As the years-long battle over auto insurance reform appears to be reaching a crescendo in the state Capitol, some of Michigan’s most influential political action committees (PACs) have a lot riding on the outcome after spending $4.5 million to get their favorite legislators elected.

That astounding total was revealed by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) after the watchdog group examined the spending of 18 PACs tied to groups involved in the auto insurance fight: nine PACs tied to either auto insurance companies or groups that have pushed for reforms; and nine PACs that have openly opposed the reforms currently advancing.

Of the $4.5 million tracked over the last five years, insurance company PACs and groups backing the new or previous bills have spent about $2.7 million on campaign cash to support current lawmakers. Groups opposing the bills have spent about $1.8 million.

With Michigan’s auto insurance rates ranked the highest in the U.S., insurance reform has served as one of the biggest issues in Lansing for the past several years, and the top priority for Republican leadership in the new legislative session that began in January.

The nonpartisan MCFN reports that House and Senate members face pressure from a collection of well-heeled groups watching out for their own financial interests, including companies that sell auto insurance, health care providers who treat motorists injured in accidents, and attorneys who represent victims in court.

Leading the pack is the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which backs pending bills that would lower insurance rates in exchange for less coverage. The chamber’s traditional PAC has made about $703,350 in contributions to current lawmakers’ campaign committees over the last five years. The chamber’s super PAC, which acts independently in purchasing campaign ads to benefit its favored candidates, spent $1 million in support of current lawmakers – again, over the last five years.

Nearly half of the super PAC’s fundraising haul in 2018 can be traced back to insurance interests, including the Michigan Insurance Coalition, which gave $410,000, the Auto Club Group, which gave $35,000, and the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, which gave $32,500, according to financial disclosures.

Other PACs who have spent large amounts backing current lawmakers to change Michigan’s no-fault car insurance system are: the Michigan Farm Bureau PAC, $370,675: Auto Club of Michigan PAC, $208,200; and Michigan Association of Insurance Agents PAC, $193,025.

On the other side of the debate, those fighting against an overhaul of auto insurance are led by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s PAC, which spent about $850,300. The Michigan Association for Justice, an organization that represents lawyers, has spent $749,389 in PAC money supporting a select group of current lawmakers.

Other groups battling a major change in insurance coverage include: the Henry Ford Health System PAC, $61,500; Friends of Spectrum Health PAC, $58,700; and Michigan Doctors PAC, the political arm of the Michigan State Medical Society, $45,000.