Michigan governor’s race could cost $100 million as DeVos family spends millions to oust Governor Whitmer
The wealthy DeVos family is pouring millions into their long-established political network to help Republican candidate Tudor Dixon overtake Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in what could be one of the most expensive races of the mid-election -mandate of 2022.
State records show that since the beginning of May, members of the DeVos family have paid more than $4 million to outside groups that have either backed Dixon or lambasted Whitmer. That huge total includes $1 million from DeVos family members to Michigan Families United, a pro-Dixon super PAC that spent more than $2.5 million on broadcast and cable ads in the primary, data shows. ‘AdImpact.
The DeVos family has a net worth of at least $2 billion, according to Forbes, and has worked to influence Michigan politics for decades. Michigan Families United did not return repeated requests for comment.
The family made their fortune after the late Richard DeVos Sr. co-founded multilevel marketing company Amway. His son Doug DeVos is now co-chairman of Amway’s board of directors. Doug’s brother, Dick DeVos, was president of Amway before running for governor of Michigan in 2006 and lost to Jennifer Granholm, who later became President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary. Dick DeVos is married to former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
The Michigan Freedom Fund and the Michigan Freedom Network, both connected to the DeVos family, recently ran Facebook ads targeting Whitmer, according to the social media giant’s advertising records.
Maeve Coyle, spokeswoman for Whitmer’s campaign, tore Dixon’s alliance with the DeVos family apart in a statement to CNBC.
“Tudor Dixon has been backed by special interests and millions from the DeVos family because it supports their dangerous agenda of dismantling public education and embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars in Michigan public school funding,” Coyle said. She added that Whitmer led the state to “make historic investments in K-12 education, close the school funding gap, and put 170,000 Michiganders on the path to higher education.” and vocational training without tuition fees – without raising taxes”.
Representatives for Betsy and Dick DeVos, Dixon, the Michigan Freedom Fund and the Michigan Freedom Network did not return requests for comment.
The Michigan Freedom Fund, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, has aired ads opposing Whitmer since she became governor in 2018, including just this month where the group linked its alliance to Biden and the state’s economy. Greg McNeilly, who was a close political adviser to the DeVos family for more than a decade, chaired the organization until This year. McNeilly, who was also Dick DeVos’ campaign manager for his failed 2006 gubernatorial bid, is now CEO of investment firm Windquest Group, founded by DeVos. The association does not publicly disclose its donors.
The Michigan Freedom Network, a political action committee affiliated with the nonprofit, raised more than $75,000 in June alone from members of the DeVos family. The PAC ran an anti-Whitmer Facebook ad that month that read “It’s time to fire that goddamn governor.”
Michigan political strategists say the DeVos family’s efforts in the primary are just the start and their political war chest could give Dixon a much-needed boost in the general election campaign this fall to make the race sufficiently close so she could possibly cause an upset, which could impact the up-and-down polling races in the state.
“They’re just warming up,” Mark Brewer, a Democratic state strategist and former Michigan Democratic Party chairman, told CNBC in an interview. Brewer expects the DeVos family to spend between $10 million and $30 million supporting Dixon.
The race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive mid-term fights to date.
“I suspect we’re going to see a real battle here,” Brewer said. “Whitmer and his allies, including the Democratic Governors Association and the labor movement, should absolutely be worried.” The DGA previously announced plans to set aside $23 million in television advertising time to support Whitmer in the fight against the general election.
Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, said the gubernatorial general election could cost between $75 million and $100 million now that the DeVos are throwing their full support behind Dixon. “Their money, and any others they can muster, has the potential to keep the Dixon-Whitmer race close which (a) Dixon could upset and (b) prevent the collapse of the GOP negative vote,” he said. he declares.
Data from AdImpact shows that more than $58 million worth of ads have been reserved for the Michigan gubernatorial general election so far. Bands backed by the DeVos family have yet to book airtime for the fall, but are expected to add to those ad buys.
Put Michigan First, a group that is labeled on a Federal Election Commission filing as a nonprofit organization, has earmarked more than $20 million in broadcast and cable ads to support Whitmer, with spots beginning this month . One of the band’s first commercials since the primary takes aim at Dixon’s anti-abortion stance. Dixon suggested that abortion procedures should only be performed to save the “mother’s life”.
FEC records show that Put Michigan First is funded by St. Louis-based insurance company Centene and labor unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Meanwhile, Right to Life Michigan, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit anti-abortion group, is earmarking $16 million worth of pro-Dixon ads, premiering in September, according to AdImpact. Records show that Right to Life Michigan does not publicly disclose its donors.
The cash injection backing Dixon’s candidacy by the wealthy DeVos family came after Dick DeVos announced in May that the family would back the Republican businesswoman for governor. Dixon was later endorsed by former President Donald Trump after Betsy DeVos sent a handwritten note imploring him to support her family’s favorite candidate.
For Dixon, the timing of DeVos’ endorsement was critical, as his campaign entered primary day with just over $537,000 in hand, a paltry sum compared to the war chest of more than $14 million. of Whitmer. The Dixon campaign paid just over $22,000 in April to lease Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida, according to state records. Dixon was in Mar-a-Lago in February for a campaign fundraising event, with Trump seen on video praising her to the crowd. Dixon would win the primary in August.