Politicos scramble for last-minute dollars

WASHINGTON – Many of Minnesota’s candidates for federal office are bombarding email inboxes today, looking for a last-minute rush of campaign contributions before a federal filing deadline at midnight tonight.

Presidential contenders such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty are trying to prove their viability as strong, national candidates in the GOP nomination process, something made much easier by an impressive fundraising haul.

“They’ll stop at nothing to defeat me,” was the title of one such email from Bachmann’s presidential campaign. In case you were wondering, the “they” in Bachmann’s email refers to “Barack Obama’s campaign machine” that will “use the numbers we report not only as a sign of our campaign’s strength, but also a sign of the strength of our conservative values.”

Judging from the traffic of fundraising emails in my inbox, Pawlenty has not sought smaller donors as aggressively as Bachmann, even as media reports suggest that his campaign is struggling to raise funds.

Pawlenty’s latest appeal was delivered Tuesday after a foreign policy speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. Riffing on a theme from the speech, the email asked, “Will you join me to stop President Obama’s defeatist attitude and return America back to its rightful leadership role?”

In case it’s not clear, “join” in this context means “give.”

Congressional candidates are also shaking the money tree. Incumbents like to post strong numbers early in the election cycle to scare off potential opponents.

DFL Rep. Tim Walz has challenged his supporters to give $50,000 before the midnight deadline. The three-term congressman’s 1st District is a prime GOP target and Walz has been tapped for extra support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help him hold the seat.

His fundraising numbers this quarter will likely be strong, especially since he took part in four Washington, DC events this quarter, each with a suggested minimum contribution of $1,000.

Freshman Republican Chip Cravaack posted weak fundraising numbers in the first quarter but lately he’s been aggressively courting small donors via email (likely with the help of email lists he purchased from Bachmann).

One such recent email asked, “Who pays attention to FEC reports?” The answer: “Washington is filled with liberal lobbyists whose only job is to scour these reports, find first-term Republicans who haven’t raised much, and send big campaign checks to their opponents.”

For challengers, a strong showing might tilt party support in their direction.

DFLer Tarryl Clark, who was defeated by Bachmann in the 6th District congressional race last year, has her sights set on defeating Cravaack in the 8th District next year. Clark is a proven fundraiser who pulled in nearly $5 million in her race against Bachmann.

“Why is it important to raise money this early?” asks Clark’s latest appeal. In Clark’s case, it might be because the St. Cloud resident has relocated to Duluth in order to challenge Cravaack and she will need to prove her worth in a crowded field of DFL contenders, most with stronger ties to the 8th District.

Another DFL candidate who’s gunning for Cravaack’s job is Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson. Entitled “Midnight Tonight,” Anderson’s most recent email says midnight, “marks the first quarterly FEC fundraising deadline since Rep. Cravaack cast his radical vote to end Medicare – and the world is watching our response.”

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