that allows her to continue to take on a national role.
Experts predict Whitmer could be a viable presidential contender should she decide to run in 2028 — or even sooner if Democratic President Joe Biden was forced to leave this year's race or otherwise decided to drop out.
The Fight Like Hell PAC, launched by the second-term Democratic governor in June, reported raising more than $1.8 million since July and more than $2 million overall.
The PAC gave $47,900 to the Biden Victory Fund, a joint fundraising account that supports the Democratic president’s re-election campaign along with state parties across the country.
Fight Like Hell also donated $10,000 to Ohioans for Reproductive Rights, a fall ballot campaign that successfully added abortion rights to that state's constitution, much like Michigan did in 2022.
The PAC donated between $1,000 and $3,300 each to a dozen Democratic congressional candidates across the country, including incumbents facing difficult re-election bids like Susan Wild of Pennsylvania and Emilia Sykes of Ohio.
Fight like hell gave $1,000 to Whitmer's sister Liz Whitmer Gereghty, who ran for Congress in New York but dropped out of the race in late November.
Benson tops $1M for ‘pro-democracy’ Democrats
Benson, the Democratic Secretary of State who has hinted at a possible run for governor in 2026, formed a new state-level PAC in July to raise funds for what she calls "pro-democracy" candidates in Michigan.
The Michigan Legacy PAC has raised $592,431 since October 21, and $1.2 million overall, according to a new disclosure report.
Much of that came from large donors, including $500,000 from former PayPal CEO Bill Harris of Florida, and $250,000 each from computer networking firm owner Ken and Jennifer Duda of California.
The PAC has so far given $48,875 each to caucus campaigns for the Michigan House and Senate Democrats, along with 11 individual lawmakers in the state House who are up for re-election this year.
"It’s clear that there is strong support for pro-democracy candidates in Michigan, and with key races up and down the ballot, our work has never been more important," Benson said in a statement. "I’m thankful for everyone who contributed to our effort, and I’m excited to continue this vital work.”
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