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DeVos family, labor unions spend millions on political groups, report shows

Sam Corden

Political candidates raised millions of dollars - and spent millions of dollars - in Michigan this election season, but they weren’t the only ones. 

There was also plenty of political spending by independent groups. Those are the groups not connected to any candidate, which can accept unlimited amounts of cash from donors. The top 20 groups in Michigan spent $9.9 million between January 2015 and Election Day, according to a report by the watchdog Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

About half of the money raised by those groups came from a dozen sources, the report says.

“Those 12 sources are driving the independent spending in Michigan, and the main force behind it is the DeVos family,” says Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.


Members of the DeVos family spent $1.8 million on independent groups, including more than $1 million to the Michigan Republican Party. 

The next biggest spender was the American Federation of Teachers, a labor union which gave nearly $700,000 to a Super PAC supporting Democrats. 

“If someone wants to give a check to a candidate, generally there’s a limit on how much they can give,” Mauger says. “But if there is a group that supports that candidate, and is acting so-called independently of that candidate, you can give that group as much money as you want to.”