According to state campaign finance data, the DFL-supporting Alliance for a Better Minnesota raised almost as much money as the eight top candidates for governor, attorney General, secretary of state, and auditor.
Campaign fundraising is dominated by how much money candidates have raised. Campaigns are busy raising money to meet reporting deadlines. The press releases are issued in an attempt to get media attention.
Independent expenditure committees, however, are the real source of money in politics. They fund the television ads and mailings that are most obvious to voters.
Alliance for a Better Minnesota has raised $10.5 million since January 1, compared with $10.6 million for the top candidates running statewide. It’s only one of the dozen important committees in addition to the operations of the four caucuses within the Legislature and two party central committees which, by law must raise and spend money apart from the campaigns.
Campaign finance laws combined with court decisions have made non-candidate committees both more appealing to donors and more effective in politics. Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that created independent expenditure committees, led to their creation. They are able to accept corporate contributions, and can work directly with campaigns.
Other groups, such as party committees are also considered political funds. They can launch independent expenditure campaigns and directly give to candidates. Although direct donations are limited to $1,000 for legislative candidates and $4,000 for candidates for governor, they can make independent expenditures for the benefit of a candidate or their opposition.
Sometimes money flows in a dizzying way between committees, which can lead sometimes to double counting funds. The DFL and its support group continue to outspend and outraise the GOP and their supporting groups. The DFL has a more sophisticated network that is fueled by money from wealthy individuals and union political efforts. The GOP is trying to catch up but there is still a huge gap in resources.
The Minnesota DFL raised $11.6million in state-regulated funds, while the Republicans raised $1.2million. The money is derived from associated and affiliated political committees, legislative senate caucuses and wealthy individuals. It can be used to fund party organizers or for independent expenditures against other candidates in battleground areas.
Both the DFL as well as the GOP have accounts that are regulated by Federal Elections Commission. Records show that the DFL has raised $6.7 Million compared to the $1.9 million for the GOP.
The DFL has also more cash in hand from the federal and state accounts for the fall, with $5 million compared to $168,000.
Despite the fact that the state GOP is trailing, its finances are improving since it suffered from deficits in the past decade.
National organizations associated with Democratic governors and attorneys general are also spending money in Minnesota to support their incumbents. For example, a political action committee associated with the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State has spent approximately $2.5 million on TV ads to support the candidacy of Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. A new organization, iVote, has purchased $454,000 to air ads supporting Simon in order to defeat Secretary of State candidates who are denying the results of the 2020 election.
The state Campaign Finance Board has posted reports this week that cover the year to Sept. 20, 2009. This report covers a lot of the money raised so far. However, a final report will be due Oct. 31.
Groups supporting DFL campaigns:
Alliance for a Better Minnesota – Anyone who has been watching television in the past month will have seen advertisements criticizing Scott Jensen’s views on abortion. These ads were paid for by the DFL-associated major committee, which is the main spending group for the party in this election. It is part of a network which includes funds that raise money such as the 2022 Fund or Win Minnesota, and funds that spend. Alliance, for example, has received $4.68 Million from the 2022 Fund as well as $1.65 Million from WIN Minnesota. It has received $3.62 million from Washington’s Democratic Governors Association because it focuses on the Walz campaign.
The 2022 Fund – This DFL-associated fundraising group changes its name every two year to reflect the current election. It raised $5.47million and sent most of it to other committees. It donated $4.68 million and $1.1 million respectively to Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and to the WIN Minnesota PAC. It raised money from individuals and state organizations. Alida Messinger, Minnesota, donated $1 million and Susan Mandel, Connecticut contributed $250,000. It received $1.36million from the National Organization State Victory Action, and $900,000.00 from a separate arm WIN Minnesota.
WIN Minnesota – This group has Denise Cardinal, top DFL finance professional and treasurer, at the same St. Paul address as the 2022 Fund. It received money from the 2022 Fund as well as individuals like John Graves of Excelsior at $100,000 or Vance Opperman at Minneapolis at $100,000. Plus, $350,000 from another arm in Win Minnesota located in a separate office building. It sent $1.67million to Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and $500,000 to Planned Parenthood of Minnesota PAC.
Minnesota Family Prosperity Project-This new organization is affiliated to a national organization called Sixteen Thirty Fund, which gave $850,000 in cash to a St. Paul lobbyist group called North Star Prosperity. The Minnesota Family Prosperity Project received the same amount from that organization. It has used much of the money to support DFL candidates in the swing districts throughout the state.
Planned Parenthood Minnesota Fund/Planned Parenthood of MinnesotaPACspan styling=”font-weight 400 ;”>- $1.35 Million has been raised by the political action fund. Money came from the national Planned Parenthood Votes at 650,000, WIN Minnesota at $500,000, and the affiliated action fund of $200,000. The PAC raised $457,000, including $100,000 from Alida Messinger, Darin Opperman, $95,000, and $59,500 from Karen Sternal of Minneapolis. Independent expenditure campaigns have been conducted by the action fund, which mainly doorknocks for DFL efforts. The PAC does not have significant activity, but $850,000 cash is available.
Climate Vote MN- This affiliate of League of Conservation Voters raised $683,000, mainly from this organization. It donated $150,000 to 2022 Fund, and paid for digital advertising against Jensen as well as support for DFL candidates. It stated this week that it expects to spend more than $1million to determine the positions of candidates on climate change.
The PAC for Minnesota’s Future – This state PAC is affiliated to the national PAC for America’s Future, which was created to win Democratic majorities within state legislatures. With $400,000 going towards the House DFL Campaign Committee and $750,000 to the Senate DFL Campaign Committee, the Minnesota affiliate has raised $2.28million. Gideon Friedman, Brooklyn, and Wendy Munger, Pasadena (California), each gave $1 million.
Working America Minnesota – This AFL-CIO affiliate sends campaign workers to non-union districts in order to canvass households. It raised $207,000 and spent it on transport, house canvassers and hire. It employed 65 canvassers in the state in 2018.
Education Minnesota The teachers union has spent $2.8million so far in this election. Some went to pay for state- and local organizing and some to direct donations towards DFL candidates. However, the majority of the money went to the state DFL central commission ($900,000.) and $500,000 to each House DFL campaign.
Other Unions – The DFL benefits from the person power of other unions, such as the SEIU state council, SEIU Healthcare, and the Minnesota Nurses Association. Also, the SEIU state Council and SEIU Healthcare are two of the largest state employee groups, AFSCME 5 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. They use the money in similar fashion by making small contributions to candidates as well as large contributions to DFL-associated committees and DFL party organisations. For example, the SEIU state council gave $335,000 to DFL’s state central committee and $460,000 for the 2022 fund. AFSCME Council 5 donated $383,000 to DFL state central committee, and $150,000 to each DFL House or Senate campaign. The nurses association donated $100,000 to WIN Minnesota and individual candidates.
Construction Unions – Unions representing construction workers such as the North Central States Carpenters PAC and the Operating Engineers, and the Laborers District Council of Minnesota or North Dakota tends to give more to DFL, but are more neutral in politics. For example, the Carpenters gave $108,500 to House DFL, $40,000 to House GOP, $45,000 to Senate DFL, and $77,500 the Senate GOP. It donated $142,500 to the state DFL, and $7500 to the state GOP. While it gave to all four caucuses, the Operating Engineers devoted their largest gift to Senate GOP. The Laborers donated more money to DFL committees than they did to the GOP legislative campaigns.
Groups supporting GOP campaigns:
Minnesota Jobs Coalition – The jobs coalition, a state-registered independent expenditure group, receives $1.2 million from the Republican State Leadership Committee. This Washington, D.C., political trust has the mission to raise national money and help win state legislatures across the U.S. This name will appear on a lot of DFL candidate mail in the coming weeks. However, at the time the most recent report was published, it had only spent in a few races. It also spent to oppose two Republicans, Erik Mortensen in House district 54a, and Mark Bishovsky, in House District 33a. In each primary, the coalition failed to win.
Pro Jobs Majority – If labor unions are the foundation for DFL campaign funding, then business is the same for Republicans. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s political arm, the Pro Jobs Majority, has received $825,000 from this organization so far. Although it has donated some money to associated committees, it will also fund independent expenditures to support GOP legislative candidates and weaken DFL opposition.
Coalition of Minnesota Businesses/Minnesota Business Partnership- Both are part of the Minnesota Business Partnership, which represents the largest corporations in the state. Charlie Weaver is responsible for both funds which have raised $161,275 and $482,000 respectively. The money has been spent so far on GOP candidates in both direct donations and independent expenditures. The majority of the money was not spent at the time this week’s report.
Advance Minnesota – Former state senator Ted Daley runs this state committee. Most of the money it receives from the GOPAC national Republican committee, which is another committee that funds state legislative races. The GOPAC advisory board includes Senator Majority Leader Jeremy Miller. The GOPAC contributed $605,000 to Advance Minnesota’s reported receipts for this year. GOPAC received $1.02 million of the $1.1million rolled over from 2021. It is used to fund independent expenditures primarily for the purpose of weakening DFL legislative candidates.
Housing First Fund This fund represents the housing industry and has raised $189,000 to support independent expenditures that will boost GOP legislative campaigns.
Freedom Club – This committee is funded primarily by Robert Cummins, a conservative GOP activist who has donated millions of dollars to conservative causes and campaigns in the past two decades. His $350,000 contribution to this year’s independent expenditures has been used to support the GOP’s four candidates for governor, attorney General, secretary of state, and auditor.
Make Liberty Win – This state affiliate of the national group with the same name was created to elect conservative GOP lawmakers. The $159,500 is being used by a few of the most conservative candidates, including Mark Bishovsky (House District 33b), Tom Dippel (Senate District 41) and Erik Mortensen (House District 54a).
Minnesota Future PAC – This relatively small PAC – $76,000 so far on independent expenditures to help GOP legislative candidate – is headed by retired state Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen. Advance Minnesota provided the bulk of its funding.
Minnesota Action Network – Former U.S. Senator. This independent expenditure committee, chaired by Norm Coleman has raised approximately $80,000. The only expenditure was an anti-Keith Ellison ad which was distributed with a $10,000 online campaign.
MinnPost reporter Ana Radelat, and associate editor Greta Kalu contributed to this report.