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The Money Trail
By Laura McCallum
August 25, 2000
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DFL Senate candidate Mark Dayton spent nearly $3 million dollars on his campaign in the past seven and a half weeks. That's nearly twice the spending of his nearest financial competitor among the DFL Senate candidates. Dayton used the bulk of the money on television ads that have been saturating the airwaves and may have led to his recent bump in the polls.

THE FORMER STATE AUDITOR AND HEIR to the department store fortune makes no apologies for the fact that he has been largely financing his campaign with his personal wealth.

"I'm unusually fortunate. There's no question that I can finance most of this myself. It also allows me to be free and independent of any of these special interests. I don't owe anybody a nickel," Dayton said.

Dayton says more than 80 percent of the nearly $3 million he spent since July 1 has paid for his ad campaign. He's been spending as much as $300,000 a week on radio and television spots focusing on health care, prescription drugs, Social Security and education. The only other Democrat with the personal resources to match Dayton's spending is attorney Mike Ciresi, who spent $1.6 million since July 1, and raised $1.7 million - all but $200,000 from his own money. But Ciresi says he has a broader base of supporters than Dayton.

"Mark is not doing the grassroots that I'm doing. I have a tremendous grassroots organization, and I'm probably doing more grassroots than any other candidate with the exception of Jerry. OK? We've been out all over, so we're running just grassroots, and we are running ads," Ciresi said.

Ciresi didn't run ads last month, when Dayton was the only candidate with a big television presence. His campaign says he'll run ads focusing on privacy protection, social security and health care in the final two and a half weeks before the primary. Ciresi has $1.8 million in his campaign bank account, and his campaign manager says he'll use all of it if necessary to compete with Dayton. His campaign says it's unlikely Ciresi will put any more of his personal wealth into the race before the primary. Trailing Dayton and Ciresi in the money chase are businesswoman Rebecca Yanisch and state Senator Jerry Janezich, the DFL's endorsed candidate. Yanisch is no fundraising slouch - she has raised $736,000 since July 1, including a $400,000 dollar loan from herself, but Yanisch says she can't compete financially with the big spenders.

"And it's certainly discouraging, because I have nowhere near the wealth of a Mike Ciresi or a Mark Dayton. So, yes, it's challenging not to be able to match dollar for dollar what they're investing in television all summer long. But the more important thing is when you look at the impact we had when our message went out in early June, our poll numbers jumped significantly after only a week of advertising," Yanisch said.

Yanisch is back on the air this week with a new television ad, and has about $200,000 dollars left for the rest of the primary campaign. Last in the fundraising hunt is Janezich, who has tried to distinguish himself as the only non-millionaire in the race. The Chisholm bar owner raised $132,000 since July 1 and has about $50,000 left. Janezich sometimes seems tired of talking about how he lags behind the other campaigns financially, but he says he's not discouraged. He says the other candidates' money hasn't given them huge leads in the polls.

"I would be a little concerned if I had spent that much money and I wasn't way ahead. All right? And they're not. I'm gonna win this thing. I think people are sick of that! They're just sick of money, and it's not that we don't want rich people to run, rich people should be able to run, but so should we," Janezich said.

The candidate all of the Democrats hope to take on after the September primary - Republican Sen. Rod Grams - didn't release his latest fundraising total - he's waiting until the August 31 deadline. During the last reporting period that ended in June, Grams raised more than $870,000 dollars, and had about a million dollars in his campaign account. Depending on who wins the primary, the general election campaign could be one that tops the charts for campaign spending in Minnesota.