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Wednesday, September 23,2009

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The latest campaign filings in the Lansing mayor’s race show Bernero far outpacing Wood

by Neal McNamara

For Rich Robinson, the head of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, campaign donors are rational. The decision to give money to a candidate is an investment for which a return is expected.


“They’re not giving money for selfless reasons,” he said.


By that account, donors to the campaigns in the Lansing mayor’s race are going to expect a lot from incumbent Mayor Virg Bernero. According to the most recent campaign filings, which cover from the August primary through Sept. 3, Bernero raised $46,560 to challenger At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood’s $3,280. Bernero received about 55 percent — a little over $25,000 — of his donations from outside of Lansing, which his campaign attributes to a “broad base of support,” while Wood raised almost all of her money from within Lansing.


But the bigger question seems to be why Bernero is raising so much compared to Wood — for a future race or to use the money to further get his message out through television, radio and other media?


For the cumulative election cycle, which is all money raised since the last election in 2005, Bernero has raised a little over $275,000, while Wood has about $36,000. Bernero has about $125,000 on hand, while Wood has $20,000.


Bernero campaign manager Patrick McAlvey said that it would be a “strategic miscalculation” to base their fundraising on their competitor. McAlvey said that modern campaigns are expensive and that people vote with their pocketbook.


Robinson said that oftentimes a candidate will build up money for future elections, either in the same office or a higher one.


It’s “continuing to cultivate contacts for whatever future plans he might have, whether it’s banking money for the next time around or, if he was to run for a seat for some higher office, he could transfer money to another campaign committee,” Robinson said.


McAlvey would not comment on what the money might be used for except to say vaguely that the campaign is “looking at all its options” as far as advertising.


Wood, however, said that she thinks she will only need to raise $60,000 to $70,000 for the race, though she originally anticipated raising over $100,000. She has so far been relying on small donations from individuals and holding small fundraisers. But she said that she would be soon hosting some “high-end” fundraisers.


Wood charged that, in such a down economy, it’s “almost criminal to see that amount of money being put into a campaign.”


“In a down economy, people are more engaged in the direction the city is taking,” McAlvey responded.


Wood
also said that Bernero has the ability to campaign on the taxpayers’
dime by promoting himself during mayoral events — though she also
reasoned that she has the same opportunity because of televised City
Council meetings.


“No
matter how you look at it, it’s getting his name out,” she said. “It’s
no different for me because I’m on City TV during Council meetings.”


Robinson
says there’s a “strong correlation” between those candidates that raise
the most money and those that win. However, he did not count campaign
contributors as a good sample of the electorate.


“I
think that it’s the money itself which allows one to pick up the
megaphone to be heard with their message. It really does have an impact
on voter conduct,” he said.



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