Snyder forms PAC as fight over bridge intensifies

Paul Egan / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder is forming a political action committee called “One Tough Nerd,” stirring speculation he needs more financial muscle to win approval of his controversial bridge plan.

Paperwork to form the “One Tough Nerd” committee was recently filed with the Michigan Secretary of State. Snyder’s press secretary, Sara Wurfel, confirmed Thursday the PAC is Snyder’s.

Snyder, a former accountant who had never before run for elected office, introduced himself to Michigan voters as “one tough nerd” in a Hollywood-produced TV ad that first aired during the 2010 Super Bowl.

Both of Snyder’s predecessors, Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Republican Gov. John Engler, had similar committees they used for political fund-raising and expenditures not directly related to their election campaigns. Such entities are commonly known as “leadership PACs,” and governors typically use them to give financial support to the campaigns of state lawmakers and other government officials or candidates.

But unlike Granholm or Engler, Snyder refused to accept PAC donations during his campaign for governor in 2010. Corporations and lobbying groups often form PACs, and Snyder said during the campaign he refused to accept PAC money to show that he would not be beholden to special interests.

Forming the committee may be “a practical necessity” as Snyder tries to push through legislation to create a public authority to oversee construction of a new international bridge across the Detroit River, said Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Robinson said Snyder likely needs the PAC so he can counter some of the hundreds of thousands in political donations being made by Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge who opposes Snyder’s plan for a new publicly owned span about two miles to the south.

“If he wants to get that bridge built, I think he’s going to have to get in the game,” Robinson said.

Snyder, a Republican, came out in favor of the bridge early this year. But many lawmakers in his own party oppose the project.

Snyder put about $6 million of his own money into the governor’s race, finishing first in a crowded and hard-fought Republican primary before defeating Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, the Democratic candidate.

A fund-raiser had been scheduled for Thursday night but was postponed indefinitely due to scheduling conflicts, Wurfel said.