Campaigns, parties stock up for 2014 clashPublished 10:13am Tuesday, February 4, 2014
ST. PAUL — It’s political fuel, and newly filed fundraising reports show money is already flowing fast into the tanks of Minnesota candidates, parties and outside groups to pay for manpower, mailings and TV commercials this campaign season.
Among governor hopefuls, incumbent Democrat Mark Dayton had the biggest haul and more socked away than his seven Republican challengers combined. Democratic party units were in a generally stronger position than their GOP counterparts. But a business-backed group typically aligned with Republican candidates showed considerable might, which could counter the reliable union group help that Democrats tend to benefit from.
The reports, made public Saturday, cover activity for all of 2013 and give the first glimpse at how state candidates and groups are doing in their dash for cash. The reports detail where money came from and where it went. Candidates running for the U.S. House and Senate faced their own reporting deadline, but they must report their finances more frequently.
Incumbents usually fare better in fundraising than challengers, as Dayton proved. He drew the maximum donation of $4,000 from 106 people, a fast route to nearly 40 percent of his total haul. But he can’t go back to those contributors again between now and November.
Honour, a businessman making his first run, showed he was willing to dig into his own pocket to help finance a campaign. As he pitches toward an August primary, that gives him a fallback option none of his GOP rivals can match. Honour’s report shows him putting lots toward payroll, polling and consulting costs.
Johnson and Thompson, who say they must win over state convention delegates in May to even make it to a summer primary, put plenty of money into postage, phone calls and other targeted persuasion efforts.
Zellers, who might head to a primary no matter what, devoted half of his spending to mailings. Some were associated with fundraising.
Seifert got in the race the latest, so his overhead was the lowest. His donor base appears predominantly from greater Minnesota, meshing with the rural appeal he is trying to cultivate.
Groups gear up
Candidates are seldom the big spenders in their races anymore.
Outside groups, which face fewer restrictions on how they can raise and spend dollars, have taken on a larger role. Just a few independent groups spent a total of $9 million on the 2010 governor’s race— about $1.5 million more than the two main nominees combined.
There are hints that’ll happen again. WIN Minnesota, a Democratic ally, began the year with $423,000 in its state account and another $287,000 in a separate federal fund. Several other groups on both ends of the spectrum had balances between $100,000 and $200,000
The Chamber of Commerce-aligned Pro Jobs Majority fund had $767,000 at the ready, though it tends to concentrate on legislative races.
The state reports don’t tell the whole story because some groups route their money through accounts governed by the IRS that require lesser disclosure.
Each party has go-to donors who can easily cut six-figure checks.
Philanthropist Alida Messinger, Dayton’s ex-wife, led the way among Democrats. She gave $540,000 to the state Democratic Party, another $100,000 to Minnesota House Democrats and $4,000 to Dayton.
Joan Cummins, the self-employed wife of a major technology company owner, donated $185,000 to the state Republican Party and $50,000 to state Senate Republicans. But Starkey Laboratories chief executive and founder William Austin also wrote hefty GOP checks: $135,000 to the state party, $101,000 to the conservative Freedom Club and $25,000 to House Republicans.
Gov. Dayton, Democrat: Raised about $1.09 million. Had $772,000 in reserve as of Jan. 1.
Investor Scott Honour, Republican: Raised $495,000 from donors and loaned his campaign another $101,000. About $14,000 banked.
State Rep. Kurt Zellers, Republican: Raised $402,000. Nearly $116,000 left after expenses.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, Republican: Raised $243,000. Had $169,000 at start of 2014.
Former State Rep. Marty Seifert, Republican: Raised $130,000 and added $20,000 from personal loan. Kept $138,000 in reserve.
State Sen. Dave Thompson, Republican: Raised about $121,000 and loaned his campaign $3,000, which was since repaid. Had $50,000 stored up.
Teacher Rob Farnsworth, Republican: Raised $4,000. Had $1,600 to spend.
Utility worker Richard Klatte, Republican: Raised $770. Entered year with $690.