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Shifting regional political power

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Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, said the report looked at the top 40 family donors that donated the most money to state and national campaigns in the 2014-15 cycle. In looking through the list of top state donors, Mauger said nearly every family is either from west Michigan or southeast Michigan.

"We have a campaign finance system that is increasingly empowering the largest donors," Mauger said. "If you have a large group of really wealthy donors living in a certain area, it wouldn't be surprising that the area would wield more power than another part of the state, even if they have similar populations."

Of the top 40 donor families, 22 gave more than $100,000 to campaign committees in Michigan. The majority of those donors are regular contributors to more than one state and/or national campaign committees, while some focused on single campaigns. For instance, Kevin McCaffery, of Ann Arbor, donated all but about $2,600 of his $650,000 in contributions to the Michigan Legalize campaign committee; Ortonville attorney Glen Lenhoff spent about $230,000 to fund an unsuccessful campaign for sheriff; and Congressman Paul Mitchell, of Dryden, gave $190,570 to the Coalition Against Higher Taxes, a state ballot committee that opposed increasing the sales tax for road improvements.

Overall, top donors from west Michigan gave about $5.6 million to political campaign committees, with the DeVos family contributing $3.4 million to Michigan political campaigns during the 2014-15 cycle. DeVos donations included $1.3 million to the Michigan Republican Party and another $720,000 to the House Republican Campaign Committee. Top southeast Michigan family donors gave about $3.7 million all told.

While DeVos is by far the largest contributor to political committees, there are many others. Within Mauger's review of the top donor families, the Kennedy family, owners of Autocam, in Kentwood, donated about $589,700 in the 2014-15 cycle, including $230,000 to the Michigan Republican Party; the Jandermoa family, of Grand Rapids-based Perrigo, donated $437,500 to campaign committees; the Paret family, of Hickory Corners, in Barry County, donated $302,000; J.C. Huizenga, of Grand Rapids, gave $260,000; the Van Andel family, which together with DeVos, run Amway, gave $254,000; the Haworth family, of Holland-based Haworth furniture, donated $245,000; and the Secchia family, of Grand Rapids-based Sibisco, donated $201,230.

Top donors from southeast Michigan in the 2014-15 cycle, outside of Weiser and McCaffery, included $336,559 from the Nicholson family, owner of Detroit-based PVS Chemicals; $297,050 from the Moroun family of Grosse Pointe Shores, owner of the Detroit International Bridge; $280,550 from Chuck Rizzo of Bloomfield Township, of former Sterling Heights-based Rizzo Environmental; $256,200 from the Kojaian family, of Bloomfield Hills-based Kojaian Management; $232,200 from the Karmanos family, of Orchard Lake; $209,702 from Dan's Excavating owner Chris Peyerk, of Shelby Township, which included $200,000 to Citizens for Honest Government, his self-funded independent PAC; $203,946 by the Cotton family of Grosse Pointe Park, owners of Meridian Health; $161,610 by the Schostak family of Bloomfield Hills; $126,650 from Anthony Soave, founder of Detroit-based Soave Enterprises; and $115,857 from the Bernstein family of Farmington Hills, of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm.

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