Citizen's Guide 2014: Independents spenders swamped candidates

LANSING - SuperPACs, party administrative accounts and political nonprofit corporations outspent candidates' campaign committees in Michigan's most contested political campaigns of 2014. Details are contained in the Citizen's Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance 2014, released today by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Candidates and independent committees raised and spent $134,610,000 in the 2014 state elections. That total is up by 25.6 percent compared to the corresponding total from 2010, when state constitutional executive offices and the Michigan Senate were last on the ballot.

Accountability for political spending was the weakest ever in 2014. Unreported candidate-focused television advertisements totaled $42.9 million. That is nearly double the 2010 total of $22.9 million.

Among the notable elements of Michigan's 2014 state campaigns:

• The gubernatorial campaign was the second-most expensive ever at $63.5 million. Spending for television advertising that was not reported through the State's campaign finance reporting system reached $35.2 million.

• The attorney general campaign was the most expensive ever at $7,937,000. Undisclosed television spending topped $3 million.

• The Michigan House campaigns were the most expensive ever at $25.3 million.

• The 20th District Michigan Senate campaign was the most expensive ever at $2,646,000.

• The Michigan Supreme Court campaign topped $10 million for the third consecutive election cycle. Unreported television, all supporting the Republican nominees, was $4.67 million. There are no equals to that level of spending in judicial campaigns, or the dark money component, anywhere else in the nation.

Michigan's 2014 U.S. Senate campaign also was dominated by independent spenders. Democrat Gary Peters and Republican Terri Land raised $22 million in their candidate committees. SuperPACs and political nonprofits spent more than $36 million on the campaign.

"Independent spenders overshadow the candidates' campaigns in almost every competitive contemporary election," said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. "Contribution limits and campaign accountability are becoming quaint vestiges of a time when democracy was valued more than it is today."

The Citizen's Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance 2014 includes summaries of all Michigan's federal and state campaigns, summaries on state PACs, political parties and ballot committees, and lists of top donors to winning candidates, parties and caucus and officeholders' leadership PACs.

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