A recent ad supporting Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer says he is a “conservative fighter standing up for Michigan” who “voted against Biden’s reckless spending, fought to stop the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border and he’ll defend our Second Amendment rights and protect life.”
Financed by the super PAC called Principled Leadership for Michigan, the ad comes as Meijer is battling for survival in next week’s 3rd District Republican primary against an opponent endorsed by former President Donald Trump, John Gibbs.
Helping Meijer in that fight is the super PAC, which got $500,000 of the $757,000 it has disclosed raising so far from a single donor who appears to be Meijer’s father, although the PAC’s disclosure reports to the Federal Election Commission use a different spelling for his last name.
His father had already given the legal maximum in the first quarter of last year to Meijer’s campaign account and to his leadership PAC. But the extra assistance through Principled Leadership for Michigan, a committee that has not spent money in any other race, is legal because court rulings opened the door to unlimited spending through super PACs as long as there is no coordination with the candidates being supported.
Indeed, it’s not unusual for family members to find other ways to contribute beyond the maximum donations they’re allowed to give to a candidate, said Michael Toner, a partner at the firm Wiley and former FEC chairman.
“Affluent family members, because they would like to contribute a lot of money to a campaign but they’re legally barred, they’ll contribute the maximum and then spend up to millions on independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate,” Toner said.
Meijer needs as much help as he can get. Gibbs has attacked him for being one of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year and for supporting other measures backed by the Democratic majority, including a package of bills aimed at gun violence crafted by a bipartisan group of senators.
The scion of a Midwest supermarket chain that bears the family name, Meijer leads Gibbs in fundraising and had about six times as much cash in his account on July 13 as the challenger.
Spending by PAC mounts
At that same point, Principled Leadership for Michigan had reported raising $757,000, including the $500,000 in two contributions from “Hendrick G. Meyer.” One of those contributions has “AKA Meijer” in parentheses after the last name, and both payments came from a post office box in Grand Rapids, Mich., that other candidates and committees listed as the address for Hendrik Meijer. That’s the name of the congressman’s father, although some recipients of his contributions also spelled his first name as Hendrick and some used a different Grand Rapids address.
Other donors to the super PAC include Deborah Meijer of Agoura Hills, Calif., who gave $100,000; and Alticor Inc., a corporation tied to the DeVos family, which gave $50,000.
The super PAC began filing notices of independent expenditures earlier this summer, including a notification of spending $87,640 on television media production and placement on June 21 and $24,544 on direct mail on June 24, according to FEC filings. On July 7, the group said it spent another $49,100 on television ad production and connected TV placement.
Another notice dated Friday, after the committee’s pre-primary report was filed, shows $310,000 more was spent on production costs and media airtime. That report said the ad focused on opposing Gibbs and supporting Meijer. A disclosure dated Tuesday reports another $1,400 on television ad production costs.
Charles Gantt, who is listed as the Principled Leadership for Michigan’s treasurer, declined to answer questions about the organization when reached by phone earlier this month. A request to speak with a spokesperson was not returned. The Meijer campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Principled Leadership for Michigan isn’t the only super PAC supporting Meijer’s bid for a second term, as seven other super PACs have spent a combined $1.3 million supporting Meijer or opposing Gibbs ahead of the primary. Meanwhile, two super PACs have spent a combined $41,000 supporting Gibbs or opposing Meijer.
McCarthy’s and Cheney’s support
Meijer has also received support from some notable colleagues. Meijer’s primary campaign committee disclosed Friday that it received $10,000 from Majority Committee PAC, which is House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s leadership PAC.
Meijer’s campaign committee has also received $10,000 each from the leadership PACs of Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois; $5,000 from the leadership PAC of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming; and $2,500 from former GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman of Virginia. Cheney and Kinzinger serve on the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, and Riggleman previously served as an adviser to the panel.
If Meijer wins, the Aug. 2 primary is just his first challenge. Democrat Hillary Scholten, who lost to Meijer by 6 points in 2020, has no primary challenger, and the district is more likely to favor Democrats this year after redistricting. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race a Toss-up.
Meijer’s campaign reported total fundraising of $2.8 million as of July 13 and had $894,000 on hand. Gibbs’ campaign reported raising $484,000 as of July 13 and had $145,000 on hand.
Gibbs’ campaign has touted polling by Big Data Poll that showed him leading Meijer among Republican primary voters, with 46 percent of likely voters saying they would vote for Gibbs and 28 percent saying they would vote for Meijer. The poll found that Gibbs, who served in the Department of Housing and Urban Development during Trump’s administration, got more support from voters when they learned of Trump’s endorsement.
DCCC helps opponent
Gibbs’ team argued that the polling shows he is the only Republican who would beat Scholten in November, given Meijer’s fractured support among Republican voters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appears to disagree, however. The party committee waded into the Republican primary this week in an apparent effort to boost Gibbs by tying him to Trump, which could boost his appeal to Republican voters. The committee placed a $425,000 ad buy in the Grand Rapids media market beginning on Tuesday, a DCCC spokesperson told CQ Roll Call. The ad calls Gibbs “too conservative for West Michigan.”
“Hand-picked by Trump to run for Congress, Gibbs called Trump ‘the greatest president’ and worked in Trump’s administration with [former HUD Secretary] Ben Carson,” it says. “Gibbs has promised to push that same conservative agenda in Congress — a hard line against immigrants at the border and so-called patriotic education in our schools.”