Michigan PACs: It’s Reigning Money in the Mitten State

Although the media would indicate otherwise, there’s more than a presidential election for voters to consider this year. In Michigan, the entire House comes up for re-election, as is the case every two years. (Senate terms coincide with the governor’s, to be decided every four years, at the same time as congressional midterm elections.) What this means in practical terms is — it’s always fundraising season in the Mitten State. And 2015 was no exception.

The political action committee (PAC) cash machine is roaring along without pause, hauling in $22.6 million last year to grease the political skids for the 2016 showdowns. Of that sum, $20.1 million went to the top 150 PACs. That’s actually down a smidge from the comparable period in 2013, when the top 150’s collective war chest boasted $22.2 million — not exactly decreased enough to be deemed an encouraging trend though.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the biggest and the baddest non-caucus committees are a predictable cast of characters:

top 10 pac

Source: Michigan Campaign Finance Network

When we factor-in caucus money though, the picture changes considerably as the Republican House, Republican Senate, Democratic House, and Democratic Senate Committees take first, second, third, and fifth positions respectively among the top 150. As typical, Dem coffers pale compared to the GOP war chest:

caucus fundraising

Source: Michigan Campaign Finance Network

In all, 650 PACs filed with the Secretary of State by the end of 2015. That number will likely increase in 2016, as some drive-by campaigns setup short-term camp. Craig Mauger, executive director of MCFN, noted that PACs and Super PACs are very transient creatures in Michigan politics, explaining:

For instance, 13 of the top 25 PACs from the 2013-2014 cycle aren’t on the top 150 list for 2015. Those 13 PACs — 11 of which were Super PACs — raised $19 million last cycle. However, in 2015, five of the 13 dissolved, and the other eight combined to raise just $18,274.29.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-30) is associated with two major Michigan PACs — Moving Michigan Forward Fund and Moving Michigan Forward Fund II, which captured the 21st and 16th positions in the top 150. MCFN reports that no other Michigan lawmaker had a PAC in the top 35 on the list for 2015.

One of the few bright spots on the horizon when it comes to campaign finance is the trend towards increased internet activity, as fewer people get their steady diet of election year politics from television, mailers, and robocalls. This development has the potential to level the playing field, and negate the power of Citizens United, among other egregious campaign finance laws — of which Michigan has aplenty.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

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