Democrat Hillary Clinton continues to amass a fundraising advantage over Republican presidential rival Donald Trump in Michigan, but the New York businessman is gaining steam without any formal fundraisers or help from fellow billionaires in the DeVos family.
Clinton so far has received $3.2 million in donations from Michigan supporters since Jan. 1, 2015 – a 4-1 advantage over Trump’s nearly $802,000.
But the billionaire real estate developer reported raising $429,778 from Michigan donors in July, a 42 percent improvement from his June donations and a 20-fold increase from May, when the media-savvy presidential candidate was still shunning a professional campaign apparatus. Still, donations to Trump’s campaign last month trailed the $523,753 that Clinton collected in July from Michigan supporters during the month the two White House candidates were formally nominated by their parties.
And the DeVoses, the most prolific financiers of Republican politics in Michigan, didn’t send Trump a dime.
On July 25, nine members of the DeVos family poured $900,000 into the Republican National Committee, where the money can be spent helping elect Republican candidates up and down the ballot, instead of just aiding Trump’s White House campaign.
“The RNC has more flexibility and it funds the campaign infrastructure … that helps all candidates,” said Greg McNeilly, a Republican strategist and DeVos family political adviser. “Therefore in the eyes of sophisticated investors, it’s the smartest place to invest.”
By comparison, the DeVoses donated $22,600 to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in July 2012 and more than $100,000 for the entire election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data. Romney, the Republican nominee, lost to President Barack Obama 54 percent-45 percent in Michigan.
Overall donations to Clinton and Trump in July from Michigan residents were more than half what Romney and Obama raised in July 2012. Romney, a Michigan native, amassed nearly $1.5 million in July 2012 from in-state donors, while the Democratic incumbent raised about $662,000 that month, FEC records show.
Across the country, reliable GOP donors are bracing for an uncertain outcome for Republican candidates for Congress and offices further down the ballot if Trump were to lose to Clinton by a large margin, said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“Republican donors want to do something, not for Trump, but for senators, House members and governors in their party,” Sabato said. “They’re as nervous as they can be about what Trump will do to the down ballot.”
The DeVos family started signaling its uneasiness with Trump atop the GOP ticket before the Republican National Convention last month in Cleveland.
Betsy DeVos, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, told The Detroit News that she was still on the fence about supporting Trump and more focused on helping Republicans maintain control of Congress and the Michigan House of Representatives.
“I’m not going to get all wrapped in that one office,” Betsy DeVos told The News. “I’m going to be focused on what I can do to help other races down the ticket, for certain.”
During the primaries, the DeVos family donated to the presidential campaigns and political action committees supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whom the clan collectively endorsed ahead of Michigan’s March 8 primary. Rubio finished a distant fourth place in Michigan as Trump carried the state in his march to the GOP nomination.
Ann Arbor real estate developer Ron Weiser, who is helping the Trump campaign raise money nationally, sent the RNC nearly $48,400, but declined to comment this week on how fundraising for Trump is going.
Weiser donated the maximum $5,400 to Trump’s campaign, $2,700 of which came through the Trump campaign’s joint fundraising account with the RNC called Trump Victory, records show.
For the entire election cycle, Clinton has raised more than $3.2 million from Michigan donors — more than four times the nearly $802,000 Trump has collected from Michiganians, according a Detroit News analysis of FEC records.
Sonja Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan, donated $2,700 to Clinton’s campaign on July 23, shortly after the Republican convention concluded in Cleveland. Starr said she likes that Clinton has worked throughout her career to improve life for the middle class and for children and is committed to gender equality.
“I generally think that Hillary maybe isn’t the perfect candidate but is extremely well qualified to be president,” she said.
“Trump would be catastrophic as president. His temperament is completely unsuited for the presidency, and he’s expressed bigoted views.”
Through July, Clinton had benefited from three fundraisers she attended in Michigan over the past year as well as a fundraiser her husband, former President Bill Clinton, headlined last October in Bingham Farms.
Clinton held a fifth fundraiser Aug. 10 in Birmingham, but those donations to her campaign don’t have to be disclosed to the FEC until next month.
Trump hasn’t held any publicized fundraisers in Michigan.
“Grassroots donors and hard-working Michigan families are lining up behind Mr. Trump because they agree with his promise of tougher law enforcement, stopping illegal immigration and bringing back jobs,” Scott Hagerstrom, state director for Trump’s Michigan campaign, said in a statement.
“The tens of thousands of supporters that are out knocking doors, making calls, giving small donations and attending rallies in mass numbers prove that Michigan voters are tired of the same old Washington corruption and back room deals and will vote for change in November.”
In July, the Trump campaign received 5,636 individual contribution from Michigan at an average donation of $76, a Detroit News analysis shows. In the same month, Clinton received an average donation of $75 from 6,956 individual contributors in the state, according to FEC records.
In Michigan, the RNC is staffing and opening campaign field offices that Trump’s team will utilize to turn out voters in November.
Much of Trump’s campaign cash will likely used for a paid advertising ad war with Clinton this fall, though neither campaign has bought television air time in Michigan yet.
The RNC “is the most versatile place to give,” McNeilly said. “The candidate only has so many things they can spend the money on.”