Despite agreeing to abide by spending limits, Emmer and Horner can spend freely because DFL's Dayton is doing so.
When it comes to getting public campaign subsidies, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is the winner.
Emmer, a fiscal conservative who strongly advocates reduced government spending, has gotten $511,834 from the state through its system of public campaign subsidies.
Altogether, the state has distributed nearly $4 million among statewide and legislative candidates according to the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.
Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner received $346,368. DFLer Mark Dayton has been relying on his personal wealth to finance much of his campaign and did not accept a public subsidy.
Candidates who want public subsidies to help fund their campaigns must agree to campaign spending limits. If a candidate in a race does not abide by those limits, his opponents can exceed the limits but still receive public subsidy.
Dayton's decision frees Emmer and Horner to each spend more than the $2.8 million limit for the governor's race while taking public money.
The subsidies are funded through contribution checkoffs on income tax and property tax returns and by some state general fund money. The checkoff money does not increase the taxes of individuals, but shifts government money to campaigns instead of using it for other purposes.
Emmer has campaigned on reducing the cost of state government, and one DFL-allied critic on Wednesday attacked his acceptance of public subsidies as hypocritical.
"He's talked about cutting services ... but he's more than happy to take a half million dollars in government funding for his own election campaign," said Denise Cardinal, executive director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
Emmer campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said Emmer is simply using existing campaign finance laws to level the field with Dayton.
"We're competing against a guy who can write a $3 million check if he wants to," Sheehan said. "We're limited to how much we can raise from people."
Emmer got more money than Horner because more taxpayers earmarked money for Republican Party candidates than for Independence Party candidates. Both got more money than they would have had Dayton agreed to accept public subsidies and gotten some of the checkoff money that wasn't earmarked to specific parties.
The report by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board said it distributed $3.9 million in subsidies to 365 candidates running for governor, secretary of state, auditor, attorney general and the Legislature. Those candidates represent 87 percent of the 416 candidates who were nominated in the Aug. 10 primary election.
The distribution trails the nearly $4.8 million given out in 2006, the last time the state had an election that included the governor's race. The decline is due mostly to falling revenues from the checkoff program.
Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210