It’s not quite over, but it is unlikely that anything will happen in the final two weeks of 2022 campaign finance activity to topple the independent expenditure spending champion: The DFL-associated Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
The Alliance had already spent $13.8 million of the $15.8 million it had collected by the Oct. 24 deadline for the latest filing with the state campaign finance board. Nearly all of it has been spent producing and airing TV and online ads against GOP nominee for governor Scott Jensen.
And to assure that no other political fund will get close to the perennial champs, the Alliance has reported to the state that it has received nearly $2 million more in large contributions since Oct. 24.
The Alliance doesn’t so much raise money as it collects it. In the DFL’s sophisticated campaign system, other groups raise money – mostly from other DFL-associated organizations like unions and big donors – and then give it to the Alliance for spending. This year, the 2022 Fund, the main DFL cash raising group, has given the Alliance $5.7 million as of the reporting deadline and another $490,000 since then. The Democratic Governors Association political committee had given the Alliance $6.6 million by the reporting deadline and $520,000 since.
Another DFL-associated organization doesn’t show up on a list of top campaign spenders because it raises money to give to other funds that do the spending. WIN Minnesota raised $2.8 million and then gave nearly all to other DFL funds like the Alliance that spent it on electioneering efforts. And the Senate DFL caucus caucus committee gives nearly all – $4.95 million – to the state DFL central committee.
While the state DFL reports spending $18 million, its expenditures include party operations, staffing, fundraising, polling and direct money to candidates and caucus committees. Of the total, about $4 million went to the party’s federal fund and $6.2 million was spent for independent expenditures on ads and mailings to help its candidates and hurt opponents.
The state Republican Party’s central committee has raised just less than $1.1 million with just $50,000 going to independent expenditures.
Seven of the top 10 independent expenditure spenders are DFL-associated groups. The Alliance is followed by the state DFL central committee ($6.2 million), the House DFL Caucus ($3.75 million) and the political arm of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State called Safe Accessible Fair Elections – SAFE – ($3.2 million). At ninth is another group – iVote – helping incumbent Secretary of State Steve Simon and attacking GOP nominee Kim Crockett.
But because this ranking includes only independent expenditures, it does not tally money some of these groups give directly to candidates.
The top-spending GOP funds are the campaign arm of the Republican Association of Attorneys General called Minnesota for Freedom at just more than $2 million with another $508,000 in post-reporting deadline cash, Advance Minnesota which is affiliated with the national GOPAC at $1.95 million, the House Republican Caucus at $1.2 million and the Minnesota Jobs Coalition at $1.1 million.
But another committee associated with the Jensen campaign, Heal Minnesota, could make the list once the campaign is over. It reported spending $485 on the latest report but has since received two payments of $750,000 each from the national Republican Governors Association.
Among statewide candidates, Gov. Tim Walz is the leader, having reported spending of $8.56 million with $721,000 still in the bank. Jensen had spent $4.8 million on his latest report with $339,000 still on hand. MinnPost’s state and federal campaign finance dashboard contains up-to-date totals here.
What is all that money being spent on? For the most part, the money goes to the legislative campaigns in battleground districts – close races or districts where one party needs to defend a seat if they hope to retain or gain a majority.
All five Senate races attracting the most spending were the five highlighted in MinnPost’s Races to Watch. Of the 67 Senate seats on ballots across Minnesota, just this handful will likely decide control of that legislative body.
The race for the House has shifted a bit. While seven of the most-expensive races were featured in MinnPost’s Races to Watch, three contests not included have moved into the top-10 money races. They are 35b, where the DFL’s Sen. Jerry Newton is running for a House seat against Republican Polly Matteson; 36b, where DFLer Brion Curran is up against Heidi Gunderson of the GOP; and 55a, where incumbent DFLer Jess Hanson is facing the GOP nominee Gabriella Kroetch.
MinnPost has updated its Races to Watch feature with new independent expenditure totals for each campaign.
But in line with the dominance of DFL-associated fundraising and spending, DFL House candidates overall are getting more help and their GOP opponents are getting more attacks. As of the October reporting date, $6.5 million has been spent to aid DFL candidates and $3.64 million has been spent to aid GOP candidates.
In the state Senate campaigns, the money is more-evenly distributed: $4.4 million for the DFL and $4.1 million for the GOP.