Candidate Financial Reports Show Big Differences in Raising, Spending Money

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Dylan Lees for ELi

Clockwise from top left: Dana Watson, Mikey Manuel, Adam DeLay, George Brookover, Ron Bacon, Chuck Grigsby, and Dan Bollman, candidates for City Council at the ASMSU forum.

Financial reports submitted by all seven East Lansing City Council candidates by the October 22 deadline set by the Ingham County Clerk’s office reveal big differences in how much money they each have raised and spent in the races for three seats on the Council.

What stands out the most from these reports is that Ron Bacon is running the most expensive campaign so far of any of the seven candidates who are on the November 2 ballot. He has spent $13,084 through October 20 and still has a $7,191 balance in his account – more money in the till than any other candidate – even after repaying a loan to himself.

Bacon is running for the two-year Council seat against only one other candidate, Mikey Manuel, who has raised no money outside his family and has spent only $1,072 on yard signs, T-shirts, and a website domain.

There is no single “right” way to run a campaign or optimal amount of money to raise, and, of course, we won’t know until election day which of the candidates ran winning campaigns. Neither big spending nor frugality is necessarily, by itself, a path to victory.

In addition to Bacon and Manuel running for a two-year seat, the other five candidates are running for two four-year seats. Among those five, the people with the two highest number of votes will become members of Council. All positions on Council represent the entire City, not specific neighborhoods or wards.

The Big Picture: Contributions and Expenditures by Candidates

Here is an overview of what the candidates have raised and spent so far (in alphabetical order, by the seat they are running for).  

An overview of what candidates have raised and spent so far.

The financial reports include loans in total contribution, so they are included in the chart above. Loans from candidates include $7,505 from George Brookover ($500 of which has been repaid), $1,010 from Adam DeLay (which is still outstanding), and $1,505 from Ron Bacon (all of which has been repaid). The reports document cash and in-kind contributions separately; in this table, they are combined.

The balance referred to in the chart is total cash contributions minus total cash expenditures. It does not take into account in-kind contributions or outstanding loans.

Digging into the numbers of contributions to campaigns can tell a lot about candidates’ networks, whether professional, political, public service, social, or neighborhood.

To start with, here is data about the number of individuals (as opposed to businesses or Political Action Committees) who have made cash contributions to each candidate, including a breakdown of those who are residents of East Lansing. (The count of individuals excludes the candidates themselves.)

A look at the number of individual contributors, including those from East Lansing.

PAC Donations

PACs have contributed to several East Lansing Council candidates. The largest recipient by far is Ron Bacon, who received $9,000 from five PACs. The Local 333 PAC gave $5,000. United Association [UA] Local 333 serves Plumbers, Pipefitters, Welders, and HVAC Service Techs. Greater Lansing Association of Realtors (GLAR) PAC donated $1,000, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRC) PAC $1,000, Operating Engineers Local 324 PAC $1,000, and IBEW PAC $1,000. IBEW is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Like Bacon, Chuck Grigsby received contributions from both the LRC PAC in the amount of $500 and the Realtors Political Action Committee of Michigan for $1,000. Separate from the Realtor’s contribution to Grigsby’s campaign, the Greater Lansing Association of Realtors reported in its financial statement that it paid for and sent out a mailer in October supporting Grigsby, at a cost of $3,241. PACs may not coordinate their activities with candidate committees.

Dan Bollman is the third East Lansing candidate who received a contribution from the LRC PAC, in the amount of $500.

Dana Watson received a $1,000 contribution from the IBEW PAC, as did Bacon. The campaigns of Brookover, DeLay, and Manuel received no PAC contributions.

The Lansing Regional Chamber and Association of Realtors are not newcomers to East Lansing Council elections; the LRC PAC gave to Jessy Gregg and Mark Meadows in 2019, and the Realtors gave to Gregg during that campaign, too. In 2017, the national Realtor’s PAC put a lot of money into Aaron Stephens’ campaign

Union PACs also have given to East Lansing Council races before. The IBEW PAC gave to the campaign of Nathan Triplett in 2015. Also, the Local 333 PAC gave to Meadows’ campaign in 2015 and again in 2019.

Large Donors

The table above showing the number of donors and contribution totals to each campaign calls attention to difference in the size of contributions. For example, Brookover and Grigsby received donations from an almost identical number of East Lansing residents (34 and 33 individuals, respectively), but the total amount of these donations was 3.5 greater to Brookover than to Grigsby.

To make another comparison, Bollman, Watson, and Grigsby received a similar total amount from all their individual donors, but they were from different numbers of individuals – $4,947 from 18 people to Bollman, $5,340 from 23 people to Watson, and $5,441 from 42 people to Grigsby.

A list of donors of $250 or more to each candidate, listed in order by amount and then alphabetically, is available here.

Bacon is the only candidate who held a fundraiser for his Council campaign, which was at the Side Bar in East Lansing in August. According to his financial report, about $4,980 was contributed at the event. The event cost $1,000, which was paid as an in-kind contribution by Andrew Abood; Abood Law Firm occupies the same building as Side Bar. A number of the 30 people who attended and contributed to Bacon’s campaign are elected Democrats, including State Representative Julie Brixie, East Lansing School Board member Chris Martin, and Ingham County Commissioner Derrell Slaughter.

Expenditures by the Campaigns

There are few surprises among the expenditures reported in the candidates’ financial reports. All the candidates purchased yard signs, as one can readily see around town.

All the candidates except Manuel printed campaign literature for mailings and/or leaving at people’s doors. Practical Political Consulting (or Mark Grebner, founder of PPC) sold voter mailing lists to the Bacon, Brookover, Grigsby, and Watson campaigns.

Brookover, Bacon, Delay, and Watson hired Allied Media in Fenton, Michigan, for some campaign work; the firm provides design, printing, and mailing services. Grigsby and Bollman went to various printers themselves.

Bacon has paid Scott Hughes of Lansing $1,400 for campaign management services. Bacon and Watson are incumbents on the City Council, but because they were appointed to their current Council positions, these are their first electoral campaigns. Brookover’s campaign also paid Hughes $2,900 in political consulting and advertising services.

DeLay and Watson paid for Facebook ads, which is not a large expense. Watson also paid for ads in the City Pulse; DeLay bought an ad in the Ingham County Democratic Party PAC dinner.

If you want to look through the candidates’ financial reports yourself, you can find them here:

For information about the City Council election and the candidates, go to ELi’s 2021 Voter Guide.

Correction: Diane Goddeeris did not receive a contribution from the IBEW PAC in any of her City Council campaigns. We regret the error.

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