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There’s a new name at the pinnacle of political donors from Minnesota: Minneapolis attorney and entrepreneur Michael Snow.
Snow edges out Rockefeller heiress Alida Messinger at the top of the big Minnesota money names in the 2011-2012 federal election cycle, according to data released Monday by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington watchdog group.
Also among the top 10 is Garrison Keillor of “A Prairie Home Companion” fame. Keillor, with $146,850 in donations to Democrats and their causes, ranks sixth among Minnesota donors.
Snow is of counsel with the law firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand in Minneapolis and a trustee to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1976.
He has worked with a number of public and private corporations including Osmonics, ValueVision International, Lloyd’s Food Products and Upsher-Smith Laboratories. He was one of the earliest franchisees of Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar. He was a co-founder in 1985 of Miller Milling Co., which was sold in March 2012 to Nisshin, the largest milling company in Japan.
Snow’s $1,166,462 in federal donations edged out Messinger’s $1,114,397, a difference of only $52,065. Both gave exclusively to Democrats, records show. About $1.1 million of Snow’s money went to Priorities USA Action, the super PAC spawned by President Obama supporters.
During the same period, however, Messinger gave more than $2.5 million to Democratic and liberal causes in Minnesota elections. Snow’s Minnesota contributions were much smaller, largely consisting of $10,000 donations to each to the two successful campaigns to defeat proposed constitutional amendments on same-sex marriage and photo ID.
After Snow and Messinger, who is Gov. Mark Dayton’s ex-wife, the givers drop into the six-figure range.
Next on the list is homemaker Grace Evenstad, wife of Upsher-Smith Laboratories head Ken Evenstad. She’s the state’s top GOP donor, having contributed $861,600, according to the Sunlight list. Grace Evenstad gave $500,000 to the Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future and $250,000 to Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, according to records.
Others in the top 10 are familiar in Minnesota political circles: Democratic donor Robert Pohlad of Minnesota Twins fame and GOP donor Robert Ulrich, the former chief executive officer and chairman of Target Corp.
Altogether, 379 Minnesotans are among the 31,385 donors nationwide who represent just 0.01 percent of the U.S. population but are increasingly becoming the gatekeepers of public office in the United States, according to the Sunlight Foundation. The Minnesotans donated more than $17 million for last year’s election.
According to the group’s analysis, 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from the “1 percent of the 1 percent.”