Billionaires Battle to Fill Seat Held by Senate Armed Services Chairman

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Terri Lynn Land saw the battle of the billionaires coming and foretold the future while addressing a fundraising event in Michigan.

“Now this is a whole new world, after, some of you remember, the Citizens United lawsuit,” Land is heard to say on the video given to the Huffington Post. “It changed the dynamics of politics, restricted the parties, but it let individuals and others raise resources. Our campaign has talked to a lot of those folks, and they are committed to Michigan.”

The Republican, running against Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in the 2014 election to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), head of the Armed Services Committee, could not have hit any nail more accurately on the head.

The Land and Peters campaigns are a testament to her foresight.

Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the Koch brothers, has been backing Land with issue-oriented ad campaigns, while California businessman Tom Steyer is doing the same for Peters.

The first salvo in the war of the battling billionaires in Michigan was fired on behalf of Land while thick winter ice still covered the Great Lakes.

One of the strongest attack ads against Peters was released March 25 by Americans for Prosperity.

The political action committee described it as a “massive ad buy” featuring the story of Shannon Wendt, who said her family’s insurance plan was canceled due to the Affordable Care Act, despite assurances from Peters and President Obama that they would be able to keep their plan.

Losing her family’s insurance plan was “like a kick in the gut,” Wendt said. “A vote for Obamacare is a vote that’s destroying the middle class.”

The ad ran for several weeks throughout Michigan on TV and digital platforms with a budget of more than $1.5 million.

Another conservative PAC, Ending Spending — this one run by Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade — also weighed in on the Michigan Senate race in May with an ad criticizing Peters for his opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and also tying him to Steyer.

“The Keystone pipeline would create thousands of jobs, but Congressman Gary Peters opposes Keystone and supports big government regulations that hurt jobs and Michigan’s economy,” the narrator says. “Instead of creating jobs, Peters votes in Congress to benefit special interests like Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has made ‘killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand.’ Steyer even profited from one of Keystone’s competitors. Tell Gary Peters to stand up to special interests and work to create Michigan jobs.”

However, even though she obviously has big bankrolls backing her from out of state, Land is not about to relinquish her criticism of a “radical billionaire” backing the Peters campaign for the U.S. Senate in Michigan.

The Job Killers web ad released by the Land campaign on May 22 highlights Peters’ record of voting for what the Land campaign calls “a radical environmental agenda,” including cap-and-trade — and Peters’ relationship with Steyer.

Heather Swift, the spokeswoman for the Land campaign, said if  Peters is successful in passing “his radical agenda,” it would mean the end of 96,000 blue-collar jobs in Michigan.

She also said middle-class families and manufacturers would be forced to pay 20 cents more per gallon to fill up their car and 40 percent more to heat their homes in the winter.