Walz and Simon opt out of campaign public funds program; Ellison opts in

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Two candidates at the top DFL ticket have opted out from the state’s public election subsidy program. This allows them to spend more than the spending limits that are set in return for public dollars.


Gov. Gov. Both campaigns had raised more money than they could have spent if they had enlisted, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.


Those who endorsed the GOP candidates for both positions – Scott Jensen as governor and Kim Crockett as secretary of state – have submitted applications to board that could bring them hundreds of thousands in the governor’s race, and tens or thousands in the secretary-of-state race.


The pattern in the race to be attorney general is the opposite. Keith Ellison, incumbent DFLer, has opted into the program and accepted spending limits, while the other major GOP candidates have not. Both James Schultz, the GOP nominee, and Doug Wardlow, the 2018 nominee have told the CFB they won’t accept public subsidies or abide by spending limits.

While contributions caps are the same for all candidates but not for those who receive public money, they can only spend a certain amount. The base spending limit for campaigns for governor in 2022 is $4,232,000. Candidates running for governor in 2022 will see their base spending limit increase to $4,232,700. Jensen would be subject to a higher limit than Walz under the law. Jensen could have spent $5,587.162 if he was involved in a “closely contested” primary. Despite the presence of Joyce Lynn Lacey and Bob Carney Jr., the state campaign finance board doesn’t expect the GOP primary will be “closely contest.” Closely contested means that the winner receives fewer votes than his or her nearest rival.

MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Secretary of State Steve Simon


The state’s



Subvention program for public campaigns



There are two parts to this. The first part is a direct tax subsidy. It comes from money taken from the Legislature and money collected from taxpayers through the $5 income tax tax check off. Participation in this funding method is declining, with less than 5 percent checking the box.


Candidates who wish to receive public money must sign a subsidy arrangement, raise a minimum amount from small donors, and win the primary. Donors can request state money to match donations through the second part of this program, which is a contribution reimbursement program. Refunds can be limited to $50 per person and $100 per couple, but only candidates who have signed the public subsidy agreement are eligible.

Jeff Sigurdson (executive director of Campaign Finance Board) stated that there are two reasons why a candidate may not want to receive money from the program: philosophical and strategic. He said that some candidates are against any taxpayer funding for campaigns. Others are optimistic that they can raise more money than the spending caps allow. The subsidy agreement also limits how much a candidate may spend from their own resources. It caps spending at $20,000 for governor, $12,500 per attorney general, $10,000 per secretary of state, auditor, and $5,000 for legislative races.

MinnPost photo taken by Peter Callaghan
The incumbent DFLer Keith Ellison, who is running for Attorney General, has chosen to opt into the program and accept spending limits. While the other major GOP candidates have not done so, he is still in the race.


Sigurdson stated that there are candidates from both sides who see it as a tactical and strategic decision. “I believe it’s fair that you can raise money if you choose to do without public subsidies.


Sigurdson gave two examples. When Tim Pawlenty was first elected governor, he participated in the program. However, when he ran for reelection four more years later, at a time that his fundraising prospects were better, he didn’t.

Jeff Sigurdson


Mark Dayton ran for governor in 2010 against an DFL-endorsed opponent. He self-funded his campaign using $3.92million. This was something that would have been stopped if he had signed a subsidy arrangement. Dayton received $541,000. of public subsidy money four years later, when self-funding was no longer necessary.


Walz seems to be following the Pawlenty model. Walz was the first-time candidate for statewide office in a contested primary in 2018. Walz complied with the spending caps and received $480,000 from state, which is about 10% of his total campaign spending. Walz, the incumbent, is forgoing state subsidies and spending caps this year. His cash reserves as of July 18 were $4.980million and he has raised $6.3million.

“Our campaign decided to spend cap in order to properly support the statewide race campaign we believe this race deserves,” stated Darwin Forsyth, spokesperson for Walz. Walz and Lt. Governor. Walz and Lt. Gov.


Jensen raised $1.825 Million and had $581,000 cash available as of Monday’s filing.


Two other candidates for the governorship told the CFB that they wouldn’t accept state money: Hugh McTavish from the Independence Alliance and DFLer Ole Savior.

Scott Jensen


Simon participated in the public subsidy program during his previous two runs for secretary-of-state. His campaign received $55,677 in 2018 and $51,677 in 2014. Simon’s cash balance for this campaign cycle was $678,985 as of July 18, 2014, the most recent reporting period. This is more than the $483,900 that it would be permitted to spend within the spending limits.


Risikat Adesaogun, campaign spokesperson for Simon, stated that Simon has abided to the agreement up until now.


She said that she did not take this decision lightly. The campaign expects large sums of outside money to flow into the state, and secretaries of state face challenges from people who continue to question the outcome of the 2020 election.


span style=”font weight: 400 Things are very different now. Adesaogun stated that we are at a critical point in democracy. “Groups seeking to defeat incumbent secretaries are spending millions of dollars around the country,” Adesaogun stated. He cited criticisms made by election deniers directed at Brad Raffensperger (Georgia GOP Secretary of State), who certified the state’s election despite being pressured by President Trump to not.


Simon’s endorsed GOP opponent Kim Crockett didn’t opt out of this program. First-time candidates can spend up to $532290. Her campaign had raised $165 397 as of May 31 and had $76,914 in reserve.


Erik van Mechelen is another GOP candidate for the office. He has opted out from the subsidy program.


In the race to be attorney general, where the GOP candidates have opted-out of the subsidy program for the GOP candidates, DFL incumbent Keith Ellison raised $784,784 with $572,741 and endorsed GOP candidate Schultz raised $405,372 with $1132,299 in hand. 2018 GOP nominee Doug Wardlow raised $279,716 and had $34,536 in hand.

Sigurdson stated that not all campaign spending is subject to the spending caps. A candidate committee can give unlimited amounts of money to their party and can also spend on non-campaign expenses like legal and accounting fees, food for staff, or fundraisers. They can hold up 25 percent of the spending caps for the next election cycle.


Ellison would be able to spend $725,000.800 under the public subsidy program. This is more than he’s raised.


The GOP candidate Ryan Wilson for state Auditor has decided to withdraw from the program, while Julie Blaha, incumbent DFL candidate, will continue to participate.

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