Even as Michigan’s economy continued its downward spiral, many campaign finance records were broken in 2008 according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network’s 2008 Citizen’s Guide to Michigan Campaign Finance.
The organization reports that campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 7th and 9th Congressional Districts both exceeded $9 million. Statewide races also exceed records, with the campaign for an open Michigan Supreme Court seat costing more $7.5 million. In races for the State House, spending was up 12.6% from 2006. A record was set for individual spending with Lisa Brown’s campaign for the 39th District exceeding $930,000. Spending by political action committees (PACs) was up by more than 500%.
According to Michigan Campaign Finance Network chair Rich Robinson, this highlights the problems with campaign finance in Michigan. In a news release accompanying the release of the guide, Robinson says there is a correlation between spending and electoral success and that the spending generally dictates the policy agenda in the state.
Along with an accounting of the spending, the guide also looks at many of the problems with Michigan’s campaign financing regulations. The report points out that much of the spending on the Supreme Court race was “off the books” as it focused on “issues” rather than specific candidates, thereby avoiding regulation. Similarly, candidates do not file campaign finance reports frequently enough according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, which recommends a regulatory change that would require reports to be filed quarterly. There are also no limits on contributions to political action committees.
Overall, the guide is essential reading for anyone interested in both campaign finance reform and the role of campaign spending in state politics.