Whitmer-tied PAC, aided by Pistons' exec Tellem, boosts Michigan House Democrats in key districts

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — As Michigan Democrats try to win back control of the state House of Representatives, they're getting financial aid from a political action committee tied to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

From April 21 through July 20, the Building Bridges PAC reported giving about $127,000 to the Michigan House Democratic Fund — the main fundraising committee of House Democrats — and Democratic candidates in key House districts.

The campaigns of 13 Democratic House candidates received at least $5,000 from Building Bridges PAC over that time, according to the group's new disclosure, which was due Monday to the Michigan Secretary of State's department.

former Vice President Joe Biden and then-Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer arrive at Leo's Coney Island in Southfield, Mich., on Sept. 12, 2018.

A spokesman for Building Bridges declined to comment.

The PAC's treasurer is Joseph Popek, who served as compliance director for Whitmer's gubernatorial campaign, according to a LinkedIn profile. The PAC has also previously received $17,000 from Whitmer's campaign account and $1,000 from Zack Pohl, the governor's communications director, according to campaign finance disclosures.

The PAC's largest contributors in recent months have been Wendy Greeney, a retired Traverse City resident, and Arn Tellem, vice chairman of Palace Sports & Entertainment, which includes the Detroit Pistons basketball franchise, according to the new disclosure. Greeney gave $100,000 on July 6 and Tellem gave $50,000 on June 16.

The two donors account for the majority of the $180,600 the PAC raised from April 21 through July 20.

Building Bridges reported giving $41,975 to the House Democratic Fund on July 17. It also reported giving $9,500 each to three House Democrats running for re-election during the reporting period: Reps. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, and Angela Witwer, D-Lansing.

Republicans currently hold 58 of the 110 seats in the Michigan House and are looking to keep their majority in 2020. The main fundraising committee of the House Republicans, the House Republican Campaign Committee, narrowly raised more money than House Democrats' main committee from April 21 through July 20, according to the new disclosures.

Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Pistons

The House GOP committee reported raising $794,685 over that time. The House Democratic Fund reported raising $788,692.

The House Republican Campaign Committee reported having $4.6 million available as of July 20. The House Democratic Fund reported having $1.6 million available.