Who’s funding Michigan governor primary winners, Schuette and Whitmer

Michigan’s major party candidates are raising millions of dollars, including from “dark-money” sources.

Having already attracted more than $42 million for the primary, Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial election is poised to be among the most expensive in state history. And two of the race’s most active fundraisers are now set to face off in November.

Former state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic nominee, raised $6.9 million for her campaign by July 22, the last reporting deadline. Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Republican nominee, raised $5.0 million by July 22.

In contrast to the major party candidates, Bill Gelineau of Lowell, winner of the first contested Libertarian Party primary, raised just over $50,000 by July 22.

Whitmer collected more than four times as many individual donations as her Republican opponent ‒ about 34,300 individual contributions for Whitmer to roughly 7,800 for Schuette.

Whitmer and Schuette both received spending from groups that can accept unlimited amounts of money. If history is any indication, other big-spending groups will get involved in the race in the coming months.

The following is a summary of where the money stands, as of the most recent filing period:

Gretchen Whitmer, Democrat

Total raised by campaign: $6.2 million

Public funding received by campaign: $690,814

Approximate individual contributions: 34,300

Cash available after primary spending: $2.8 million

Top campaign contributors include: Michigan State Utility Workers PAC, $68,000; Michigan Laborers Political League, $68,000; Bernstein PAC, $68,000; Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, $68,000; Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters, $68,000

Outside spending: Build A Better Michigan, a 527 fund that has raised $2 million and aired TV ads promoting Whitmer

Build A Better Michigan top donors: Progressive Advocacy Trust, Ingham County Democratic Party Administrative Account, $300,000; Philip A. Hart Democratic Club, $250,000; DRIVE Committee, $250,000; United Auto Workers V CAP, $250,000; Emily’s List, $250,000

Campaign-Finance Fact: Whitmer has faced criticism over the contributions from the Philip A. Hart Democratic Club and the Progressive Advocacy Trust because those groups don’t disclose where their money comes from.

Group To Watch In The General Election: Democratic Governors Association, which works to elect Democratic governors nationwide. It spent about $15 million on TV advertisements promoting Democratic nominee Mark Schauer in 2015.

Bill Schuette, Republican

Total raised by campaign: $5.0 million

Public funding received by campaign: $0

Approximate individual contributions: 7,800

Cash available after primary spending: $1.5 million

Top campaign contributors include: Bill Schuette Attorney General Committee Transfers, $1,950,000; Michigan Realtors PAC, $68,000; Michigan Chamber PAC, $61,850; Blue Cross Blue Shield, $42,500; DeVos family, Amway, $34,000; Nicholson family, PVS Chemicals, $19,800

Outside spending: Better Jobs, Stronger Families, a super PAC that has raised about $2 million; Fund for Michigan’s Tomorrows, a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors or spending but has been airing TV ads promoting Schuette

Better Jobs, Stronger Families top donors: Fund for Michigan’s Tomorrow’s, $300,000; 2. Better Jobs Stronger Families Policy Solutions, $275,000; Mohammad Qazi, Ciena Healthcare, $250,000; Kojaian Properties, Bloomfield Hills, $250,000; Peter Karmanos, Maddog Technology, $250,000

Campaign-Finance Fact: Schuette has maintained a 527 account that raises money to pay for some of his administrative expenses. It’s called the Bill Schuette Administrative Account. It can accept corporate contributions and files with the Internal Revenue Service.

Group To Watch In The General Election: Republican Governors Association, which works to elect Republican governors nationwide. It spent about $10 million on TV ads promoting Rick Snyder during his 2014 re-election campaign.

Bill Gelineau, Libertarian

Total raised by campaign: $53,255

Public funding received by campaign: $0

Approximate individual contributions: 70

Cash available after primary spending: $3,212

Top campaign contributors include: Bill Gelineau, $36,005; William Hall, Warner Norcross & Judd, $4,025; Joseph Gillotte, Lyons, $2,500; Lorence Wenke, Wenke Greenhouses, $2,000; Emily Salvette, Ann Arbor, $1,000

Campaign-Finance Fact: The last Libertarian candidate for governor, Mary Buzuma, reported raising only $6,380 for her 2014 campaign. She got 1.13 percent of the vote.

Sources: Campaign finance disclosures filed with the Michigan Secretary of State; reports filed with Internal Revenue Service

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Leslie Watson
Wed, 08/08/2018 - 12:44pm

I'm curious about this large amount of Schuette's funding:
Bill Schuette Attorney General Committee Transfers, $1,950,000. Who is this?

John LeClair
Thu, 08/09/2018 - 12:36pm

Good question. Very large amount.

John Hunter
Tue, 09/04/2018 - 8:34pm

Establish Principles for Elections in Michigan and support a 28th Amendment to the US Constitution.

The State of Michigan is certainly resilient. After numerous economic downturns we always make a comeback, especially when the playing field is level. The State of Michigan is also somewhat unique. We, the voters in Michigan, have the rare opportunity to amend our state constitution by popular vote. In amending our state constitution, we will clarify first principles for fairness and transparency in Michigan’s elections, and we will add our voices to the growing chorus of states that seek to amend the United States Constitution, specifically a 28th Amendment concerning campaign finance reform.

Since 1837 Michigan citizens have served our country’s and state’s interests with distinction. Who is better qualified than Michigan voters to determine the direction of our state or the issues that daily impact us all? My neighbor and I may not see eye-to-eye politically but we do agree on one thing. Resource extraction multinational corporations, out-of-state casino owners, hedge fund managers with off-shore bank accounts, “vulture” capitalists or special interest PACs have absolutely no business influencing Michigan elections while hiding behind their wall of secrecy. The dark monies that flow into our representatives campaigns essentially turn them into nothing more than a “paid shill” for their sponsors. Unfortunately, far too many of our current legislators are quite content to being “at-will employees” for these donors while loudly proclaiming they are still “the voice of the people”.

Let us all level the playing field. Research your politician’s finances. See who they actually represent. Demand they support campaign finance reform and the 28th Amendment. Their answers and actions will reveal who their real constituent is. It should come as no surprise that it may be neither you or I.

Until there is reform and full transparency in campaign financing, we will all remain pawns on someone else’s chess board.