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The money chase
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
January 31, 2002
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Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., has a hefty financial advantage over likely Republican challenger Norm Coleman. According to financial documents, Wellstone raised more than $4 million in 2001, almost double Coleman's $2.2 million. And an even greater funding gap is opening up in this year's gubernatorial debate.

Even in these early stages of the campaign, Coleman and Wellstone have gone back and forth, each seeking the underdog label, but the latest figures show the incumbent with a distinct advantage.

"He's one of the most major fundraisers of any incumbent in Washington," says former St. Paul mayor Coleman. "And by the way, (he) takes PAC money even though he pledged not to take PAC money. He's got to deal with that."

But Wellstone says his average contributor has pledged just under $50. And he says it's Coleman who will bring in large special interest dollars.

"When people - lots of little people - stand together, you can get big. We'll just have to get big through lots of contributors. I can't get the money from those big economic interests," Wellstone says.

In the governor's race, the clear financial front-runner is Republican businessman Brian Sullivan, who's raised close to $1.2 million. Nearly 80 percent of that total, however, has come from the candidate's own checkbook.

Campaign manager Tony Sutton, however, says Sullivan wanted to focus first on developing name recognition before raising money from individual contributors.

"It's paid real dividends. If you think about it, a little over than a year ago, nobody had heard of Brian Sullivan, and now he's arguably one of the top Republican candidates for governor. And so I think that was time well spent in building an organization to advance our grassroots agenda," Sutton says.

Republican rival Tim Pawlenty has raised just over a $250,000. But campaign chair Chris Georgacas notes that Pawlenty only got into the race in September and hasn't been able to rely on personal wealth to fill his campaign coffers.

"During that period of time, Tim Pawlenty outraised Brian Sullivan, I think showing that he has far greater appeal among ordinary rank-and-file Republican donors and is able to raise money from a lot of individual contributors in small increments," according to Georgacus.

On the DFL side, State Auditor Judi Dutcher reports raising just over $133,000. That's significantly less than either of her potential GOP adversaries, but campaign manager Shawn Gagen says he's not concerned. He says most candidates - Sullivan excepted - will abide by spending limits.

"We're going to raise the maximum amount of dollars it takes in this capped-out race. You can spend $2 million on this race if you abide by the spending limits. And we're going to do that. And we're going to be in a position to get our message to the voters," says Gagen.

Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, is the other major announced DFLer. Her campaign collected $114,000 in 2001. Campaign manager Pat Neary says, like the Dutcher campaign, Lourey is well on her way to meeting the maximum allowed under spending limits. And she says Lourey has demonstrated she can generate support.

"People were concerned that Becky wouldn't be able to raise the money, and they were positive that Judi could. And that in itself made her more electable, we were told. And so we were quite surprised to find that that didn't seem to be case with people we were talking to, obviously," said Neary.

The incumbent, meanwhile, made little movement in 2001. Phil Madsen is overseeing Gov. Jesse Ventura's campaign committee. He says Ventura camp remained in idle over the last year, while the governor makes up his mind whether to run or not. But Madsen says new Ventura bobble-head dolls are a hot item and will help the governor qualify for state-matching funds if he jumps into the race.

Madsen says Ventura won't need much money to run and win. "Jesse Ventura doesn't need to do that. He's an American icon. Whatever he does is national news. And in a campaign, he's going to get more exposure than anyone could ever hope for on the opposing sides," he says.

Madsen says if Ventura does seek re-election, he's likely to spend less than the $625,000 he spent in 1998, a year in which his opponents each outspent him 4-1.

More Information
  • Wellstone campaign contributions
  • Coleman campaign contributions
  • Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board