By the Michigan Campaign Finance Network
LANSING — The election year is still young, but the campaign for your vote is well under way. And groups of all kinds are already buying time on your TV screen.
An estimated $1.7 million in political ads had aired on broadcast TV stations in Michigan as of Monday, March 26, according to an analysis of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings and of Kantar Media/CMAG ad-tracking data.
The total doesn’t include ads airing on cable TV. There have been many of those as well.
As of Monday, there were still 225 days remaining until the Nov. 6 general election.
Below is a map that allows you see to see which candidates or groups have been spending the most on broadcast ads in your area.
Three candidates for Michigan governor began airing broadcast TV ads before March 26, and two groups looking to influence the race aired ads as well.
— Shri Thanedar, a businessman from Ann Arbor who is seeking the Democratic nomination, has been the top spender on TV ads, according to MCFN’s analysis. Thanedar’s campaign committee aired an estimated $1.2 million in broadcast ads as of March 26, according to the analysis.
— Republican Brian Calley, of Portland, the current lieutenant governor, launched his broadcast ads in mid-March. Since then, Calley’s campaign committee for governor had aired an estimated $205,000 in ads.
— Calley is also getting a boost from Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder’s Relentless Positive Action Political Action Committee, or PAC, started airing ads in support of Calley in late March. The PAC aired an estimated $50,000 in ads by March 26. The PAC’s ads feature footage of Calley and Snyder together, but the spending by the PAC is technically independent of the Calley campaign. Unlike candidate committees, PACs can accept unlimited contributions. Their contributions to candidates are capped, but they can make unlimited “independent” expenditures. The Relentless Positive Action PAC’s top donor since the start of 2017 has been West Michigan businessman William Parfet, who has given $100,000.
— The Fund for Michigan’s Tomorrows also began airing ads in late March. The organization is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, according to state business filings, and its ads make positive statements about Republican Bill Schuette, of Midland, the current attorney general and a candidate for governor. The fund aired an estimated $20,000 in broadcast ads as of March 26. Because its ads are “issue ads,” talking about Schuette’s support for a bill to decrease the income tax rate and not specifically endorsing Schuette’s election, the ads don’t fall under Michigan’s campaign finance disclosure requirements.
— The campaign of Republican Jim Hines, a doctor from Saginaw, has also aired a small number of broadcast ads around the state. The analysis estimates that his ads have cost about $1,000.
A Super PAC supporting Schuette, Better Jobs Stronger Families, began airing broadcast ads on Wednesday, so its first wave of ads will be included in a future analysis. Schuette’s own campaign has been running ads on cable and satellite TV as well, but the ads haven’t aired on broadcast TV yet.
The last time Michigan had primary races for governor was 2010. In the GOP primary that year, Snyder launched his broadcast ads in February but his campaign went dark from late March until May. The other candidates and groups involved in the race didn’t launch ads until after May.
Outside of ads focused on gubernatorial candidates, U.S. Senate candidate Sandy Pensler, a Republican from Grosse Pointe, has been the most active. Pensler’s campaign committee had aired an estimated $187,000 in broadcast ads as of March 26, according to the analysis. Pensler’s campaign has been very active on cable TV as well.
Pensler is in a GOP primary race with John James, of Farmington Hills, and Bob Carr, of Mackinac Island. They want to challenge U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, of Lansing, in the general election.