The numbers are in, and they are not a good omen for 2014. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has compiled the data on PAC and SuperPAC money reported to the Michigan Bureau of Elections for the first half of 2013. The overall contributions are up by 10.7 percent compared to the same period in the last election cycle.
The top 150 state PACs raised slightly over $9.5 million in that time, and they’re just getting warmed-up. Among the leaders are all the usual suspects:
The House Republican Campaign Committee led all PACs with $850,880 in contributions. It was followed by the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, $632,975; the House Democratic Fund, $546,253; the Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s Health PAC, $348,093; and Blue Cross / Blue Shield of Michigan PAC, $316,666.
In the SuperPAC category the winners are Business Leaders for Michigan PAC II at $239,000, and Michigan Chamber PAC III with $113,731 — that’s nearly double what they raised during this period last time around. The state-level Michigan Chamber PAC additionally raised $166,577 — an amount up by 36.4 percent from the previous cycle.
The Michigan Chamber tipped their hand this week as to where they plan to expend their political largess — launching a “voter education campaign” tagged Protect Michigan’s Energy Future. This is just their opening salvo in an all-out war on the ballot initiative drive to ban hydro-fracking in the Great Lakes state. At this juncture, the Chamber’s goal is to simply keep that question off the ballot — out of voter consideration. But if the petition drive spearheaded by the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is successful in obtaining enough valid signatures by the October 2013 deadline, the Chamber will predictably morph into phase two, where they will pool their resources (and lots of money) towards invalidating the petitions.
If that fails, they’ll pull-out all the stops with an expanded disinformation campaign making light of the dangers fracking poses for Michigan. They plan to pitch their message as one of energy independence and jobs creation. Rich Studley, president of the Michigan Chamber, explained it to The Detroit News:
“In-state production of oil and gas benefits Michigan communities and families in many way. It enables energy independence, supports thousands of Michigan Jobs and generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for public services at the state and local levels, in addition to royalties for Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund.”
To be successful, the leaders of the ban fracking petition drive will need to start lawyering-up right now. If what happened in the referendum to repeal the Emergency Manager law is any indication of what to expect in this campaign, the battle will be brutal and costly. Getting the question on the ballot is only step-one in the process. The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan must also raise enough money to wage a viable fight leading up to the Nov. 2014 vote.
The dollars currently in the Michigan Chamber’s kitty are just the tip of the iceberg of what they will have at their disposal for the 2014 election cycle. Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network said the PACs are just getting started — “Political fundraising can go through the roof at the stroke of a pen, and that’s likely to happen later in the election cycle.”
Amy Kerr Hardin