2005-08-06 / Editorials

Special Interest Groups Key to Fundraising

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks


In seeking the post, House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, vowed to ratchet up fundraising for his party's campaign war chest. Mission accomplished. He's already a million dollar man.

A highlight of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network's report on the "torrid fundraising pace" of the state's top 150 political action committees was that the GOP House led all PACs in the first six months of 2005, doubling its amount for this point in the 2004 cycle.

It raised $1,023,796, "the most successful six months of a cycle in history" for either House caucus, according to DeRoche spokesman Matt Resch.

House Democrats also doubled what they raised at this point for the last election, when they gained five seats and narrowed the GOP majority to 58-52. They raised $545,201 but have much more cash on hand because Republicans had a bigger debt to eliminate.

Senate Republicans, who rule by a 22-16 margin, out-raised Senate Democrats, $787,230 to $373,531.

Fundraising by the parties is crucial, but ever more important in some individual races is what interest group PACs distribute to legislators friendly to their interests. Example: the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, currently seeking to curtail direct sales by wineries, ranks ninth among all PACs for the six months at $210,662.

That ranks just ahead of the $200,000 of the PAC of the United Auto Workers, whose Lansing political interest has a more narrow partisan focus: electing Democrats.

The campaign finance network's report noted the PACs of Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, who at $63,150 ranked 34th among the 150, and two other senators who had lesser amounts in what the network called "an apparent preview of the contest to succeed term-limited Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema as their caucus' leader."

The 150 top PACs have raised $9.4 million for the 2006 cycle, 36 percent more than for the 2004 cycle at this point. Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network says, "Political fundraising is outpacing every other sector of the Michigan economy."

Moneybag Mitt

Some of that infusion into the state's economy comes from outside of Michigan. Item: the Commonwealth PAC of Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, a prospective 2008 presidential candidate who donated $68,000 to Michigan Republican candidates and party organizations in 2004 and so far in 2005.

That includes $5,000 for the Michigan GOP, $2,500 each to Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Attorney General Mike Cox (as well as $2,500 to Cox's own PAC), and $1,000 each to U.S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg of Bloomfield Hills, Candice Miller of Harrison Township and Joe Schwarz of Battle Creek. It also includes $20,300 to 25 county parties, the biggest donations being $2,500 for Oakland County (where he was raised as the son of Gov. George Romney); $1,500 each to Wayne, Macomb, and Kent.

The northern most county on Romney's list, Grand Traverse, received $1,000.

Romney also gave $1,000 contributions to 12 state senators, including Allen and Michelle McManus of Lake Leelanau.

Romney gave $2,000 to Sen. Mike Bishop of Rochester--who might end up in a race with Allen to lead the GOP caucus and be Senate majority leader if Republicans retain the majority.

In 2004, Romney gave $16,500 to 30 candidates for the state House, including $500 each to David Palsrok, Manistee, and Howard Walker, Traverse City.

The Michigan PAC contributions of Romney, featured speaker at a $750,000 March fundraiser for Senate Republicans, were wisely targeted. Many of the recipients could be delegates to the 2008 Republican National Convention.

How seriously is Romney considering a 2008 run? After first declining an invitation, he's now agreed to be a luncheon speaker at the Michigan GOP's Sept. 23-24 Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, expected to be attended by several other prospective presidential contenders.

Delegate Moore?

Filmmaker Michael Moore, organizer of the highly successful Traverse City Film Festival, was asked at one of the festival's public forums whether he would seek national office. No, he said, but he's likely to try to be a Democratic precinct delegate from Antrim County.

Asked later if he'd be interested in going on to be delegate to a state convention, he said, "Yeah."

George Weeks is the political columnist for The Detroit News and is syndicated by Superior Features.

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