Never shy of campaign money, Klobuchar 2020 bid poses new test

Published 8:40 am Friday, April 5, 2019

By Brian Bakst

MPR News/90.1 FM

When Amy Klobuchar discusses campaign fundraising in public, it’s usually for laughs.

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She routinely makes a self-deprecating joke about hitting up donors during her first run for the U.S. Senate more than a dozen years ago.

Amy Klobuchar

“I finally ended up just calling everyone I knew in my life. And I raised what is still an all-time Senate record: I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends. I did that,” Klobuchar said in the latest recounting this week at the “We The People” Summit in Washington. “And, as my husband has pointed out, it’s not an expanding base.”

Expanding her donor base is vital for Klobuchar’s White House bid. She’s likely to be dwarfed by the impressive hauls that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke have generated so far.

Klobuchar told the “We The People” audience that she won’t be discouraged.

“I am someone that has gotten everywhere I got when I was running against someone who had a lot more money than me and a lot more connections than me,” she said. “And I did it because I have grit.”

MPR News analyzed fundraising data for Klobuchar since 2005. That includes money she’s raised for her Senate campaign, for a separate federal account and for her Follow the North Star leadership fund.

The combined total tops $33 million. Only her first Senate campaign was against a well-funded challenger, so Klobuchar hasn’t had to quickly accumulate the $10 million or more it takes these days to run a truly competitive race.

But where the money comes from is also telling.

Only about 19 percent of Klobuchar’s contributions have come from people who gave a couple hundred dollars or less during a campaign cycle. They’re what’s known as unitemized or small-dollar contributors.