Virg's money machine

Originally posted August 8, 2013, updated August 21, 2013





The following is about Virg's mayoral campaign contributions and expenditures. We also have the latest report to the IRS on his "City Administrative Account", a 527 account. I've updated my ongoing analysis of that account.



At the end of December 2012, Mayor Virg Bernero had a balance of $28,692 in his mayoral campaign account. From January 1 through July 21 of this year - as reported in his pre-primary campaign finance report (amended) - he took in $74,825 in direct contributions. Then he reported another $2,950 in late contributions. During this same period, he spent $43,201, so he has an account balance of $34,574 going into the general election.


His opponent, former city councilman Harold Leeman Jr., raised $940 and spent $614.60, leaving a balance of $328.94 in his account.


The reality is that even if Bernero did no campaigning at all, Leeman - with all due respect - wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell. So why does Bernero keep collecting all that money?


One reason may be that he can use some of it to support the campaigns of his favorite city council candidates: Kathie Dunbar and Judi Brown Clarke in the at-large race, Jessica Yorko in the 4th ward. But the amount his campaign committee can donate to another campaign committee is limited to $1000, which would hardly make a dent in his $30,000 balance. (Apparently I was wrong about that. Bernero got a $125 contribution from the Committee to Re-elect Sheriff Wrigglesworth, and in this notice of errors from the Ingham County Clerk, item #16 says "a candidate committee must not accept a contribution from another candidate committee except for the purchase of a fundraiser ticket, not to exceed $100 from that candidate committee in a calendar year.")


It could also be used in his next campaign. Who knows? Four years from now, he might have an opponent with a pulse. There are no term limits for Lansing elected officials, so he may aspire to Mayor for Life. He certainly seems to enjoy it. On the other hand, he may have his eye on an office at the state or national level.


Whatever the case, that pre-primary campaign report has some interesting stuff in it. I keyed the contribution and expenditure records from the report into a spreadsheet so I could present them in a more compact manner on this website. For contributions over $100, the report is supposed to include the contributor's occupation and employer. Several of the records did not have that information (see error notice from Ingham County Clerk), so I googled the contributor name and filled in the missing information. In some cases, I linked to the employer's website. Here are the lists:



On the expenditure side, we find that he has four contract employees working on his campaign. He paid them a total of $18,266.13, which is over half his total expenditures:


  Chris Breznau   Michelle Benson   Elizabeth Hart   Josh Olesczcak
















  5/16/2013 400   6/3/2013 300   3/5/2013




  5/23/2013 2000   6/14/2013 2600     $500




  3/13/2013 500   7/12/2013 600      




  4/24/2013 400   7/5/2013

















One of them came to my door to ask me to support the mayor, but he also asked me to vote for Judi Brown Clarke, and hers was the only flyer he gave me, so that is another way Bernero can help his preferred council candidates.

My guess is that one of his minions' major tasks is to solicit contributions, and unless there is some heavy spending to crush Leeman between now and November, I suspect that the main purpose of this campaign is to pile up money.

Just as in past years, a lot of Bernero's contributors are City or Board of Water & Light employees, along with anyone who does business with the City. This time, law firms were targeted. Look at the list of contributions sorted by employer. Multiple contributions came from employees with these firms:

Dykema Gossett

Foster Swift

Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap

Loomis Ewert Parsley Davis & Gotting

Miller Canfield

Plunkett Clooney

Miller Canfield leads them all with contributions from 45 employees, most of whom live on the east side of the state. What will they gain by having Bernero as mayor of Lansing?


Auto dealers also were targeted. The July 26 late contribution report lists 10 contributions, all from people with auto dealership connections:




Auto Dealer Connection


Jeffrey Williams


Williams Auto World


Richard Iding


President, Bud Kouts Chevrolet


Kurt Berryman


Director of Legislative Affairs, Auto Dealers of Michigan


Donna Snethkamp


Bill Snethkamp Dodge, Chrysler?


Sherrill Freeborough


Hyundai of Lansing


Daniel Shaheen


Shaheen Chevrolet?


Jeffrey Braatz


Owner, Paradise Motors


Glenn Buege


Glenn Buege Chevrolet, Buick-GMC


T.W. Burns


Executive Vice President, Auto Dealers of Michigan


Stephen Shaheen


Okemos Auto Collection


Someone who got an early look at this story commented as follows: "Remarkable that NOBODY just gives [Bernero] money because they like the job he's doing as Mayor."