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Candidates using deep pockets to bankroll Congressional campaigns

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

New data show Michigan congressional candidates are digging deep into their own pockets to pay for their campaigns.

A trio of businessmen running for Republican congressional nominations have dug the deepest, according to filings with theFederal Election Commission this week.

4th Congressional District candidate Paul Mitchell has spent nearly $2 million of his own money on TV commercials.  Otherwise, his campaign has raised only $10,000.  Mitchell’s campaign has actually spent more money than his two GOP rivals to replace outgoing Congressman Dave Camp have raised combined.

In Michigan’s 11th District race, challenger Dave Trott has a five-to-one advantage in fundraising over incumbent Republican Kerry Bentivolio. Records show $2.4 million of the $3.4 million in Trott’s warchest came from his own pocket.

In west Michigan, 3rd District Congressman Justin Amash has raised $1.5 million in his re-election bid. His primary opponent Brian Ellis has raised $1.3 million, including $800,000 of his own money.

“It pays to be wealthy if you want to run for Congress,” says Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Robinson says there hasn't been “this kind of self-funding in congressional campaigns in Michigan in recent memory.”

Robinson says one reason why candidates are spending more of their own money is that they are raising less money from donors.

Four Michigan Congressmen are retiring this year (House members Dave Camp, John Dingell, Mike Rogers and Senator Carl Levin).  Robinson says the outgoing members of Congress were very effective fundraisers.  Their departures have resulted in a smaller than normal amount of campaign donations in this year’s election cycle.

While this year’s congressional races are seeing a big increase in self-funding, Robinson says they are all well below the nearly $35 million Republican Dick DeVos sunk into his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2006.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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