I have to wonder how many of these high stakes contributors did so in order to grease the wheel business wise in Michigan…I seem to recall how the Madwoman of Lansing strong armed her way and commandeered a private plane this Spring to go down to Florida. Read on my friends…
By Emily Lawler
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has raised record-breaking amounts of money in the lead-up to her bid for reelection in 2022, but she did it this period with the help of some jumbo donors who were able to give more than the typical legal limit.
Michigan campaign finance law caps individuals’ donations to candidate committees. The max is currently $7,150 for the governor’s race. But Whitmer’s campaign appears to be relying on a caveat: In 1984, former Secretary of State Richard H. Austin confirmed 1983 guidance saying contribution limits didn’t apply to candidates facing recall.
Whitmer campaign spokesperson Mark Fisk said nearly 30 recall petitions have been filed against Whitmer, and the exemption lets governors defend themselves against recalls.
“The Governor has faced dozens of recalls for trying to protect public health, save lives and move the state out of the worst public health crisis in history and we are going to be beating these back at the Board of Canvassers, in the courts and on the streets as long as necessary,” Fisk said.
None of the recall efforts appear poised for success at this time, and several of the highest-profile have failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot. But elections attorney Steven C. Liedel said, “The question isn’t whether they’re serious… it’s whether it’s an actual recall under the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and election law, which it is.”
He noted that a rewrite of the recall law in 2012 changed how recall elections and related fundraising works for other officeholders, but left intact much of the mechanics of a gubernatorial recall and thus, seemingly, the 1984 declaratory ruling.
The existence of recent recall efforts against Whitmer paved the way for a boon in large donations to her candidate committee.
Overall, Whitmer raised $8.6 million in the Jan. 1 through July 20 reporting period, a huge haul that outperformed previous officeholders and also put her total raised this cycle at $14 million, which is $1 million more than she raised for her entire 2018 campaign.
Of the contributions Whitmer collected this period, fewer than 1% were above what would otherwise be the limit of $7,150. But the huge numbers from individuals who gave more than that — some individuals gave up to $250,000 — mean those jumbo contributions account for close to 44% of the money she raised this period.
“This explosive growth… is in large part made possible because of this caveat,” said Michigan Campaign Finance Network Executive Director Simon D. Schuster of the large contributions.
By his preliminary calculations, Whitmer would have brought in $5.9 million instead of $8.6 million if those large donors had instead given the typical maximum of $7,150.
(Can’t see the table? Click here.)
Money from smaller individual donors, meanwhile, was plentiful but didn’t make up a huge part of the total. Small donors giving $100 or less accounted for 91.6% of her contributions this period, but less than 15% of the total amount of money she raised.
Some of Whimter’s biggest-dollar supporters included out-of-state donors like Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Colorado-based philanthropist Patricia Stryker, from the family that founded the Stryker Corporation in Kalamazoo. Each of those two gave $250,000.
Other big donors were some of her biggest supporters, generally. Her father gave $60,000 (and Michigan campaign finance law doesn’t subject immediate family members to any limit on donations.)
Business people with ties to the Lansing area, where she has long-established roots, also chipped in at amounts greater than $7,150. Developer Scott Chappelle gave $10,000, and Boji Group CEO Ron Boji gave $10,000 as well.
As far as spending goes, the report shows she spent a total of $1.4 million this period, $48,889 of it on legal services related to recall efforts. She has $10.7 million in cash on hand.
Whitmer far outraised the Republicans vying to challenge her. However, most Republican candidates got in part-way through the fundraising period. More candidates may still enter, and retired Detroit Police Chief James Craig got into the race too recently to have to file the reports.
The highest-raising Republican was Garrett Soldano, a Kalamazoo-area chiropractor who gained statewide name recognition when he organized opposition to her pandemic orders. He raised just under $625,000.