Texarkana Gazette

Rich GOP donors move to avert Trump takeover

- Nolan Finley

The Republican old guard is finally mounting a counter offensive to bring the Michigan party back to its traditiona­l conservati­ve roots and head off an attempt by former President Donald Trump to tilt Michigan’s presidenti­al nominating process in his favor.

A number of Michigan’s largest and most loyal GOP donors, known as the Michigan Opportunit­y Alliance (MOA), are pooling their money to support candidates who stand for good government and fiscal conservati­sm.

Many of the candidates they’re backing are incumbents who face challenges in the August primary from candidates endorsed by Trump.

The alliance includes roughly 50 of the state’s wealthiest individual­s and is led by former state party Chair Bobby Schostak and west Michigan businessma­n Doug DeVos. They wouldn’t discuss their activities publicly.

But those familiar with what the alliance is doing say it’s a return to a preTrump initiative to elect competent politician­s more interested in problem solving than politics.

“It’s more of a confederat­ion than an organized group,” says Greg McNeilly, chief operating officer of the Windquest Group, the Grand Rapids investment company owned by Dick and Betsy DeVos.

“They’ve been together since 2014 and engage politicall­y when they see a need. They’ve been quiet the last two election cycles, but are active this year on behalf of candidates they believe will move the state forward.”

Collective­ly, this group and their families have given millions of dollars to Republican causes and many have held leadership positions in the party in the past. They are the power brokers who helped bring former Govs. John Engler and Rick Snyder to office, secured a Republican majority on the Supreme Court in the early 2000s and passed ballot initiative­s changing the tax code and limiting the reach of labor unions.

But they’ve been largely dormant recently as the GOP demanded 100% loyalty to Trump as the price of admission. MOA members once controlled Republican politics in the state, but saw both their influence and interest wane during the Trump years.

When they’ve given money in recent cycles, it’s mostly been to individual candidates, and not to the state party.

“I’ve been more selective,” says David Nicholson of Grosse Pointe, whose family once ranked among the largest Michigan GOP donors. “I’m not giving to the state party. I’m supporting fiscal conservati­ves and good government candidates on an individual basis.”

The alliance mobilized this spring in part to organize and fundraise on behalf of 10 to 15 Republican legislativ­e candidates, many of them incumbents, who are being targeted to further the political ambitions of Matt and Meshawn Maddock.

Meshawn Maddock is the state GOP co-chair and a Trump confidante. Matt Maddock is a state representa­tive from Milford who wants to be the next speaker of the House.

The incumbents on their hit list refused to support Matt Maddock’s power grab. So the couple recruited a slate of candidates to challenge them — including the father of their daughter’s fiancé — and got Trump to endorse them.

It was a sleazy move, and one that helped lead to the expulsion this week of Matt Maddock from the House GOP caucus. It also broke with the tradition of party officials remaining neutral in partisan primaries. And that was a last straw for the big donors who had done little up to now but shake their heads as the state GOP lost any claim to being a legitimate political party in Michigan.

The donors, mostly from west and southeast Michigan, are said to be giving generously, and all of the contributi­ons will be publicly disclosed. No dark money is involved. It’s funding that in the past likely would have gone to the state party to support operations and fund Republican candidates in the general election.

The MOA has also told donors it is concerned Trump would like the Michigan GOP to switch from awarding its presidenti­al nominating delegates via an open primary to a closed caucus or convention. That would give party operatives greater control over the process and, if the current leadership make-up holds, assure him Michigan’s delegates in 2024.

While those familiar with the MOA insist its mission is not to derail Trump, but rather to uphold conservati­ve values, the alliance represents the first real hope of returning the Michigan Republican Party to the mainstream of American politics.

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