Top PACs' fundraising up by 44%
RGA Michigan PAC leads with $4.7 million
LANSING - Fundraising by Michigan's top 150 state political action committees (PACs) is up by $9.9 million, or 44 percent, compared to the top 150 PACs at this point in the 2012 election cycle, according to data compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network from reports filed with the Michigan Bureau of Elections.
The top 150 PACs so far this election cycle have raised $32 million. The corresponding total from 2012 was $22.2 million; the 2010 total was $19.9 million.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) Michigan PAC has the top fundraising total: $4,681,646. It is followed by Turnaround Detroit, a SuperPAC that supported the candidacy of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in his 2013 run for office, with $3,166,770.
The Republican Governors Association had the largest PAC in the history of Michigan politics in 2010 with $8.4 million. At this point in the 2010 cycle, that RGA Michigan PAC had just $125,000. That committee was dissolved at the end of the 2010 campaign. The new RGA Michigan PAC was organized last December.
Like its 2010 predecessor, this year's RGA Michigan PAC shows very little support from Michiganders. Just $75,000 of this year's current total is attributed to Michiganders: $50,000 from charter school operator J.C. Huizenga, and $25,000 from Jim Nicholson of PVS Chemicals.
Michigan-based donors have given more than $1.8 million to the state PAC's parent, the Republican Governors Association - a 527 committee that reports its receipts and expenditures to the Internal Revenue Service.
In 2010, the parent organization spent $3.5 million for television advertisements supporting Rick Snyder and opposing Virg Bernero that were not reported to the Bureau of Elections. The RGA Michigan PAC gave more than $5 million to the Michigan Republican Party and $3 million to the campaign committee of Rick Perry for governor of Texas.
The report titled "The RGA's $114 million shell game," linked at the end of this release, details the financial workings of the 2010 RGA Michigan PAC.
Legislative Caucuses' PACs
The four legislative caucuses' PACs are the state's only PACs that are subject to contribution limits. Those limits were doubled last December by legislation that allowed any person, PAC or party committee to give $40,000 per year, up from the old limit of $20,000. The caucuses' PACs are a major funding source for the state's most competitive legislative races.
The legislative caucuses rank 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th in fundraising among state PACs so far this election cycle: House Republican Campaign Committee - $2,159,954; Senate Republican Campaign Committee - $1,787,599; House Democratic Fund - $1,474,128; and Senate Democratic Fund - $657,397.
At least 27 of the top 150 state PACs are officeholders' leadership PACs. There may be more, but records are not transparent in identifying many PACs' sponsors.
Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco has the leading individual leadership PAC so far this cycle with a fundraising total of $164,999.
Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), presumed favorite to lead the Senate Republican Caucus in the 2015 legislature, is the top leadership-PAC fundraiser among officeholders. He has raised $189,035 in his three leadership PACs: Moving Michigan Forward - $139,243; Arlan Meekhof State Senate - $30,241; and Moving Michigan Forward II - $19,551.
The officeholder he seeks to replace, term-limited Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), has raised $113,275 for his leadership fund.
House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (Auburn Hills) has the second highest leadership PAC fundraising total among legislators eligible to return with $152,875.
Term-limited Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Township) has raised $152,882 for his two leadership PACs: Michigan Jobs Fund - $134,782; and Saginaw PAC - $18,100.
Among those presumed to be vying to be the new leader of the House Republican Caucus, Rep. Lisa Lyons (Alto) has raised $117,420 in her Posthumus Lyons Leadership Fund. She is followed by Rep. Al Pscholka (Stevensville), with $100,390, and Rep. Aric Nesbitt (Lawton), with $75,024.
Term-limited Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) has raised $91,500 for his Restore Michigan Fund.
Among incumbent Democratic senators, Sen. Jim Ananich (Flint) has raised $75,950 for his Ananich Future Fund. Sen. Rebekah Warren (Ann Arbor) has raised $77,061 for her two leadership PACs: Rebekah Warren Leadership PAC - $48,060; and Rebekah Warren Envision Michigan Fund - $29,001.
Term-limited Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (East Lansing) has raised $34,660 for her leadership fund.
Governor Rick Snyder's One Tough NERD PAC has raised $50,025.
Currently, nine of the top 150 state PACs are SuperPACs. Those committees may accept contributions from nonprofit or profit-making corporations, but they are limited to making independent expenditures. They are not allowed to contribute to candidate committees.
The top SuperPACs following Turnaround Detroit are: Detroit Forward (supported Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon in 2013) - $442,700; Business Leaders for Michigan II - $418,000; and Policy Over Party (International Operating Engineers Union) - $300,000.
It is noteworthy that some SuperPACs that were significant actors in previous campaigns have not loaded up their campaign accounts yet this cycle. Examples include The Michigan Association of Realtors SuperPAC ($419,000 in the 2012 cycle) and Parents and Teachers Putting Students First ($604,000 in the 2012 cycle).
Twenty of the PACs listed on the current list of Michigan's top 150 did not exist last election cycle. While there are always new committees being organized, the high number of high-powered new PACs is an illustration of the volatility in the money-in-politics sector. A person or a corporation can write a single check and create a dominant new PAC. This volatility makes predicting trends particularly difficult.