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Get ready for a wild 2022: Michigan campaign fundraising off charts already

House Republicans have outraised Democrats, but fundraising overall has increased in the past few years. (Bridge Michigan file photo)

July 29: Michigan Gov. Whitmer use of loopholes to raise millions attracts scrutiny

LANSING —  Michigan’s three top Democrats — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel — have all broken off-year fundraising records, according to their campaigns and state records.

The latest fundraising totals were made available Monday ahead of the state deadline to disclose campaign finances.

Whitmer, elected in 2018, reported raising $8.6 million from Jan. 1 to July 20. Whitmer’s campaign now has $10.7 million in hand. That’s more than three times the $3.3 million raised by her Republican predecessor, Rick Snyder, when he was running for re-election in 2014, records show.

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Mark Fisk, Whitmer’s re-election campaign spokesperson, said in a news release Whitmer already has $1 million more than what she fundraised during the totality of the 2018 election cycle.

“This unprecedented fundraising achievement is even more remarkable given the early and unprecedented attacks from national groups, special interests and other extremists spending over $1 million on ads trying to distort the governor’s record and lie to the people of Michigan,” Fisk said.

Meanwhile, Dana Nessel, the state’s Democratic attorney general, reported raising over $1.1 million from Jan. 1 to July 20. 

That’s about $1 million more than what she raised during the same period in 2020. Nessel’s cash on hand is $1,113,851. 

Records show that’s about $100,000 more than what her predecessor Republican Bill Schuette raised in 2014 when he was running for re-election — and Nessel has more than a year to raise more money.

Benson’s campaign disclosed having raised $794,081.57 in the current election cycle, including $648,685.83 since January 2021.

All three are up for re-election in 2022, but none have publicly declared they are candidates. All are expected to run.

Simon Schuster, the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network — a political nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog — told Bridge Michigan the fundraising totals show a spiraling of campaign costs.

“This sort of represents an extension of the inundation of money that has flowed into our political system,” Schuster said.

“The more money that you have flowing into campaigns, campaigns become more professionalized, they're able to hire more consultants who are more experienced in sort of persuading voters, not based on necessarily factual information, or policy, but based upon feelings, smear campaigns, fear tactics,” Schuster said. 

“As a result, I think people get a little bit more separated from the people that are wanting to represent them,” Schuster said. 

Republican gubernatorial candidates 

Even though 2021 is an off year, the latest fundraising numbers show that there will be quite the spending by gubernatorial candidates in the state. The GOP slate is still taking shape, but  Garrett Soldano, a Kalamazoo-based chiropractor, led current contenders by raising  $619,099 from April 1 to July 20, according to his campaign filings.

A request for comment was not immediately returned, but in an interview with Fox-TV17, Soldano said his campaign was able to raise the money without support from political action committees or “dark money.”

“That just tells you it is pure grassroots and we are very proud of that,” Soldano said. 

Ralph Rebandt, the lead pastor for Oakland Hills Community Church in Farmington Hills, reported raising $170,025 from March 29 to July 20. 

Tudor Dixon, a conservative media personality who is running for governor, raised $132,535 from April 15 to July 20

Meanwhile, James Craig, the former chief of the Detroit Police Department, didn’t disclose his campaign finances since his committee was created after the filing deadline for the current period. 

Republicans outraise Democrats

In the Michigan Legislature, Republicans outraised Democrats from April 21 to July 20. 

The Michigan Senate Democratic Fund raised $304,472, while the Senate Republican Campaign Committee raised $705,210. 

The Democrats in the Senate have about $1 million in hand, while the Republicans have about $4 million.

Meanwhile, the Michigan House Democratic Fund raised $503,116, while the House Republican Campaign Committee raised $572,911.

The House Republican Campaign Committee said Monday that the money raised is a “new record for the second quarter of an off-year.”

“This is no time to rest – House Republicans are going to keep working to the very last minute to maintain majority and continue leading this state forward,” said Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell. “We are going to continue to push our lead and work even harder to earn the trust of the people we serve for another term.”

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