July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Outside groups flood Michigan TV with $14M in campaign ads; candidates spend $4M

Lansing— Michigan voters were exposed to nearly $18 million in television ads about the candidates for governor and U.S. Senate during the first six months of the year — about one-fifth of the spending came from the candidates themselves.

Public records at broadcast TV stations across the state show outside groups spent nearly $14 million from January through Monday on TV ads in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests, according to data compiled by Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

The campaigns of Gov. Rick Snyder and U.S. Senate candidates Gary Peters and Terri Lynn Land spent a combined $3.9 million.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Schauer, Snyder’s Democratic challenger, has not spent his campaign cash on TV ads, but he has appeared in pitches paid for by the Democratic Governors Association.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the campaign spending watchdog group, said the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings that allow corporations to spend freely in elections has opened the doors for outside groups to influence state elections.

“The parties are diminished and independent groups are ascending, and if there was any doubt about that, here’s more evidence,” Robinson said.

Outside groups, which are not subject to the same disclosure laws as candidates, have primarily focused their efforts on educating voters about Peters, the Bloomfield Township congressman, and Land, a former secretary of state from Byron Center in west Michigan.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded in part by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has spent the most of any single group, pouring $4.34 million into a campaign aimed at criticizing Peters’ support for President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The group doesn’t plan to let up on Peters, AFP state director Scott Hagerstrom said Tuesday.

Plans are in the works to highlight Peters’ stance on construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, he said.

“These are issues we want to talk about and will continue to talk about,” Hagerstrom said.

Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee that wants to keep the Senate in Democratic hands, has spent the second most of any outside group, targeting Land with more than $2 million in ads.

Land’s campaign outspent her opponent in TV ads during the first half of the year, $1.68 million to Peters’ $1.23 million, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Robinson compiles the spending data from public files broadcasters maintain. Starting Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission is requiring all broadcasters in Michigan to post political advertising contracts on its website.

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