Detroit councilmember Ayers' fundraising hobbled after FBI raid, but Duggan officials still donate

October 25, 2021, 7:46 PM by  Violet Ikonomova


An August FBI raid on the home of Detroit city councilmember Janeé Ayers has slowed the pace of donations to her re-election campaign, but the cloud hasn't stopped a handful of top Duggan administration officials from giving to the longtime mayoral ally.

Ayers, the lone incumbent in the four-way at-large — or citywide — race, pulled in just $13,000 in contributions between the Aug. 3 primary and last week's campaign finance filing deadline, the least of four candidates running for two seats. The councilwoman of six years was previously the biggest fundraiser of the field by far.

Ayers' contributors since September include four in Mayor Mike Duggan's cabinet:

♦ Chief Operating Officer Hakim Berry
♦ Deputy Chief Financial Officer Tanya Stoudemire
♦ Group Executive for Jobs, Economy and Detroit at Work Nicole Sherard-Freeman
♦ Public Works Director Ronald Brundidge

Detroit Land Bank Authority director Saskia Thompson, who was appointed by a board that includes mayoral and City Council appointees, also gave, as did Duggan's Director of Customer Service, Adrian Tonon.

The officials' donations ranged from $21 to $207. None on the city side responded to requests for comment, while the Land Bank Authority's Thompson declined.

The donations to Ayers signal the officials "like to work with her and want to see her stay in," said political consultant Adolph Mongo. "Until they prove that she did something, you have to give her the benefit of the doubt."

Duggan did not instruct members of his administration to give, said his spokesman, John Roach. The mayor has declined to issue an endorsement in the race, but a dark money nonprofit run by his current and past appointees has spent heavily on Ayers' re-election effort, covering the city in billboards as the councilwoman herself avoids the public.

That's expected to change this week, however, when Ayers hosts her first constituent engagement event since the raid.

Former state Sen. Coleman Young, Jr., who came a close second in the primary, pulled $74,000 in the same period that Ayers raised $13,000, while former state Rep. Mary Waters raised $27,000 and former Charter Commissioner Nicole Small raised nearly $15,000. Ayers' contributions since the primary represent less than half of what she raised in the three months before her last re-election bid in 2017.

Ahead of the raids, the former hospitality worker and union official had raised $158,000 from a broad coalition of PACs, unions, corporate and development industry executives, and individuals — more than twice as much as Young and 10 times as much as Waters and Small, who came in third and fourth place in the primary. 

Polls have shown Ayers at risk of losing her seat to Waters, who was involved in a corruption case in 2010 and was earlier this month reported to owe $28,000 in property taxes. Ayers won 31 percent of the primary vote while Waters won 23.4 percent, but a Target-Insyght poll of 400 likely voters conducted almost two weeks ago had Ayers at 26 percent and Waters at 21 percent, within the 5 percent margin of error. Young led the survey with 34 percent and Small trailed with 7 percent.

Ayers' campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

The councilwoman has not discussed her involvement in the FBI corruption probe that took down Councilmember Andre Spivey for bribery. Councilmember Scott Benson, whose home and office were searched the same day as Ayers', has said he's done nothing wrong. He's opposed by seven write-in candidates.

Notable donors to each of the candidates in the at-large field include:

Janeé Ayers ($171,000 raised this year; average donation $425)

  • Matthew and Lindsey Moroun, who together gave $14,300 in May
  • Rock Holdings Inc. State PAC, which is affiliated with Dan Gilbert and gave $10,000 in May
  • Cynthia Pasky of Strategic Staffing Solutions, who gave $7,150 in June
  • SEIU 1 Michigan PAC, which gave $5,500 in June
  • Arn Tellem of the Pistons, who gave $3,500 in July
  • Peter Cummings of development firm The Platform, who gave $3,400 in July

Coleman Young, Jr. ($136,000 raised this year; average donation $1,250)

  • Former Mayor Dave Bing, who gave $2,500
  • The SEIU's Michigan State Council Labor Organization and Local 1 Michigan PAC, which together gave $20,000
  • Rock Holdings Inc. State PAC, which gave $7,000

Mary Waters ($38,500 raised this year; average donation $1,040)

  • The Michigan Laborers Political League gave $21,500
  • Benson Chief of Staff Carol Banks, whose home was also raided, gave $100
  • State Reps Karen Whittsett and Cynthia Neeley each gave $100, as did Neeley's husband, Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley
  • Detroit Board of Police Commissioner Lisa Carter and her husband, state Rep. Tyrone Carter, gave $300

Nicole Small ($27,000 raised this year; average donation $170)

  • Laborers Local 1191 Const Workers Ind Education Committee gave $5,000

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