By Allana Akhtar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 2, 2014
Campaign finance reports released Friday reveal Republicans have a fundraising edge for the upcoming Michigan gubernatorial election with higher campaign funds.
According to the report, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder currently has four times the amount of campaign money at his disposal than his Democratic challenger, former congressional representative Mark Schauer.
Snyder started 2014 with around $4 million in donations, according to the report. Some of these funds went towards an advertisement during Sunday night’s Super Bowl game, which can cost millions of dollars for a single 30-second slot.
Schauer has garnered $1.6 million in contributions since entering the race in June and currently has $1 million in his war chest. His biggest donors were the Service Employees International Union Michigan Council and the Michigan Laborer’s Political League. In a press release, he reported 6,300 of his contributions were of $100 or less — over three times the number of small-money contributors to Snyder.
In his press release, Schauer said he did not believe his smaller campaign funds would hinder his chance of winning, suggesting Snyder’s larger campaign account indicates that he is favored by the wealthy and is not in touch with the middle class.
“We fully expect Governor Snyder will have strong support from billionaires like Dick DeVos,” Schauer said. “But no matter how much money the Governor spends, he can’t whitewash his cuts to education and the job-killing Snyder Retirement Tax. Make no mistake, we will have the resources we need to win this November.”
The report is the first that includes the effects of a new campaign finance law that Snyder signed in December. The law doubles the caps on individual donations and donations from political action committees, increasing individual donations to $6,800 and political action committee donations to $68,000.
The new law also requires candidates to file two new campaign finance reports before the election and that automated telephone calls and other political ads identify their sponsor. In a news release, Snyder said the bill will “bring an unprecedented level of transparency and openness to the state’s political system.”
“Our democracy thrives and our government is at its best when there is openness and accountability, all while our freedoms of speech and association are protected,” he said.
The bill’s detractors believe it serves as a way for large donors to give candidates more money — and increase their influence. Public Policy Prof. John Chamberlin, one of its critics, called the bill “very partisan” and Snyder’s justification of it, to increase transparency, “nonsense.”
“If you believe, as I do, that money shouldn’t drive politics but citizen participation should, the old campaign contribution limits were just fine and they were more constraining on a couple hundred people — most people don’t make contributions at all,” Chamberlin said. “The citizens of Michigan are not well served by covering up who gives the money and allowing big contributions to influence outcomes of elections.”
With regard to the upcoming mayoral election in Ann Arbor, Chamberlin said he believes it is too early for funds to make a difference in each candidate’s campaign. Though money does matter in politics, he said, how much of it a candidate has at a given time does not.
“I’m not sure that being able to run Super Bowl ads is all that important, it’s flashy and it let’s people know you’re running,” Chamberlin said. “But I think in the long run it matters if one candidate has significantly more money than another candidate.”