Pawlenty's campaign spending set a record

  • Article by: PAT DOYLE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 30, 2007 - 8:23 PM

The governor spent nearly $4 million. The IP's Hutchinson spent $1.3 million. DFLer Hatch is expected to file his report today.

In winning reelection last year by a narrow margin, Gov. Tim Pawlenty spent about twice as much money as any other gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota history -- almost $4 million.

"Well, he needed every penny," remarked Steven Schier, a Carleton College political science professor who has watched campaign spending accelerate in recent years.

Pawlenty, a Republican, defeated DFLer Mike Hatch by 1 percentage point in November after trailing him in some polls several days before the election.

Pawlenty was able to set a spending record by rejecting public financing, which requires candidates to curb spending.

The deadline for filing campaign finance reports is today. Hatch has not yet filed his. Like Pawlenty, the Independence Party candidate for governor, Peter Hutchinson, also filed his expenditure report early. It showed that he spent $1.3 million.

In addition to benefitting from a large campaign fund, Pawlenty got help from a surge of spending on attack ads by an anti-Hatch group in the final days of the campaign. Spending by that group, and by other groups in behalf of DFL candidates, is expected to be disclosed today.

The report released Tuesday by Pawlenty's campaign committee shows he raised $3.4 million in 2006. He spent $3.9 million with the help of a $721,000 cash balance from 2005.

Hutchinson's spending was the most yet spent by an IP candidate, substantially more than spent by former Gov. Jesse Ventura when he was elected in 1998.

Hutchinson said Tuesday that he was not surprised by Pawlenty's numbers, noting that incumbents have a significant advantage in raising money.

"He raised it, and he used it," Hutchinson said.

The spending paid off in the last three weeks of the campaign, when, Hutchinson said, Pawlenty and Hatch aired commercials more than 3,000 times. Hutchinson's campaign aired ads 60 times.

Hutchinson said Hatch and Pawlenty were able to use "a tidal wave of money to get a message through."

Pawlenty was the first gubernatorial candidate in two decades to opt out of the state program that provides public subsidies to candidates who agree to limits on total spending.

Opting out allowed his opponents also to exceed the limits, which would have been set at about $2.5 million for Pawlenty -- roughly the amount he spent in the 2002 race.

Public funding 'kaput'?

Unrestrained spending by major-party candidates for governor "is the wave of the future," Schier said. "The partial public funding system is basically kaput now. No way you stay in that system and have a competitive chance of winning."

Pawlenty still has more than $170,000 remaining, and could spend it for political purposes to market his legislative agenda. He also has not ruled out seeking a third term in 2010, and his name has been circulated as among potential vice-presidential candidates on the Republican ticket.

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