Michigan Campaign Finance Network Director Craig Mauger says record after record is falling as the numbers come in for this year’s political spending, and the final figures won’t be known until January.
Mauger says the four caucus committees that raise money for state House and Senate candidates for both parties drive the spending in state legislative races. He says this year’s total of $14-million is up $4-million over the previous record set in 2006. Mauger says the increase is due in part to a change that the Legislature made in 2013 that doubled contribution limits for those committees.
The caucus committees contribute money to candidates or run independent advertising. So the committees are responsible for much of the TV advertising in state House and Senate races. Mauger says the numbers on TV advertising show that the 20th state Senate district, which includes all of Kalamazoo County, ranks fifth among state Senate races in TV ad spending. The 61st state House district, which includes the city of Portage ranks 5th among state House races for spending on TV advertising.
Republicans hold a significant advantage for caucus committee fundraising. Mauger says the party in power usually raises more money. He says it allowed the Senate Republicans to start airing ads earlier. But Mauger says the Democrats have been able to spend more money in some races.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s analysis finds the 8th Congressional district where Republican Mike Bishop is running for re-election against Democrat Elissa Slotkin has already broke the record for most expensive U.S House race in Michigan history. The 6th Congressional district where Republican Fred Upton is running for re-election against Democrat Matt Longjohn will be more expensive than previous campaigns in Southwest Michigan. Mauger says national groups have gotten involved in the race and increased the price tag. He says outside spending can account for more than half of the money for a U.S. House race.
Plenty of money is also being raised to support and oppose ballot proposals that Michigan voters will decide this fall. Mauger says the group supporting Proposal 1 to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan has an overall financial advantage. But he says the campaign opposing the proposal has been able to raise enough to be competitive in the last few weeks. Voters not Politicians got Proposal 2 to change Michigan’s redistricting process on the ballot without a major financial backer to pay for gathering petition signatures. That’s considered rare in modern Michigan politics. Mauger says the most recent reports show that they have raised more than $10-million from two out of state groups. The group opposing Proposal 2 is getting most of its money from the conservative group the Michigan Freedom Fund.
Mauger says in raw numbers this is likely to be the most expensive race for governor in Michigan history. However, he says that may be an “apples to oranges” comparison to 2006 and 2014. He says factors such as inflation and competitive primaries for both the Republican and Democratic nomination helped make this year’s race more expensive. But Mauger says it’s important to look at how money is being raised and spent on campaigns “it tells a story about what is going on in Michigan politics.”