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Records: DeVos-backed PAC spent $6.3M on Tudor Dixon bid for Michigan governor

tudor dixon press conference
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family have donated millions of dollars to a super political action committee that is buying TV ads for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon. (Bridge photo)
  • The Michigan Families United super PAC raised $7.6 million and spent $6.3 million on pro-Dixon ads
  • Dixon struggled to fundraise after the August primary. That month, Gov. Whitmer had 28 times as much money.
  • Pro-Dixon groups are still outspent by Whitmer and her allies

LANSING — Former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family remain a top donor to Tudor Dixon, pumping at least $2.9 million into a political action committee supporting the Republican’s gubernatorial bid.

Campaign finance reports released Tuesday show contributions from the DeVos family in west Michigan accounted for more than a third of the $7.6 million raised by pro-Dixon super PAC Michigan Families United.

The super PAC raised almost $5.1 million — 67 percent of its total — between July and October. It had spent $6.3 million throughout the election cycle on pro-Dixon ad production and placement.

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Even so, Dixon’s campaign has lagged behind Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in fundraising and airtime. 

In late August, Whitmer’s campaign had $14 million in hand — 28 times the $523,000 Dixon had in the bank. Big donors who had traditionally contributed to Republicans had not put their money behind Dixon, Bridge previously reported.

From Sept. 5 to 18, pro-Whitmer ads aired 4,646 times compared to the 19 times for pro-Dixon ads, Axios reported.

But her campaign has said fundraising has picked up in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the Dixon campaign placed its first TV ad buy for the general election, according to ad tracking firm Medium Buying

The Republican Governors Association has also spent $3.5 million buying TV ads for Dixon that started running Oct. 12, spokesperson Chris Gustafson previously told Bridge.

Campaign records show that some prominent conservative donors have given big to the pro-Dixon super PAC.

Richard Uihlein, an Illinois billionaire and founder of packaging company Uline, has contributed a total of $750,000 to Michigan Families United throughout the election cycle.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce — which has yet to endorse in the governor’s race — has donated $55,000 to the super PAC, with the latest contribution coming July 25. 

The trade association, which represents roughly 5,000 businesses statewide, endorsed in every gubernatorial race for the past two decades. 

The Dixon campaign has relied almost exclusively on outside groups for ad buys

During the post-primary period, Whitmer’s campaign spent $3.1 million, including more than $2 million reserving TV ad spots on streaming platforms and local TV stations. Dixon’s campaign itself spent just $156,000 on TV ad placements in the same time period.

Put Michigan First, a tax-exempt organization associated with the Democratic Governors Association, reported spending $21.3 million between July and September, including $17.6 million on digital and TV media buys, according to its federal campaign finance filing filed Oct. 14

Of that, the group spent $2 million running an attack ad against Dixon in the few days before the primary, suggesting Dixon’s proposal to “phase out” personal income tax could slash funding for police and cause widespread officer layoffs

The group spent another $4 million slamming Dixon for her stance on abortion, taking her words on her comment against rape and incest exceptions out of context.

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