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Meet the donors who give to both DFL and GOP candidates in Minnesota

In addition to lobbyists and lobbying firms, at least 14 donors have contributed money to the campaigns of candidates from both political parties. Who are they?


So you’re interested in politics and want to get involved in a campaign for someone who shares your views. You decide to write a check to help that candidate get elected.

But would you ever give money to more than one candidate for the same office? From different parties?

It isn’t common — but it does happen. According to the most current campaign finance reports by four leading candidates for governor — DFLers Erin Murphy and Tim Walz and Republicans Jeff Johnson and Tim Pawlenty — five lobbying firms and/or their registered lobbyists show up on the donor lists of at least one DFL candidate and one Republican candidate. (No information was yet available for DFL candidate Lori Swanson since she entered the race after the last reporting period.)

In addition to lobbyists and lobbying firms, at least 14 donors have donated money to the campaigns of candidates from both political parties. Many of those donors — at least based on the information listed on disclosure reports — are associated with developers and contractors.

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The two main principals of Weis Builders — Erik and Jay Weis — each gave $2,000 to the DFL’s Walz and $4,000 (the maximum allowed under law) to Republican Pawlenty, while Dominium, the multifamily housing developer and manager, has three officers who donated to the campaigns of both Walz and Pawlenty. Mark Moorhouse, the company’s senior vice president of development and acquisition, gave $3,000 to Walz and $4,000 to Pawlenty. The company’s vice president and senior project partner, Chris Barnes, gave $2,000 to Walz and $4,000 to Pawlenty. And Brendt Rusten, the senior vice president of asset management, gave $500 to Walz and $1,000 to Pawlenty.

There’s also the Haselows. Dr. Robert Haselow founded a radiation oncology business and is well known in state politics for giving large amounts to both parties, and Robert and Justine Haselow each gave $1,000 to Walz and $4,000 to Pawlenty. In addition, Robert Haselow gave $1,000 to DFL candidate Erin Murphy. Other than Robert Haselow, all double donors to candidates from both major parties gave to Walz and Pawlenty.

Many reasons to give across party lines

Why give money to candidates who may have very different views and policy positions? Some lobbyists, as well as those in businesses that can be highly dependent on government regulation and actions (such as real estate development), need relationships with elected officials regardless of their parties. As a result, they are more likely to spread contributions across party lines than donors who are motivated by politics or ideology. 

Attempts to get comment from Erik and Jay Weis, as well as several of the lobbyists who gave across party lines, were not successful. One lobbyist, Winthrop & Weinstein’s director of government relations, John Reich, wrote: “At this point we’re going to respectfully decline.”

Dominium spokesperson Owen Truesdell said the company uses a “bipartisan approach” to political giving because it thinks affordable housing is not a partisan issue. “It’s crucial that the next governor of Minnesota understands the need for affordable housing and the best policy solutions to address the ongoing crisis,” he said. “We believe it is our responsibility to make sure candidates are learning from our experience on the ground.”

One former lobbyist said there are many reasons lobbyists or those in business might give to both parties. “But as someone who has watched others do this over the years, in most cases it is one of two things: It is hedging your bets, or because you have an existing relationship with someone and you want to be helpful.”

The fact that most of these donors are giving to the non-endorsed DFL and Republican candidates likely means that they think Walz and Pawlenty will win the primary, the former lobbyist said. “It’s like you’re in Vegas and you’re putting money down on different colors because you are trying to balance the odds a little bit.”

Spreading it around

Under state law, donations from lobbyists are designated as such in campaign finance reports. Pawlenty has received $25,150 from lobbyists in this election cycle; Johnson, $1,600; Walz, $18,395; and Murphy $11,504. Eight lobbyists or lobbying firms showed up on the donor lists of two or more candidates for governor, though three of those donated to candidates of the same party.

For example, Nancy Hylden of Hylden Advocacy & Law has given $1,200 to Walz and $2,000 to Murphy (though the Murphy campaign does not use her lobbyist identification number to highlight the donation). Another lobbyist with the firm, Sarah Clarke, gave $350 to DFL candidate Erin Murphy. Three different lobbyists with Messerli & Kramer gave to Walz and Murphy: Eric Hyland gave $250 to Walz while John Frederick Apitz gave $300 to Murphy and Nancy Haas gave $400 to Murphy. In addition, the firm’s political committee gave $250 to Murphy.

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Only one lobbyist, Ward Einess, stayed solely on the GOP side. Einess gave $4,000 to Pawlenty and $1,000 to Jeff Johnson.

But in a handful of instances, lobbyists with the same firm — and sometimes the firm’s political action committee — gave to both DFLers and Republicans.

Winthrop & Weinstine is a Minneapolis law firm with a sizable lobbying group at the state Capitol. Between its political action committee and registered lobbyists, it has given $6,500 to Pawlenty’s campaign, $3,500 to Murphy’s and $3,250 to Walz’s. One lobbyist with the firm, John Knapp, donated $750 to Murphy and $2,500 to Pawlenty. In addition, a Winthrop real estate lawyer who’s not a lobbyist, John Nolde, gave $1,000 to both Pawlenty and Walz.

No other lobbying groups gave at the same level as Winthrop & Weinstein, but several gave to two or more candidates. Joe Bagnoli, a lobbyist with McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb, gave $250 to Walz and $500 to Murphy. Douglas Carnival of the same firm gave $500 to Murphy and $250 to Pawlenty.

Through its political committee, the law and lobbying firm of Stinson Leonard Street gave $1,000 to Pawlenty while a lobbyist for the firm, Paul Cassidy, gave $1,500 to Walz. Dorsey & Whitney’s political committee gave $250 to both Walz and Pawlenty.

Four different registered lobbyists for the lobbying group associated with Faegre Baker Daniels donated to three different candidates for governor. Richard Forschler and David Johnson each gave $250 to Walz, Emily Nachtigal gave $50 to Murphy, and Thomas Freeman gave $250 to Pawlenty.