Following the money: City Council races see influx of cash from local donors

Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 5:14pm

Ann Arbor City Council Campaign Finance Breakdown

Ann Arbor City Council Campaign Finance Breakdown Buy this photo
Design by Alec Cohen

Candidates running for City Council are required to release reports on their campaign finances, including a list of all contributions made to their campaigns. The Daily examined those lists and compared the donors funding each candidate’s race.

Overall Contributions:

Overall contributions per campaign

Overall contributions per campaign Buy this photo
Design by Alec Cohen

With more than $40,000, Jen Eyer, Democratic candidate for Ward 4, raised the most of all candidates. Lisa Disch, Democratic candidate for Ward 1, and Erica Briggs, Democratic candidate for Ward 5, were next in line with $27,094 and $27,054, respectively.

Evan Redmond, Democratic candidate for Ward 3, brought in the least amount of money, raising only $3,540. That is less than 10 percent of the contributions Eyer had.

Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, Democratic candidate for Ward 4, entirely self-funded her campaign. She put forward a total of $9,975.

Donations from politicians:

Contributions from Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor

Contributions from Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor Buy this photo
Design by Alec Cohen

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, who has said “the conservative Council majority threatens to push Ann Arbor in the wrong direction,” contributed to a number of newcomers, including Disch; Eyer; Briggs; Linh Song, Democratic candidate for Ward 2; and Travis Radina, Democratic candidate for Ward 3.

Beyond Taylor, Disch received money from former City Administrator Howard Lazurus, who — with support from Disch’s opponent Anne Bannister — was fired by the City Council earlier this year.

Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, once a Republican, has served as an Independent since 2011. This year, Lumm is running for re-election, but as a Democrat. Though she changed her party, she still has Republican donors, including Former Republican Councilmembers Peter Fink, Joe Upton, Jeanette Middleton and Ingrid Sheldon. 

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack donated to Radina’s campaign. McCormack is not named as an endorser on Radina’s website. Radina also received donations from Michelle Deatrick, the chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Council on the Environment and Climate Crisis, Desmond Miller, chief of staff to state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and Eli Savit, who is running for Washtenaw County Prosecutor. 

Dan Michniewicz, Democratic candidate for Ward 5, and Redmond, both self-described democratic socialists, picked up donations from the Michigan Democratic Party Progressive Caucus. 

Additionally, some candidates contributed to campaigns in other wards. Disch, Eyer, Song and Briggs all contributed to each other, with the exception of Briggs not donating to Disch. Redmond and Michniewicz exchanged contributions. Tony Brown, Democratic candidate for Ward 3, and David Silkworth, Democratic candidate for Ward 5, received donations from Bannister. Radina also picked up contributions from Disch and Briggs. 

Realtors:

As Ann Arbor rents continue to rise and University students struggle to manage their lease agreements, landlords are pouring money into City Council races.

Executives at Oxford Companies contributed substantially to a number of candidates. CEO Jeff Hauptman, Associate Director Melissa Gumenick and Bill Wilson, Board of Advisors member, combined for a total of $5,150. On the receiving end of those contributions were Disch, Radina, Briggs and Eyer. 

William Hathaway of Hathaway Properties is a vocal opponent of Taylor and has contributed to candidates Bannister, Lumm, Brown, Silkworth and Jack Eaton, all of whom are running against candidates endorsed by the mayor. 

Carolyn Lepard, Ann Arbor Real Estate property manager, The Spaly Group’s Douglas and Rebecca Spaly, Ed Shaffran of Shaffran Companies, David Copi of Copi Properties and Amy Seetoo of Seetoo Properties all donated to Lumm.

Alex Milshteyn of Ann Arbor Real Estate contributed to Disch, Song and Radina. Nick Lacy, former president of the Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors, contributed to the Song campaign. Dan Ketelaar of Omena Real Estate Investments contributed to Briggs.

Reinhart Realtors brokers Barbara Eichmuller and Colby Fox donated to Lumm, and Reinhart Realtors broker Megan Masurek donated to the Radina campaign. The Realtors PAC of Michigan also donated $500 to Briggs and Radina.

Duo Security: 

Donors with affiliations to Duo Security, as well as its parent-company, Cisco Systems, poured more than $9,000 into this year’s races. These donors include Duo co-founder and CTO Jonathan Oberheide, as well as his wife Ashley Oberheide, Duo Creative Director Peter Baker, Trevor Mays, Duo director of technical support operations, Adam Goodman, Duo principal security architect, and Cisco Senior Manager Cynthia Sheng. 

Song is married to Cisco General Manager and Duo co-founder and CEO Doug Song, and received $2,900 of these contributions. Disch, Radina, Eyer and Briggs also all received substantial donations from these individuals. 

Peter Katz, Expel vice president and general counsel, who is also a Law School lecturer, donated to the Eyer campaign. Katz is also a former Duo employee.

Development: 

While all candidates in the Aug. 4 primary are running as Democrats, they differ widely on their support for new development in the city. Disagreements on the council have spurred larger questions over the future of Ann Arbor, a longtime college town, now dealing with a lack of affordable housing and a growing student population at the University.

One protracted argument over the best use of the Library Lot on Fifth Avenue cost Ann Arbor hundreds of thousands of dollars in broker fees after a $10 million deal to sell the land to Chicago developer Core Spaces was nullified by the passage of Proposal A in 2018. Lumm, Eaton and Bannister all opposed negotiating the deal with Core Spaces, with Bannister filing a lawsuit against the city to stop it from going into effect.

Residents who have likewise fought against new development are backing the incumbent trio, as well as newcomers Silkworth and Brown. Tom Stulberg, who was part of a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor last year over a new development, gave $100 to Eaton, Bannister, Lumm and Silkworth. Stulberg also gave $150 to Brown and backed a moratorium on rezoning special business districts proposed by Eaton and Bannister. 

Silkworth also received contributions from Frank Wilhelme, Alan Haber and Will Hathaway, all proponents of Proposal A. Hathway also gave money to Bannister, Brown, Eaton and Lumm.

University Affiliations:

University Regent Mark Bernstein (D) contributed $1,000 to Disch, Eyer and Briggs’s campaigns. 

Disch, who has taught at the University for more than 12 years, picked up donations from many University faculty. More than 40 of Disch’s 146 donations came from contributors who are employed by the University. Lumm, Song, Eyer and Briggs also received donations from a significant number of University faculty. 

Kenneth Hillenburg, University LGBTQ Alumni Assoication chair, donated to Radina. 

The Ann Arbor City Council primary is Aug. 4. With one seat up for grabs in each ward and 13 total candidates running, The Daily has put together a City Council election guide with each candidate’s platforms to help Ann Arbor voters make informed decisions at the polls. Check it out here.

Daily Staff Reporter John Grieve can be reached at jgrieve@umich.edu.