Comparing 21st Century Michigan Gubernatorial Primaries

The 2010 gubernatorial primary candidates reported raising $18.9 million, through the post primary reports filed on September 2nd. Republican nominee Rick Snyder raised the most with $8,092,507. As of the August 23rd close of books, Democratic nominee Virg Bernero raised 6th most among the field of seven candidates with $1,152,783.

Following are several comparisons of the 2010 Michigan gubernatorial primary with those of 2002 and 2006.

Overall Fund-raising
The 2010 candidates’ aggregate total of $18,930,751 was 28.3 percent more than the $14,755,496 raised by the field of five candidates in 2002. The 2002 campaign was the only one of the last four gubernatorial campaigns that did not feature a candidate who self-funded at least $5 million.

This year’s total is only 57 percent of the $33.3 million amassed by Dick DeVos and Jennifer Granholm through the post-primary period in 2006.

Self-funding: Snyder vs. DeVos
Rick Snyder has contributed $5,941,027 to his campaign through August 23rd, 73.4 percent of its total. Through the 2006 post-primary report, Dick and Betsy DeVos had contributed $16,227,269 to Mr. DeVos’s campaign, 75.7 percent of its total.

Rick Snyder spent $2.4 million for television advertising in the pre-primary period. His TV campaign launched on the Super Bowl and ran through March 21st. After six weeks of down time, Snyder ran three weeks more of television advertisements prior to Memorial Day. The ad blitz resumed at the end of June for the final five-week push.

Dick DeVos’s television campaign began in mid-February 2006 and ran unabated through Election Day. Through the 2006 primary, DeVos spent $10.6 million on television.

Public Funding
Due to the Legislature’s $7.2 million raid on the state campaign fund to balance the FY 2008 budget, the fund paid this year’s candidates only 42 percent of the amount for which they were eligible, a total of $653.990 so far. While this was costly to all the candidates who tapped the fund, it was particularly damaging to Pete Hoekstra, who would have been eligible for an additional $400,000, already. Mr. Hoekstra has applied for an additional $41,675 from the fund that hasn’t yet been authorized by the Department of State.

Mr. Snyder’s self-funding meant that his Republican opponents were eligible to tap the fund without observing the normal $2 million spending limit. This affected Mike Cox and Mike Bouchard, although Cox’s benefit was marginal due to his relatively narrow base of individual donors. In the primary period, the fund pays a two-to-one match for up to $100 from individual contributors.

Ironically, if the Department of State would have known that Mr. Snyder was going to win the Republican nomination, it could have paid the participating candidates the full amount for which they were eligible. The fund reserved $1,125,000 for each of the major party nominees for the general election, but Snyder is ineligible for the Republican allocation because of his self-funding.

As the Democratic nominee, Virg Bernero is eligible, and has applied for, the $1,125,000 general election allocation from the fund.

Although Andy Dillon would have been eligible for public funds, his campaign did not apply for them. Perhaps this was penance on Mr. Dillon’s part, for leading the Legislature’s crippling raid on the fund.

The state campaign fund was tapped for $2,725,391 for the 2002 primary. Dave Bonior received the maximum allocation of $990,000, while Dick Postumus received $972,927. Among the candidates that year, only Jennifer Granholm declined public funds for the primary.

Neither Dick DeVos nor Jennifer Granholm was eligible for public funds in the 2006 primary: DeVos, because of self-funding; Granholm, because she exceeded the $2 million spending cap for her uncontested primary.

“Issue” Advertising
Issue advertising, for which there is no campaign finance reporting, was a much bigger factor in the 2010 primary than previous years. Eight groups that aggregated funds from anonymous donors spent $4.6 million for television advertising prior to the primary election. Issue ads accounted for 40 percent of all television expenditures for the primaries, and 60 percent of all television spending in the critical Detroit media market in the last month before Election Day.

The Genesee County Democratic Committee spent more than $2 million touting Virg Bernero and disparaging Andy Dillon. Bernero had no television campaign of his own.

Advance Michigan Now and Northern Michigan Education Fund were the aggregators for Dillon’s anonymous helpers. Between them, they spent $872,000.

On the Republican side, four groups – American’s for Job Security, Michigan Business United, Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Taxpayers Alert – spent $1,471,000 supporting Mike Cox and attacking his opponents. Among this group, Michigan Business United is a political action committee and should report its financial activity, although it has yet to do so. What has been reported is that Canton Sen. Bruce “The Commander” Patterson moved $100,000 from PVS Chemicals CEO Jim Nicholson through his leadership PAC to Michigan Business United.

Rounding out the sponsors of candidate-focused issue advertising was the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, which spent $213,000 attacking Cox.

Issue advertising was more limited, but still a factor in 2002 and 2006. In 2002, the St. Clair County Democratic Party was the vehicle for $2 million worth of issue advertising supporting Dave Bonior and disparaging Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm.

In 2006, the Michigan Democratic Party had spent $3 million for issue advertising attacking Dick DeVos by the time of the primary election.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network collects data on issue advertising from the public files of the states broadcasters and cable systems.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts research and public education on money in Michigan politics.

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