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Outside groups spur record spending in Michigan Senate race

Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 10:34 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - It’s one of the most contentious and costly races in state history.

Recent polls are tight in Michigan as Republican challenger John James hopes to unseat Democrat Sen. Gary Peters.

“We do think Gary Peters is vulnerable,” said Trump Campaign Senior Advisor Steve Cortes. “We also think that John James, the challenger, is an incredible candidate. We are confident that this is going to be his time to shine.”

Democratic National Committee Deputy Communications Director Chris Meagher says it’s an important race as the party is working to regain the Senate Majority.

“In Washington there are work horses and there are show horses,” said Meagher. “Sen. Peters has been a work horse for Michigan. We see it as really important to make sure Sen. Peters is back in the Senate working on behalf of Michigan.”

Simon D. Schuster, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, says outside groups are driving record spending in the run-up to Election Day.

This month, the Republican Senate Leadership Fund announced two large advertising purchases in the state totaling $14.6 million.

Similarly, the Democrat Senate Majority PAC is spending upwards of $25 million on the Michigan race.

Then, there’s the dark money.

“Dark money organizations are organizations that don’t have to disclose the source of their funding,” said Schuster. “Increasingly we are seeing them used as instruments funneling undisclosed dollars into races that has never been seen before in American history.”

Overall, Schuster says he has identified more than 40 outside groups investing into the contest.

With the addition of individual donations and campaign fundraising, Schuster projects the total price tag on the Michigan Senate race will surpass $100 million.

“It has an effect on the public policy process,” said Schuster. “I think it’s important that people understand the motivations of people spending this money.”

Schuster adds there are several barriers to measuring the true cost of such an expensive race.

He expects finalized totals won’t be known until early next year, when year-end reports are due.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the $93.4 million 2018 gubernatorial race was the most expensive in state history.

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