News Story

Democrat Mark Schauer Receiving the Big Donations in Gubernatorial Race

But despite appearances, political race contributions reflect typical pattern

Though Michigan’s gubernatorial candidates differ on issues like right-to-work, the SEIU dues skim and government regulations, the apparent contrast between their campaign finance reports could come as a surprise to many.

Lists of campaign contributions to former Congressman Mark Schauer, the Democratic challenger, are what might be expected. Labor unions have given Schauer significant dollar amounts. These include: the Michigan Education Association (MEA) $71,427; Michigan Laborers' Political League, $68,000; Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights PAC, $45,000; and the Michigan State Utility Workers Council, $44,000. With polls now showing the race as a toss-up, these could increase considerably.

Meanwhile, the contributions to Gov. Rick Snyder’s campaign look totally different than those to Schauer’s – and not in a way that many might assume. According to the Secretary of State database, Gov. Snyder’s contribution list consists of row upon row of $6,000 (the highest amount allowed) allotments, seemingly donated by individuals.

The difference between the appearance of Schauer’s contributions and those of the governor’s is the result of Gov. Snyder not accepting contributions from political action committees (PACs). However, according to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, this in reality is a difference without much distinction.

Robinson has looked closely at the "individual" contributions and determined that they are actually from sources using individuals to give dollars to his campaign while still technically complying with Gov. Snyder’s decision not to take PAC money.

“Given the fact that Gov. Snyder nominally doesn’t accept contributions from political action committees, he gets them from these individuals who seem to be employees in aggregate of certain corporations and other entities that host fundraisers,” Robinson said.

By digging into the backgrounds of the individual contributors, Robinson has come up with the following list of entities and the amounts they’ve contributed to the Snyder campaign.

Employees of Blue Cross/Blue Shield – having donated $112,131 – comprise the largest single funding source so far for the governor. But if counted together, employees of Michigan’s two largest electric utilities have donated the most at $158,775 (CMS Energy, $82,975, and DTE Energy, $75,800).

Fifteen members of the DeVos family have contributed $85,600; CNSI, an information technology firm providing services to government and healthcare providers, $66,500; UHY, certified public accountants, $52,450; Dow Chemical, $48,050; J&B Medical Supply, $43,226; Ford Motor Co., $42,450; Whirlpool Corp., $41,200; and General Motors, $35,250.

As of mid-August, Gov. Snyder had out-raised Schauer $9.5 million to $4.5 million, according to Robinson.

The taxpayers have been the largest individual contributors to Schauer’s campaign so far. He has received $953,000 from the state public campaign fund, which provides a two-to-one match for contributions up to $100 from individuals. In addition, the fund owed the Schauer campaign another $16,000 at the time of the pre-primary report.

Capitol Confidential asked Robinson if, overall, he viewed the campaign finance picture in this year’s gubernatorial race as typical.

“I’d say it’s fairly typical,” Robinson said. “But the larger issue is that, although Gov. Snyder eschews contributions from political action committees, the money is still getting to him from employees of entities that host fundraisers.”

Employees of the University of Michigan are among the major contributors to Schauer’s campaign, having given $67,286. Robinson said Schauer and Gov. Snyder have both received relatively equal amounts from U of M and MSU employees.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.