Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan redistricting group brings in whopping $13.9 million

Anti-gerrymandering sign

Nov. 7 update: One woman’s Facebook post leads to Michigan vote against gerrymandering

Voters Not Politicians, the ballot committee backing a new redistricting system in Michigan, took in nearly $14 million over the past three months, swamping the group that is opposed to the ballot measure.

Campaign records filed Friday show the group took in a whopping $13.96 million in direct and in-kind contributions since the last reporting period ended on July 20 — drawing an avalanche of support and dwarfing the $1.68 million the group had brought in previously.

The last filing before the Nov. 6 elections shows how this once grassroots-inspired effort to change how legislative lines are drawn has evolved into a behemoth drawing millions of dollars in donations from national groups.  

Related: Michigan ballot issues: What to know about Prop 2 (redistricting)
Related: Here’s how Michigan’s redistricting commission would work
Related: Emails: Michigan Republicans brag that redistricting ‘protects incumbents’

Its campaign finance filings this reporting term show that $5.5 million came from the national non-profit behind what Politico called a “liberal secret-money network,” the Sixteen Thirty Fund. Another $4.84 million came from the Texas-based Action Now Initiative, which was founded by energy hedge fund billionaires John and Laura Arnold. Other large donations came from the SEIU and the National Redistricting Action Fund, the nonprofit affiliate of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s group.

Voters Not Politicians

How much has it raised: $15.65 million ($15.33 million direct contributions and $322,668 in in-kind contributions)

How much has it spent: $10,999,781

How many individual contributions has it reported: About 28,837 contributions

Top contributors:

1. Sixteen Thirty Fund, Washington D.C., $5.5 million

2. Action Now Initiative, Texas, $5.1 million

3. SEIU-United Healthcare Workers, $500,000

4. Kathryn Murdoch, Quadrivium Foundation, $500,000

5. Stacy Schusterman, Samson Energy, $500,000

6. Seth Klarman, Boston, $250,000

7. National Redistricting Action Fund, $250,000

8. Beckwith Constitutional Liberties Fund, East Lansing nonprofit, $150,000

9. National Education Association, $125,000

10. Green Advocacy Project, $100,000

Those large, out-of-state donations drew criticism from opponents to Prop 2.

“Out-of-state special interests are trying to buy Michigan’s constitution, but our constitution is not for sale,” said Tony Daunt, spokesman for opposition group Protect My Vote, in a press release. “Hypocrite is too kind a description for the liars behind this sham proposal, and voters who’ve been duped by their scam have every right to be outraged.”

Related: $75 million thrown into Michigan governor’s race. Here’s who’s spending
Related: Republicans outraise Democrats in bids for Michigan statewide offices

Proponents of the redistricting measure, Prop 2, pointed to their numbers of small donations in defense.

“Nearly 14,000 grassroots contributors donated $64 on average to Voters Not Politicians,” said the group’s director Katie Fahey in a statement. “What they inspired led to investment from around the country from individuals and institutions that believe in the right of voters to choose their politicians – not the other way around.”

Proposal 2 would take away the power to draw legislative lines from whichever party is in control of Lansing (in recent election cycles that’s been Republicans) and create a commission of 13 citizens responsible for redistricting after each decennial census instead. The commission would consist of a mix of self-identified political affiliations: four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents.

Before Protect My Vote took up the mantle of fighting Voters Not Politicians, that effort was led by a group called Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution. CPMC supported the lengthy legal battle that worked to keep Prop 2 off of the ballot on the grounds that it was too broad and could only be enacted through a constitutional convention. That legal effort failed, allowing voters to decide the issue on Nov. 6. CPMC stopped fundraising after the legal bid, and did not raise any money this reporting period.

Opposition to redistricting, voting measures

Protect My Vote, the ballot committee formed to oppose ballot proposals that would change the state’s redistricting system and voting practices, reported Friday that it took in $1.47 million in direct and in-kind contributions since it formed in late August.

Records show the group has only spent $133,183 of that money as of Oct. 21 — all to oppose the redistricting proposal (Proposal 2) through radio advertising and bumper stickers. That doesn’t account for the significant funding that likely went into creating and circulating five new statewide TV spots.

Protect My Vote

How much has it raised: $1.47 million ($150,604 in direct contributions, $119,110 in in-kind contributions and $1.2 million in late contributions reported after the late disclosure deadline)

How much has it spent: $133,232

How many individual contributions has it reported: 21 contributions

Top contributors:

1. Michigan Freedom Fund, $1.45 million

2. Michigan Farm Bureau, $10,000

The Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative advocacy organization, provided more than 99 percent of the ballot committee’s funding — $1.34 million in direct contributions and $119,110 in in-kind contributions such as staffing, polling, research and email service.

Farm Bureau Insurance, a Lansing-based agricultural insurance company, contributed $10,000. All other individual contributions were less than $200.

Voting rights

Proposal 3 would enshrine seven voting rights in the state constitution, including the right to vote straight party, to automatic voter registration, to same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

The ballot committee behind Prop 3, Promote the Vote, which took in $2.15 million since July 20. That brings the committee’s total for the election cycle so far up to $5.14 million. Just over 80 percent of its individual contributions were $10 or less.

Related: Michigan ballot issues: What to know about Prop 3 (voting rights)
Related: Prop 3 shows voters’ distrust. But is Michigan Constitution the best remedy?

Promote the Vote’s final campaign stretch saw big contributions from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters ($800,000), the CEO of Oklahoma-based energy company Samson Energy ($500,000) and the Sixteen Thirty Fund ($250,000).

However, ballot committee’s major backer continues to be the ACLU, which has long spearheaded the efforts behind Prop 3.

Promote the Vote

How much has it raised: $5.14 million ($4.63 million direct contributions and $505,612 in-kind contributions)

How much has it spent: $3.99 million

How many individual contributions has it reported: 3,195 contributions

Top contributors:

1. American Civil Liberties Union, New York, $2.48 million

2. Michigan League Of Conservation Voters, $800,000

3. Stacy Schusterman, Samson Energy Company, $500,00

4. American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, $325,153

5. Sixteen Thirty Fund, $250,000

6. United Auto Workers, $150,000

7. Campaign for Democracy, California, $100,000

8. Steven Laufer, Federal Reserve, $100,000

9. Rachel Bendit, Ann Arbor, $51,400

10. National Education Association, $50,000

11. American Federation of Teachers, $50,000

Recreational Marijuana

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group behind Proposal 1, the effort to make recreational marijuana use legal for adults over 21, took in $529,277 over the last campaign finance filing deadline. In total, the group has collected $2.33 million in contributions this election cycle.

Prop 1 would allow people to carry pot, have it at home and grow their own plants. It also outlines a 10 percent tax weed consumers would pay, which would go to schools, roads and some local governments.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

How much has it raised: $2.33 million ($1.63 million direct contributions and $706,899 in in-kind contributions)

How much has it spent: $1.41 million

How many individual contributions has it reported: about 966 contributors

Top contributors:

1. Marijuana Policy Project, Washington D.C, $444,205

2. Smokers Outlet, Troy, $250,000

3. Marijuana Policy Project Foundation, Washington D.C, $188,807

4. MI Legalize 2018, East Lansing, $170,000

5. Kevin McCaffery, RBK Enterprises, Ann Arbor, $95,000

6. New Approach PAC, Washington, D.C., $90,000

7. Sam Usman Jr., UPM LLC, East Lansing, $50,000

8. KX3 Superwall LLC, Royal Oak, $50,000

9. DKT Liberty, Washington D.C, $50,000

10. Susan Ruiz, scientist, Massachusetts, $50,000

Nearly 80 percent of the committee’s money raised during the last reporting period came from the New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for pro-marijuana policies around the country. The Marijuana Policy Project, a nationally-focused pot advocacy group, gave an additional $110,000. The two groups are the largest backers of the proposal overall.

Related: Michigan’s ballot issues: What to know about Prop 1 (recreational pot)
Related: What’s legal, and what isn’t, under Michigan recreational marijuana plan

The opposition group, Healthy and Productive Michigan, saw a huge uptick in contributions this period but still lags behind CRMLA in total. It reported $1.21 million in direct and in-kind contributions between July 21 and October 21 — more than three times as much as its earnings during all the other reporting periods combined ($278,561.) Since Oct. 21, it reported an additional $130,000 in late contributions, bringing its total to $1.62 million in the election cycle to date.

Far and away, its biggest booster was Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, a DC-area non-profit that gave it $1.06 million throughout the campaign cycle. That’s 65 percent of its total funding.

Other large funders represent head honchos in the business and energy worlds: DTE Energy executives, the president of Meijer stores and business advocacy group Business Leaders for Michigan are all among the top contributors.

Related: 2018 Bridge Michigan Voter Guide: Links to our relevant election coverage

Healthy and Productive Michigan

How much has it raised: $1.62 million ($1.49 million direct contributions and $129,254 in-kind contributions)

How much has it spent: $666,746

How many individual contributions has it reported: 99 contributions

Top contributors:

1. Smart Approaches to Marijuana Action, Virginia, $1,060,254

2. Michigan Energy First, Okemos, $250,000

3. J.C. Huizenga, Huizenga Group, $51,000

4. Gerard Anderson, DTE Energy, $50,000

5. Mark Murray, Meijer, $50,000

6. Business Leaders for Michigan, $50,000

6. ITC Holdings Corp, $50,000

8. Jerry Norcia, DTE Energy, $15,000

9. Fannie Lou Hamer PAC, $15,000

10. William Parfet, Hickory Corners, $10,000

Following the money in Michigan

Bridge Magazine and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network teamed up to examine Friday’s campaign finance filings from candidates for statewide office and committees working to support and oppose three statewide ballot issues.

We're not just a news organization, we're also your neighbors

We’ve been there for you with daily Michigan COVID-19 news; reporting on the emergence of the virus, daily numbers with our tracker and dashboard, exploding unemployment, and we finally were able to report on mass vaccine distribution. We report because the news impacts all of us. Will you please donate and help us reach our goal of 15,000 members in 2021?

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now