Disgusted by politics, Bill Cooper steps back a bit from political giving

Bill Cooper hasn’t been shy about his political beliefs. The CEO of TCF Bank has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes. He’s the former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and has helped finance the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota and The Freedom Club.

But now, Cooper isn’t as excited about giving to Republican causes.

“I’ve become more and more disgusted with the process,” Cooper told MPR News.

His comments are bit jaw-dropping considering Cooper gave more $700,000 to the MNGOP, the Republican National Committee and other state Republican parties between 1994 and 2006. Some of those checks were for $100,000 or $200,000 a pop. But campaign finance records show that while Cooper still donates to individual candidates, he hasn’t given to a political party since 2006, .

“The whole process bothers me,” Cooper said. “We can’t balance the budget here in Minnesota. Even though the (state) constitution requires it, we don’t do it. We can’t balance the budget in Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans. I’m frankly fed up with the whole process. I’m probably more of a libertarian than a Republican these days.”

Cooper still gives to GOP candidates, however. He’s given nearly $10,000 to GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and her leadership Political Action Committee in 2011 and $5,000 to former MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s federal PAC. Cooper’s bank, TCF Bank, was a major donor in the 2010 cycle. TCF Bank gave $250,000 to The State Fund for Economic Growth. That committee donated the money to MN Forward, which worked to get Republican Tom Emmer elected governor, and the conservative Taxpayers League of Minnesota.

Cooper has also donated to Democrats over the past few years. He gave $1,000 to DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2009, $1,000 to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-SD, in 2010 and $500 to Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, in 2011.

MPR News first contacted Cooper to discuss the Republican Party of Minnesota’s finance problems. He said he didn’t know enough to discuss the situation, but speaking as a former party chair who inherited a debt back in the 1990s, Cooper said it’s harder to raise money to pay off loans than to support candidates.