Bachmann leads GOP candidates in Minn. Campaign contributionsby Catharine Richert, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Of the still viable Republican presidential candidates, Rep. Michele Bachmann is leading Minnesota's money race. The GOP presidential hopeful has raised nearly $165,000 from donors in the state since the beginning of 2011, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data. She is followed by Rep. Ron Paul, who's pulled in $86,000.
All told, Minnesotans have donated about $1.8 million to all the presidential candidates since the beginning of the year. Had he stayed in the race, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty would have led the pack, collecting more than $1 million from local givers. President Barack Obama has raised more than $448,000 here.
Nationally, Bachmann has relied on lots of donors willing to give small amounts, in many cases over and over again, and that approach is reflected in her local fundraising efforts. Roughly 40 percent of her cash raised in Minnesota so far has come from repeat donors, according to the FEC. She is planning a fundraiser in Minneapolis on Oct. 27, likely to once again tap her second largest base of support next to California.
While repeat givers are a sign that Bachmann has a dedicated base of support, it may also signal weaknesses in her campaign; she's struggled to break out of the single digits in national polls, and her most recent fundraising filings show that she hasn't greatly expanded her team of contributors.
"When things get tough, you do tend to go back to your previous contributors to see if you can get a little bit more from them," said Steven Smith, who teaches political science at Washington University. Such donors "have a vested interest in you already and so to persuade them to donate a little bit more might be easier when things get rough for you than it is to go to someone else who all along has decided to wait and see."
Bachmann has well-heeled contributors on her roster, too. For instance, Robert Cummins, CEO of Primera Technology and a mainstay among Minnesota's wealthy conservative donors, has given Bachmann's presidential campaign $2,500; he has previously donated substantial amounts to her congressional efforts.
And Hubbard Broadcasting executive Stanley Hubbard has given Bachmann's campaign $5,000 - the maximum amount an individual can give a candidate between the primary and general elections. His wife, Karen, has done the same.
It appears Paul is following a similar strategy in Minnesota. Roughly half of his 200-plus donors are repeat givers.
Mark Donaldson, president of Energy Economics, a company in Dodge Center that recalibrates and remanufactures natural gas meters for gas utilities, is one such donor.
Donaldson said his giving is strategic. He contributes to Paul's campaign in coordination with "money bombs," attempts to raise large sums of cash over a short period of time, typically through on-line outreach.
So far, Donaldson has given Paul $2,018 in 15 installments averaging $135 each, according to FEC data.
"I'm not filthy rich here," Donaldson said. "It's a lot of money to me. But I really care about this. I just think if we make another mistake again, we're not going to have the right people in office to cure the problems that occur."
Though he ranks high in many national polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is trailing far behind Paul and Bachmann when it comes to Minnesota dollars; he's raised nearly $49,000 from Minnesotans so far.
But while Romney only has 61 individual donors in the state, they're giving in larger amounts. The average donation is $520, and roughly 30 percent of his Minnesota supporters have given more than $1,000.
Romney's not campaigned in the state so far. Minnesota is not considered to be important during the primary season. But two of Romney's top supporters - Pawlenty and former Sen. Norm Coleman - are slated to hold a fundraiser for him in Minneapolis on Nov. 21.
Coming in behind Romney and businessman Herman Cain, who has made roughly $21,000 from Minnesota donors, is Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He has only raised $9,800 from Minnesotans - a fraction of the $17 million he has made nationwide.