Bush, Clinton post biggest Michigan fundraising hauls

Melissa Nann Burke, and Chad Livengood

Washington — Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio experienced a fundraising surge among Michigan donors in the last quarter of 2015, bringing in 11 times more in campaign cash from the Great Lakes State than he raised in the prior three-month period.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush holds a town hall and rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016.

Campaign finance reports show Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, still finished second in the Michigan money race to Republican former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who raised $505,735 to Rubio’s $463,375 among donors who gave $200 or more.

Despite lagging in the polls, Bush significantly increased his contributions in Michigan, raising nearly four times his $129,575 from the third quarter, thanks in part to fundraisers he held in Pontiac and Grand Rapids.

“Just about everybody has accepted the fact that Bush is not going to be the nominee, but (donors) don’t want to show disloyalty because it’s remembered by the Bush clan,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, referring to former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

“Behind the scenes, Rubio is where the donors are moving. They’ve looked at the field. They’d like to get (Ohio Gov. John) Kasich but don’t think he can sell, and never believed (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie could. Who’s left? It’s got to be Rubio.”

Overall, presidential candidates raised roughly $4.5 million in Michigan last year from contributors who gave $200 or more, including nearly $2.15 million during the fourth quarter. Campaigns do not break down their small donors by state in reports to the Federal Election Commission.

Nationally, Bush brought in $7.1 million between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, compared with Rubio’s $14.2 million. The biggest totals for the quarter belonged to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont at $33.5 million; rival and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, $33 million; retired neurosurgeon and Detroit native Ben Carson, $22 million; and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, $20.5 million.


In Michigan, Clinton outraised Sanders for the quarter, bringing in more than $246,000 to Sanders’ $183,637.

President Bill Clinton headlined a fundraiser for his wife’s presidential campaign in Bingham Farms on Oct. 7, but it wasn’t enough to match the $444,000 she raised in Michigan during the third quarter. Sanders did not hold any fundraisers or events in Michigan last year, and his campaign has relied on generating contributions online.

About $400,000 of Rubio’s fourth-quarter haul came from a Dec. 9 fundraiser the senator attended in Bloomfield Hills, said U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, the Zeeland Republican who is co-chairing Rubio’s Michigan campaign.

“That’s a pretty positive indication of sort of the new faces and old faces supporting Marco,” said Huizenga, a third-term congressman from west Michigan.

The event in December was organized in part by John Rakolta Jr., CEO of the Walbridge construction company in Detroit, a major Michigan donor who endorsed Rubio in late November after giving the $2,700 maximum contribution two months earlier to Bush.

Huizenga said he is trying to organize a fundraiser for Rubio in the near future in west Michigan based on interest from GOP donors.

“I’ve got west Michigan donors who have said ‘When is Marco coming? We want to be involved, we want to give him some money, we want to help out,’ ” he said. “I’m very encouraged.”

Sanders, Carson and Cruz have demonstrated their ability to generate contributions from small-dollar donors, and it improves their staying power, Sabato said.

“The big donors sail away on their yachts long before the small donors abandon their candidates. The (big donors) are in the system mainly for what they can get,” Sabato said. “The small donors are committed to a candidate because they really like that candidate, overwhelmingly so. And they’re going to stick with them.”

Carson raised the third-most among Michigan donors last quarter with $292,613 after holding a fundraiser in Ypsilanti on Dec. 9, but his fourth-quarter haul reflected a 53 percent decline from the prior quarter.

Cruz raised $89,000 more in Michigan last quarter than in the third, bringing in nearly $215,000. The Texas senator benefited in part from a fundraiser in Howell on Oct. 5.

“Most of Sen. Cruz’s contributors are an average of $70 or so,” said Wendy Day, state director of Cruz’s Michigan campaign.

The Cruz campaign has a number of donors who are making small monthly contributions, while others are making in-kind donations of services and supplies as the campaign takes root.

“I’ve been surprised how many people are willing to step up and donate and invest in the campaign,” Day said.