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Whitmer has nearly $10M for election, shifts funds to party

Posted at 7:36 AM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 07:36:35-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection campaign reported Monday that it raised an additional $2.5 million over two months but that it also transferred out $3.8 million it cannot spend because Republicans’ longshot recall efforts failed.

Entering the election year, the first-term governor’s account still had about $9.9 million as of Dec. 31, according to Monday’s report, which was the latest deadline to file. That dwarfs all 13 Republican challengers.

Kevin Rinke, who contributed $2 million toward his candidacy, led the GOP field with about $1.5 million in the bank. Another self-funder who just entered the primary, Perry Johnson, plans to air an ad during the Super Bowl, according to an ad-buying firm. He pledged to match Whitmer’s latest haul by seeding his campaign with $2.5 million.

“The Republican candidates are good people who have simply failed to inspire the financial support necessary to compete with Gov. Whitmer,” Johnson said in a statement.

Whitmer, a Democrat, in 2020 and 2021 collected nearly $4.2 million in excess contributions above the $7,150 individual limit under an exception to fight potential recalls. However, she had to “disgorge” funds that were not spent on litigation or other recall-defense activities to political parties and charities or as refunds to contributors after the attempts went nowhere.

The campaign shifted more than $3.5 million to the Michigan Democratic Party and returned $250,000 to donor Mark Bernstein.

The conservative Michigan Freedom Fund complained about the maneuver. Executive Director Tori Sachs called it “the largest illicit campaign cash grab” in state history and accused Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and state Attorney General Dana Nessel of letting it happen because the party funds could benefit their campaigns.

The Whitmer campaign said the leftover money was disbursed in accordance with the law and published guidance from the secretary of state. Sachs, in a request for a declaratory ruling filed with Benson last week, questioned — among other things — how the money can be transferred without Whitmer disbanding her candidate committee.

In the crowded Republican contest that will be decided in six months, Detroit’s former police chief, James Craig, had about $845,000. He raised more than $600,000 but spent over $700,000 between Oct. 21 and year’s end — a high “burn rate.”

Chiropractor Garrett Soldano and former conservative media host Tudor Dixon also spent more than they raised. He had roughly $315,000 after collecting around $250,000 and spending more than $400,000. She had $96,000 after collecting more than $150,000 but spending more than $225,000.

In other statewide races, Nessel had about $1.6 million while Benson had roughly $1.4 million.

GOP delegates will gather at an April convention to choose the party’s nominees to challenge the first-term incumbent Democrats. Tom Leonard, the 2018 attorney general nominee, had $666,000. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Matt DePerno, who had not filed his report as of Monday night.

Kristina Karamo, Trump’s pick for secretary of state, had $133,000.