Looking Back on Campaign Finance in 2008

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network has released a look back on campaign finance in the 2008 election, reviewing important topics such as Obama’s fundraising, the Michigan Supreme Court campaign, and the correlation between money spent and electoral victory.


Campaign finance has been something that MediaMouse.org talked a lot about in 2008. Often times our numbers came from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, an excellent source looking at the relationship between money and elections in Michigan.

Yesterday, the Michigan Campaign Finance Network released an analysis of the 2008 elections and the lessons learned. The group examines Obama and his fundraising, the Michigan Supreme Court race, the relationship between spending and victory, and more. It’s definitely worth reading the entire article, but here are some interesting points from its conclusion:

“Extremes of campaign finance were on display in 2008.

The stem cell ballot proposal was the third-most expensive ballot question since 2000, after the racino proposal of 2004 ($27.6 million) and the school voucher proposal of 2000 ($19.6 million). Proposition 2 of 2008 ran over $15 million, with proponents spending over $9 million for their successful campaign and opponents spending over $6 million. Developer Al Taubman gave the proponent committee more than $5 million and the Michigan Catholic Conference gave the opponent committee more than $5 million.

Barack Obama was supported by millions of contributors in the biggest and most broadly based campaign in American history.

Michigan’s state Supreme Court campaign was mainly under the table and we don’t know who put up most of the money.

Off-the-books campaigning is particularly toxic for Supreme Court campaigns because we can’t see whether a prospective party to an appeal is spending big to make sure its case is heard by the judge of its choosing. The U.S. Supreme Court has assured that all parties, including corporations and unions, can spend their money for electioneering communications, but the spending should not be allowed in a way that conceals potential conflicts of interest, and those conflicts of interest should not be ignored. All electioneering spending should be reported and more stringent standards for recusal should be enacted.

In a concession to reality, Michigan should rededicate its public campaign fund to Supreme Court campaigns so candidate committees have a viable alternative to soliciting funds from interest groups and individuals who may be part of an upcoming appeal. Michigan’s gubernatorial public financing system is broken in precisely the same way as the presidential system, but the fund could support viable Supreme Court campaigns. Michigan Supreme Court campaigns are among the most infamous in the country, but they can be cleaned up. Policymakers just need to make a stand for integrity over expediency.”

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org