Schuette super PAC tops $2M fundraising mark

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill Schuette, currently the Michigan attorney general, speaks at a campaign event on the Weir farm in Southern Michigan near Hanover.

Lansing — A super political action committee backing Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is spending big bucks to support his campaign for Michigan governor.

Better Jobs, Stronger Families has raised nearly $2.4 million since forming in September, according to a new state filing. Roughly one quarter of the sum has come from “dark money” groups that do not disclose their donors.   

The pro-Schuette super PAC is raising more money and outspending a separate super PAC running television ads to support Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who is competing with Schuette for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

Calley Continues the Comeback has raised roughly $949,000 since forming in March, but the super PAC’s fundraising slowed in the most recent reporting period.  

William Parfet, a longtime supporter of Gov. Rick Snyder and the former chairman and CEO of MPI Research, gave the Calley PAC $73,540 in May, its only reported contribution since April 20.

The super PAC had $86,692 in the bank as of July 20, compared to more than $314,000 in cash reserves for the pro-Schuette PAC.

“I think Bill Schuette is ahead in the polls, ahead with resources, and in a strong position to win not only the primary but the Michigan governor’s race,” said Stu Sander, executive director of Better Jobs, Stronger Families.

A spokesman for the Calley super PAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Schuette PAC raised more than $500,000 during the latest period and filed a supplemental report showing another $425,000 in contributions on Tuesday alone, both from nonprofits that are not required to disclose their own contributors.

The Fund for Michigan’s Tomorrows, a non-profit that is also running ads supporting Schuette, kicked in $300,000.

Better Jobs Stronger Families Policy Solutions kicked in $275,000. State records show the nonprofit, which has an almost identical name to the Schuette super PAC, was incorporated on the same day, by the same person, at the same address.

Sandler said he is also “involved with” the non-profit but declined to voluntarily disclose donors to the “social welfare organization.” The nonprofit will comply with all federal disclosure rules, he said.

A new law signed into law by Snyder in 2017 requires super PACS to disclose their own donors, but it provides paths for groups to “shield the original source of the money,” said Craig Mauger, a watchdog with the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

“It provides the potential for these organizations to act as a conduit for this money,” Mauger said. “We don’t know that happened here, but the law is set up as a possible outcome.”

Donors who gave directly to the Schuette super PAC include Mohammad Qazi of Southfield, president of Ciena Healthcare, who has contributed $250,000 this cycle. TSG Interactive US Services of New Jersey, an online gambling and poker firm, has kicked in $200,000. Altria Client Services of Virginia, part of the tobacco giant that owns Philip Morris, kicked in $50,000.

Michigan’s new super PAC law allows candidates to help solicit contributions to the outside groups. It also lets the Schuette super PAC and related non-profit share political consultants and vendors.

 “They should be separate organizations with separate missions,” Mauger said. “Donors shouldn’t be able to have the ability to give to the non-profit knowing it’s going to fund the super PAC. “

Asked if Schuette supporters are given those kind of options, Sandler said he focuses on operating the super PAC.

“I can’t tell you how these donors decide what to do, but I’m happy to have the resources to get the message out about Bill Schuette and his great politics,” he said.

Schuette is not the only candidate benefiting from money from undisclosed donors. The Fund for Michigan Jobs non-profit has spent significant money running ads for Calley and helped bankroll his failed petition drive for a part-time Legislature.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is featured in ads run by Build a Better Michigan. The political organization that discloses donors to the Internal Revenue Service but reported a $300,000 contribution from Progressive Advocacy Trust, an “administrative account” for the Ingham County Democratic Party whose internal donors are not known.

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