Editor’s note: The above graphic and the figures below have been updated to reflect Friends of CMU PAC’s most recent, pre-general election FEC filing from Oct. 27. The disclosed disbursements are through Oct. 20.
By John Irwin
Central Michigan University’s political action committee has given more than 85 percent of its contributions to Republican-affiliated groups this election cycle, federal documents show.
Friends of Central Michigan University is a bipartisan PAC that collects funds from donors, most with CMU ties, to donate to various political campaigns. It is not directly affiliated with the university, but it advocates for it and is managed by CMU government relations coordinator Angela Armstrong.
“We tend to give to leaders,” Wilbur said. “We typically give to those that chair appropriations committees. We support bipartisanship in higher education. Sometimes, if you’re a minority member (of Congress) you don’t do as much fundraising until election years.”
This election cycle, though, Friends of CMU has given most of its funds to incumbent state-level Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature and most of the executive branch.
Federal Election Commission filings show Friends of CMU has donated $11,225 to Republican candidates and committees so far this election cycle, dating back to January 2013. That’s compared to $1,840 to Democrats in that same timespan, which extends through Oct. 20 of this year.
While Democratic candidate Gary Peters appears likely to win Michigan’s U.S. Senate race, Republicans look poised to take over the upper chamber of Congress for the first time since 2006. Additionally, recent polls show Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and many other major state-level Republicans with significant leads over their Democratic opponents eight days before the election.
It’s not the first time Friends of CMU has chosen to give most of its funds to candidates from the party perceived to be in better shape heading into an election. According to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan website that monitors federal campaign spending, Friends of CMU overwhelmingly donated to federal Democrats in 2006, when the party took control of the U.S. Senate, and in 2008 and 2012, when President Barack Obama and other Democrats cruised to relatively comfortable victories nationwide. It also gave almost exclusively to Republicans in federal races in 2010, when Tea Party voters swept the GOP into control of the U.S. House and numerous governor’s mansions, including Michigan.
According to its FEC filings, Friends of CMU had just more than $22,000 on hand on Sept. 30.
Who has it given to?
State Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, has received more contributions from Friends of CMU ($2,200) than any other candidate or campaign committee.
Cotter is the vice chair of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and is seen as a frontrunner for Speaker of the House next year should the GOP retain control. As a state representative, Cotter voted for Snyder’s controversial, 15-percent higher education funding cut in 2011 and has since voted to increase funding incrementally.
Friends of CMU has also given $1,850 to Michigan Sen. John Moolenaar, the Republican running to take over longtime Rep. Dave Camp’s seat in the U.S. House.
The 4th District, which includes Mt. Pleasant, is widely considered one of the safest Republican seats in the state, if not the country. That means Moolenaar, a Tea Party favorite, might be a shoe-in to replace Camp, the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
The PAC also gave considerable money to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette‘s re-election campaign ($1,250) and to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee ($1,400).
Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, the Democrat running to replace Senate candidate Gary Peters in the U.S. House, has received more money ($500) from the PAC than any other member of her party.
A listing of every Friends of CMU contribution can be seen at the bottom of the post.
Who has given to Friends of CMU?
Federal election law requires PACs to disclose the names of individuals who have contributed more than $200 to them. Therefore, a quick look at FEC documents can reveal much about the names behind the PAC.
Insider found 34 people have given at least $200 to Friends of CMU since January 2013, most of whom have direct or indirect ties to the university.
Wilbur, the VP of development and external relations, has donated the most of anyone with $2,500. CMU President George Ross has given $2,000, as have CMU Trustee Tricia Keith and 1965 CMU alum W. Sidney Smith, the founder and CEO of Smith Equities.
Click here to download a complete list of the 34 individuals who have donated at least $200.
Why does this matter?
A record $4 billion will be spent on campaigns by the time this midterm election ends.
The American political system has become almost all about money, for better or worse. If you want to have much hope of influencing lawmakers, you’ll probably have to give generously to their campaigns, especially after the Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling.
That’s what CMU is doing here: contributing in the hopes that money will let its interests be heard through money. And unless something drastic changes, that will probably continue being its approach for the foreseeable future.
A complete listing of candidates/committees that have received funding from Friends of CMU PAC through Sept. 30:
- Michigan Sen. John Moolenaar, Republican Fourth District candidate: $1,850
- Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, Democratic 14th District candidate: $500
- Debbie Dingell, Democratic 12th District candidate: $250
- U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint: $100
- Outgoing U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland: $100
- Senate Republican Campaign Committee: $1,400
- Senate Democratic Fund: $200
Michigan Attorney General
- Attorney General Bill Schuette, Republican: $1,250
Michigan Lieutenant Governor
- Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Republican: $500
Michigan Secretary of State
- Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Republican: $250
- State Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant: $2,200
- State Rep. Charles Brunner, D-Bay City: $350
- State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw: $325
- State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton: $300
- State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Lincoln Township: $300
- State Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township: $250
- State Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Township: $200
- State Rep. Tom Leonard, R-Lansing: $150
- State Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing: $150
- State Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes: $100
- State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, Republican 37th District candidate: $550
- State Rep. Jim Stamas, Republican 36th District candidate: $500
- State Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell: $250
- Outgoing State Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Tahoe City: $250
- State Rep. Peter MacGregor, Republican 28th District candidate: $250
- State Sen. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac: $225
- State Rep. Sean McCann, Democratic 20th District candidate: $200
- State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Charter Township: $100
- State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Antwerp Township: $75
- Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry, Democrat: $40
Note: Total contributions to candidates include contributions to PACs and committees in candidates’ name, as well as direct contributions. Contributions are since January 2013. Source: FEC documents through most recent filing on Oct. 27, which lists contributions through Oct. 20.