Michigan’s mega donors chip in $1M for Trump, GOP

Chad Livengood, and Melissa Nann Burke

The Michigan GOP’s mega donors finally stepped up to help finance Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last month, contributing nearly $1 million to a joint fund designed to help both Trump and the Republican Party turn out voters on Election Day.

Democrat Hillary Clinton and her allied groups still ended up raising more money in Michigan than Trump and his Republican supporters. But the late third-quarter boost from well-heeled in-state Republicans helped narrow a large gap in Michigan fundraising between the Clinton and Trump camps between July 1 and Sept. 30, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Donations totaling $245,000 from four members of west Michigan’s DeVos clan, a $125,000 check from Compuware co-founder Peter Karmanos and five-figure contributions from Detroit-area business executives Mickey Shapiro, Robert Kaiser, Norman Byrne and Gary R. Broad flowed into the Trump Victory Fund in the final days of September, according to finance reports released Friday.

Overall, the Clinton campaign and an affiliated super political action committee raised a combined $2.7 million in the third quarter from Michigan supporters, FEC records show.

The Trump campaign and joint funds with the Republican National Committee collected about $2.1 million from Michigan donors, largely through a steady stream of small-dollar internet donations.

Both sides have been using their rival to motivate donors to write checks for financing the election, which is largely being fought in Michigan through ground-level campaign organizing in the absence of broadcast television advertising here between Trump and Clinton.

“I can’t remember any election when I was as afraid of the consequences of a Republican victory,” said David Fink, a Bloomfield Hills lawyer who contributed the maximum $2,700 for an individual to the Clinton campaign. “Donald Trump poses an existential threat to our nation and the world.”

Donations to the Trump Victory Fund — a joint account for the Trump campaign and RNC — were boosted by fundraisers Trump attended on Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids and Detroit. The fundraiser in Motown was held at the Chrysler House, owned by Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and other investors.

Broad, president of Midwest Steel in Detroit, said he contributed $50,000 on Sept. 29 toward the Trump Victory Fund because he believes the country is a “disaster right now and we need a huge change.”

“I’m convinced that Trump can certainly get everyone’s attention — and that’s what we need,” Broad said Friday. “The politicians are all in it for themselves. We need a businessman to come in from the outside and turn it around.”

The donations collected for Trump’s campaign and joint RNC fund followed earlier big-dollar donations from Ann Arbor real estate developer Ron Weiser, who has contributed nearly $92,600 since July, and $260,800 donated by Walbridge construction company CEO John Rakolta Jr. and members of his family.

Weiser and Rakolta have been raising money for Trump and the RNC’s get-out-the-vote apparatus since July. Rakolta and Weiser said Friday they were not authorized by the Trump campaign to comment on the fund-raising.

Donations to the Trump Victory Fund largely finance the ground organizing efforts being led by the Republican National Committee and don’t go directly to the Trump campaign itself.

The RNC has used the Trump Victory Fund to get reluctant GOP donors across the country to contribute toward a larger effort of trying to defeat Clinton and keeping Republicans in control of Congress, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“If you can’t sell your candidate, then sell fear about the other candidate,” Sabato said. “The Democrats are doing that with the (Bernie) Sanders voters. They say ‘we don’t like Hillary, but look at Trump.’ ”

Until last month, the DeVos family had largely been on the sidelines in the presidential race after family members initially supported different Republican candidates during the primaries.

Patriarch Richard DeVos Sr., co-founder of Amway and owner of the Orlando Magic, his son Daniel DeVos and daughter Suzanne DeVos each contributed $70,000 toward the Trump Victory. Doug DeVos, president of Amway and one of Richard’s three sons, donated $35,000 to the fund, according to FEC records.

Dick DeVos, the third DeVos son and 2006 candidate for governor, did not contribute to the Trump fund. His wife, Betsy, a former state GOP chairwoman, told The Detroit News in July she was focused more on down-ballot races than the presidential contest.

Clinton’s super PAC, Priorities USA, received $511,000 from Michigan donors in September. The bulk of the money was a $500,000 contribution from the United Auto Workers Education Fund in Detroit on Sept. 16.

Kim M. Gardey, founder and chairman of Gardey Financial Advisors in Saginaw, contributed $10,000 on Sept. 12 to Priorities USA.

Billionaire Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, an heir to the Stryker Corp. medical devices fortune, donated $2 million to Priorities USA between March and May.

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Twitter: @Chad Livengood