The chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party wants a personal commission on big donations to the party, according to a memo she sent to the party executive board.
The December memo from Jennifer Carnahan, first reported Wednesday by the Associated Press, outlines a plan in which she would receive 10 percent of major donations, retroactive to the final quarter of 2017. Her payout for the final three months of 2017 would be more than $24,000.
Her current base salary is $67,000.
Carnahan’s predecessor, Keith Downey, also received a commission, but it was lower than what Carnahan has requested.
Carnahan said in an interview Wednesday that she makes less than some of the party staffers who report directly to her, and less than recent previous party chairs.
A statement from Matt Pagano, state GOP executive director, said the change is not out of the ordinary: “Salary adjustments for state party chairs are normal and have occurred in prior chair terms, in Minnesota and other states. The Republican Party of Minnesota is in an increasingly strong financial position to elect Republican candidates in 2018, and beyond.”
Carnahan is a political newcomer elected party chairwoman in April 2017, inheriting a financial disadvantage against the DFL going into the biggest political year in recent Minnesota memory, including two U.S. Senate races, an open governor’s race, four competitive congressional contests and control of the state House.
DFL Party chairman Ken Martin has made $108,000 a year, with no commissions, since taking the post in 2011.
The Republican Party’s 14-member executive committee will vote on the plan at a meeting Thursday. Party activists are divided on the merits of the commission structure and whether a broader group of party delegates should have a say in the matter.
“I’m absolutely against it,” said Ted Lovdahl, chairman of the Eighth Congressional District Republicans. “I’ve been around the party a long time, and I’ve never heard of such a thing,” he said.
Others, including memo recipient Bron Scherer, the party’s treasurer, seemed more open to the idea.
“She’s diligent and has a lot of talents and is doing a good job,” said Scherer, who declined to say how he would vote on the issue at Thursday’s meeting. Scherer said the upcoming campaign finance report on 2017 fundraising would show a strong performance.
But Lovdahl also suggested Carnahan is attempting to circumvent party activists by winning her raise among the smaller group of executive committee members comprising the party’s most well-connected insiders.
He said he talked to two major donors who said they are opposed to the idea, though he declined to name them.
“Let’s just say for example, if they were going to give $50,000, and she gets 10 percent, that’s $5,000 in her pocket, and they’d say, ‘No way.’ ”
Carnahan said the executive committee controls the party’s budget, so the request to them is appropriate. She also said someone “stabbed the party in the back” by releasing her memo to the media.
In her 3½-page memo, Carnahan laid out her case for a commission structure to add to her base salary, including what she says has been a successful fundraising run and long hours of 80- and sometimes 100-hour weeks fundraising, organizing and meeting with party activists.
Carnahan owns a small business but spent most of her professional life in corporate marketing, where meeting sales targets is often rewarded with extra money.
“Fundraising is the most important part of politics,” Carnahan wrote in her memo.
Although a commission for a party chair would be unusual, Carnahan asserted that professional fundraisers make at least $5,000 per month in base pay plus a commission ranging from 7 to 20 percent.
“As a female in the political world, and someone who comes in with corporate experience, I think there’s a larger issue here about women being compensated commensurate with work experience and work output,” Carnahan told the Star Tribune.
Carnahan argued to the executive board she has doubled the average annual gift amount from some existing donors, brought lapsed donors back to the party and attracted new donors.
Scherer said that the fundraising has been a team effort, but he endorsed Carnahan’s effort: “It’s her plan and her leadership, and I think she deserves credit,” he said.