|By Neal McNamara|
Going into 2009, the money fueling the campaigns of the mayoral candidates were decidedly lopsided, with Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in a strong lead.
It was one hell of a cheese party.
It’s fun to imagine, but the way the campaign to re-elect Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero received 43 $100 donations from 43 different Miller Canfield attorneys (plus $1,000 from the Miller Canfield PAC earlier in the year), most of whom live near Detroit or Ann Arbor, on Dec. 20, 2008, was probably a lot less glamorous.
Still, it demonstrates the power of Bernero’s campaign, drawing hefty donations from well outside the Lansing area. (A Miller Canfield spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for exactly how all those attorneys donated money to Bernero’s campaign.)
Heading into the 2009 mayor’s race, Bernero has a war chest of over $65,000, with $56,350 of it raised in 2008, according to records his campaign filed with the Ingham County Clerk’s Office. Bernero hasn’t officially declared, but he says, “Yeah, it’s a good guess; I’ll probably end up running.”
Wood and Ford have set up campaign committees called, respectively, Elect Carol Wood and Charles Ford for Mayor. Hassenger has not filed. The deadline for filing for mayor is May 12, and the first deadline for filing fund-raising reports is June 4.
Wood, seen as Bernero’s most likely challenger in November, came into 2009 with only $3,105. That amount was raised all at once during an Oct. 29, 2008, fundraiser by her City Council campaign committee, mostly in bits and pieces of $20, $50 and $100.
According to state campaign finance law, transferring money between candidate committees is allowable.
Ford started 2009 with zero. In 2008, he was the sole donor to his school board re-election campaign committee, and it was just a loan for $1,103.01 to pay back Insty Prints, the Michigan Bulletin newspaper and Web site designers Addis Enterprises.
Asked how much money would be needed in this campaign, Bernero said “$200,000 to $300,000.”
Retired Malcolm Pirnie engineer David Smith, of Aurora, N.Y., which is a suburb of Buffalo, said he didn’t specifically remember why he gave $250 to Bernero’s campaign, but he said that he generally likes to support “good government.”
“I believe in good governments that are doing something positive for the people,” Smith said.
Lansing Public Services Director Chad Gamble said that Malcolm Pirnie had actually just received its first large contract (it has done smaller jobs for the city) with Lansing for this year’s work on the Combined Sewer Overflow project, which is worth about $100,000. Interestingly, this year is the first time in 15 years that Tetra Tech, didn’t get all parts of the CSO contract, Gamble said; Malcolm Pirnie and another firm, Fishbeck Thompson, underbid it by a millimeter.
He also got some bucks from Lansing department heads: $750 from Personnel Director Terri Singleton and $625 from Parks and Recreation Director Murdock Jemerson. And Alys Alley, the daughter of Police Chief Mark Alley, gave him $125.
“People give for any number of reasons,” Bernero said. “But I think it’s because we’ve made progress in this city. We cast a wide net; people hear what’s going on in the city of Lansing.”
Wood campaign manager Bill Morris says that Bernero’s projection of $200,000 to $300,000 is a little high in this economy.
“We don’t want to necessarily hit a cap on what we do. Two hundred to $300,000 on a campaign at this time, when we’re losing jobs and the economy is bad … may be a little high for a campaign,” he said.
Morris declined a request for how much money has been raised so far in 2009, but he did say that three fundraisers have been held. Bernero said he didn’t know how many fundraisers his campaign has held this year.
The money that came into Wood’s campaign last year was a mix between neighborhood activists, local politicians and the kinds of people that like going to City Council meetings such as city worker and Bernero administration critic Carl Calille ($50) or Anita Beavers ($50), head of the Colonial Village Neighborhood Association. In her corner, Wood had some union support, like James Bitzer ($150), business manager of the local International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, and IBEW business manager Ron Byrnes ($50). For local politicians there was former mayor Tony Benavides ($100) and Ingham County Commissioner Debbie DeLeon ($50), among others. There were also some crossover donations between the Bernero and Wood campaigns, like Lynne Martinez, head of the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, and Board of Water and Light head J. Peter Lark.
When asked if the Wood campaign would seek funds from heavier hitters — like corporations, PACs and labor unions — Morris said the campaign would sit down and listen to them (and, he conceded, in Lansing you “have” to have union support), but the “special interests” the Wood campaign is interested in is families and neighborhoods.
Campaign finance highlights