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High-profile donors pump big bucks into Congress races

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continued to raise more money than Republican Donald Trump in Michigan in the final weeks of the campaign, while high-profile donors and national groups pumped big bucks into the state’s competitive congressional races.

Among the contributors in October were Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and his wife Jennifer, who each gave $75,000 to Clinton’s Hillary Victory Fund, a joint-fundraising venture between the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties. Gilbert attended Trump’s August speech before the Detroit Economic Club, and Trump held a Sept. 30 fundraiser at Chrysler House that is owned by Gilbert and other investors.

Michigan donations to the Trump Victory Fund — a joint account for the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee — included $100,000 from Joseph Welch of Plymouth, CEO of ITC Holdings, the electricity transmission company; and Ann Arbor real estate developer Ron Weiser, who gave $119,600 in October.

Democrats seeking to flip Michigan seats in the U.S. House saw contributions from the likes of mega-donor George Soros, filmmaker Michael Moore and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the first 19 days of the month, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

On the Republican side, the American Action Network, devoted to defending the GOP majority, spent more than $1.2 million on ads targeting Michigan Democrats in three congressional districts.

At the top of the ticket, Michigan donors gave $700,681 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and $294,242 to Donald Trump’s campaign from Oct. 1 through 19, according to FEC reports.

Donors to Clinton included the maximum $2,700 each from Daniel Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Charles Jacobus, CEO of Cybernet in Ann Arbor; Robert Van Heuvelen, founder and CEO of VH Strategies LLC in Portage; Asad Malik, CEO of Amerilodge Group in Bloomfield Hills; and John Razzano, CEO of Fulton Industries Inc. in Cassopolis.

Contributions to Trump included $2,700 each from Mark D. Meijer of the Meijer Co. in Grand Rapids; businessman Peter Secchia, also of Grand Rapids; Republican National Committeeman Rob Steele of Ypsilanti; former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land; John Braganini, an insurance executive at the Great Lakes Companies Inc. in Portage; and Burton D. Farbman, chairman of The Farbman Group, a real estate firm in Southfield.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, donated $200 to the Trump campaign.

Meijer, Land, Secchia, Farbman, Braganini and others also made five-figure donations this month to the Trump Victory Fund.

Political newcomer Suzanna Shkreli of Clarkston again generated more cash than 8th District U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, in the latest reporting period – $165,191 to Bishop’s $54,205. Bishop has raised nearly four times as much as Shkreli through the two-year cycle and is benefiting from late spending by the American Action Network.

Shkreli joined the race in early July after actress Melissa Gilbert dropped out of the race. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report this week revised its rating from “likely” to “leans” Republican, estimating that Bishop is ahead but “Shkreli has room to grow in the final weeks.”

Bishop spent $612,461 in the October period, the bulk on ads and airtime reservations, while AAN reported spending $708,612 on ads attacking Shkreli. He had $341,273 in cash on hand compared with $66,796 for Shkreli.

Shkreli spent $248,466, including $182,440 on media buys. She got a fundraising boost from Pelosi, who contributed $5,000 through her PAC to the Future Fund and $2,000 through her campaign committee.

Bishop’s donors included $2,700 from Walbridge construction CEO John Rakolta, as well as $4,000 from the National Association of Homebuilders.

Democrat Gretchen Driskell of Saline outraised Walberg, but he ended the period with more than twice as much cash on hand.

Driskell raised $124,068 for the period, bringing her total haul to nearly $2.05 million, reporting $336,595 in cash reserves. Her donors included Allen Blue, co-founder of the LinkedIn networking site. AAN reported spending $226,625 on ads attacking her.

Walberg raised $72,543 in the period, $2.2 million for the cycle and had $786,593 in cash left to spend. Donors included the National Association of Homebuilders with $5,000 and a $2,700 contribution from energy industry executive Patricia Poppe of Grass Lake.

In northern Michigan’s 1st District, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Bergman outraised Democrat Lon Johnson in the reporting period; however, Johnson has generated more cash than Bergman overall.

The Republican raised $222,985 for the period, for a total $1.1 million through Oct. 19, reporting $125,530 in cash reserves. Johnson brought in $112,685 for the period, bringing his overall haul to nearly $1.85 million. Johnson had $58,014 cash on hand.

Donors on Bergman’s roll included a maximum $2,700 donation each from Edward C. Levy Jr. of Edward C. Levy Co., a slag and aggregate company in Dearborn; and James B. Nicholson, chairman of PVS Chemicals in Detroit, as well as $1,000 from C. Michael Kojaian, owner of Kojaian Management Corp.

Bergman also drew contributions from outside the district including $2,700 each from Charles R. Schwab, chairman of Charles Schwab Corp. in San Francisco; and Jay Faison, a conservative philanthropist in Charlotte, North Carolina, the founder of SnapAV and ClearPath Foundation, which promotes “conservative” clean energy. Gov. Rick Snyder’s Relentless Positive Action PAC gave $2,700.

Johnson’s notable contributions included $2,700 each from filmmaker Michael Moore of Bellaire; business magnate Soros; LinkedIn co-founder Blue; the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe; the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians; and $2,000 from John W. Stroh III of the Stroh Companies in Grosse Pointe Farm.

To date, outside groups have reported more than $3.65 million total in independent spending in the 1st District. They include the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Pelosi’s House Majority PAC and the GOP-aligned American Action Network.

Republican Rep. David Trott of Birmingham outraised Democrat Dr. Anil Kumar of Bloomfield Hills in the first 19 days of the month.

Trott raised $91,670, bringing his total to $1.2 million for the cycle. Kumar raised $10,170 for the period and $1.14 million overall. Former Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford, running as an independent, raised $35 for the period and $16,735 for the cycle.

In western Michigan, Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, narrowly outraised Democratic challenger Paul Clements in the period, reporting $157,977 to Clements’ $154,065. Upton maintains a large war chest, reporting more than $1 million in cash reserves as of Oct. 19, while Clements had $184,163.

mburke@detroitnews.com