Michigan Republicans pass Democrats in PAC contributions

By WILLIAM THIEDE
Capital News Service

LANSING – In 2017, Republican lawmakers in Michigan raised more campaign funds from political action committees than Democrats.

Contributions from the committees commonly called PACs hit over $2.8 million for the GOP in a non-election year, according to a Spartan Newsroom analysis of campaign finance records.  Their Democratic counterparts raised nearly $1.4 million from PACs.

PACs are a tool that businesses, labor unions and other interest groups use to raise money for candidates in hopes of influencing policy.

While Republican lawmakers raised more from PACs, Democrats got a higher percentage of their total funding from PACs — nearly 61 percent of their total contributions came from those sources.  PACs accounted for about 51 percent of all the money Republicans raised.

Multiple PACs donate a significant amount of money to candidates. Many distinctly favor one party over the other.  Among the most polarized:

  • The Michigan Chamber of Commerce spent 98.5 percent of its $83,700 in contributions on Republicans.  
  • Comcast spent 84 percent of its $11,000 on GOP candidates.
  • The United Auto Workers spent all of its $62,500 in PAC funds on Democrats
  • The Michigan Education Association spent 83 percent of its $32,700 in PAC contributions on Democrats.

“There are PACs for both parties that donate a large sum of money to the people they want to see in that position,” said Lisa Canada, the political director for the Detroit Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, a union that tends to back Democrats. “This past year, politicians in office in Michigan were primarily Republican, which had a lot to do with the money being contributed.”

One reason why Republicans may rely proportionately less than Democrats on PACs is that Michigan has become more Republican over the years, said Jen Smith, a retired political consultant FROM WHERE?.

“The GOP doesn’t have to rely on PACs giving them as much money when people are going out and donating,” Smith said. “They have great influence over the people in Michigan right now.”

Republican legislators raised on average $62,061 from all sources in 2017. The average for Democratic legislators was $39,542.

“Everybody takes money from PACs, not just Republicans,” said Tony Daunt, executive director of  the Lansing-based Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative organization that says it strives to catalyze a grassroots movement in favor of “constitutional rights.”

“It’s a popular myth that only the Republicans take PAC money, and the media goes along with that myth,” Daunt said.

William Theide writes for Spartan Newsroom.