Minnesota DFL Party leads 2012 fundraising race

The Minnesota DFL Party has a big lead in this year’s fundraising race, which could be crucial in deciding which party ends up controlling the state Legislature.

The numbers are stark: since the start of the year, the DFL Party has raised $2.2 million from individuals and groups, while the Republican Party has raised only $99,240 during the same period from individuals and groups.

At this time in 2010, the last election year, the Minnesota GOP had raised nearly $600,000 from individual contributors.

All told, the DFL’s fundraising totaled nearly $2.3 million, which includes miscellaneous income, while the Minnesota GOP brought in nearly $400,000, with some of that cash coming from party convention registration fees and some coming in the form of in-kind contributions and unitemized income.

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin says the numbers show his side is in a good position going into what’s expected to be a tough fight for control of the Legislature.

“We’re in a better position than we’ve been in a long time here at the DFL, and it’s definitely a sign of things to come,” Martin said.

GOP Party Chairman Pat Shortridge said the party is still rebuilding its coffers after learning it was deeply in debt last year. He said he’s happy with how his party is doing on small dollar donations. The opposition, he said, is making its money from wealthy Minnesotans and unions.

“We’re digging out of a hole and we’re making progress,” said Shortridge. “We always want it to go faster. We don’t have Gov. Dayton’s ex-wife, Alida Messinger, writing us $300,000 checks. Basically she’s giving him a blank check to get a blank check Legislature that’s going to give Gov. Dayton what he wants. They have more of the super wealthy donors writing great big checks to them.”

Both parties are burning through cash quickly. Though the DFL has raised more than $2.2 million this year, it has spent almost all of it, leaving the party with only about $46,000 in the bank. Republicans did the same, and now have about $24,400 in the bank. The GOP also has a loan of $30,000.

Though the DFL has already spent a lot of the money it raised through its state fund, Martin points out that his party had more than $437,487 cash-on-hand in its federal fundraising account as of June, which can be transferred to the state account. For its part, the Minnesota GOP had about $40,600 cash-on-hand in its federal account at the end of June.

Martin added that the money spent is another sign his party is doing well.

“If you really dig deep into these reports I think the thing you’ll see is just how robust our activity is compared to the Republicans,” Martin said. “We have lots of activity going on out there, and Republicans are just paralyzed right now.”

Most of the DFL’s donations came from big names in the world of Minnesota Democratic politics and loyal contributors who have supported the party for years. Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers’ union gave nearly $230,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Other unions, including the Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota gave generously as well.

The single largest individual donor to the DFL Party is Alida Messinger, Gov. Mark Dayton’s former wife and the daughter of John D. Rockefeller III. She gave the party $302,500. She’s a primary contributor to other fundraising campaigns set up to help Democrats take control of the state Legislature as well.

Other major DFL contributors include both the House and Senate DFL caucuses.

Meanwhile, some of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s most generous donors do not appear on the party’s roster, including Primera Technology owner Robert Cummins.

Cummins is one of the wealthiest and most influential GOP donors, who has largely funded his own outside spending group, the Freedom Club, and has been a reliable contributor to Republican campaigns and the parties for many years. Between 2010 and 2011, Cummins gave the Republican Party more than $700,000. And Cummins gave $30,000 to a special fund set up by the party to pay for Tom Emmer’s legal fees during the 2010 gubernatorial recount. He was the only donor.

This year, Cummins has given nothing to the party’s state account and only $10,000 to the party’s federal account.

Other reliable Republican donors seem to have slowed their giving. For instance, Stanley Hubbard, Chairman of Hubbard Broadcasting, and his wife have so far given the party about $25,500. At this time in 2010, Hubbard had given the party $35,000.

The GOP’s single largest individual donor this year is Robert Ulrich, the former CEO of Target, who gave $40,000.

Shortridge said the party still has some work to do with donors.

“Most of our donors have come back, and even some new ones,” Shortridge said. “We’re cognizant of the fact that we have more work to do. It’s a daily process. You get up every day, you put one foot in front of the other and we’re restoring confidence with our major donors. More importantly, we’re explaining the plan that we have to get our work done as a party.”

The state GOP is still dealing with the sudden resignation of the party’s former chair Tony Sutton, the revelation that the party was $2 million in debt, and fallout from a scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and her top aide Michael Brodkorb.

Most recently, the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined the party and the recount fund nearly $30,000.

That’s only a fraction of the $848,708 the Minnesota GOP still owes vendors from prior work, including legal fees stemming from the recount, according to its state report.

The Minnesota DFL also has unpaid bills. According to the report, the party owes vendors $310,456, including $111,831 to law firm Fredrickson and Byron for their assistance during the redistricting process.

The two parties are on more equal footing when it comes to how much they have spent to assist individual candidates.

The Republicans have invested nearly $3,000 into individual races, including mailers in support of Cory Jensen, who is running for an open seat in Senate District 46, which encompasses Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park, Gregg Kulberg running in Senate District 20, which includes Chippewa and Lac Qui Parle counties, and Bruce Lundeen, who is running in Senate District 61, which includes parts of Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, the DFL party has spent roughly $3,800 on Sen. Kari Dziedizic’s re-election campaign in Senate District 60, including parts of Minneapolis.

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