Minnesota foes of gay marriage raise $830K

Top groups in amendment fight have raised $2 million overall.

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Minnesotans for and against the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment gathered outside the House chambers during last year's legislative session to promote their points of view.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The lead group pushing to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota raised $830,000 in 2011 in the latest signal that a fierce, high-dollar contest is taking shape over the proposed constitutional amendment.

Minnesota for Marriage, a coalition of groups formed in an effort to get the marriage amendment approved this November, said that in addition to its fundraising, it also recruited more than 10,000 volunteers in 2011 to help.

"Not only have we generated a great deal of financial support for the campaign, we have generated incredible, broad-based citizens support," said Minnesota for Marriage Chairman John Helmberger. The group has not publicly released its full report.

The lead group in the effort to defeat the proposal, Minnesotans United for All Families, reported over the weekend that it raised $1.2 million in 2011 from more than 5,100 donors.

Other groups that support the amendment also released fundraising figures Tuesday, the deadline for filing 2011 year-end campaign finance reports, state and federal. None of the pro-amendment groups released their reports publicly, but all 2011 state reports should be posted Wednesday morning on the website for the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (www.cfboard.state.mn.us).

The Minnesota Catholic Conference said it reported raising $750,000 in 2011. The bulk of that came in a $650,000 contribution from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which tapped its investments to help fund the marriage amendment campaign. About $350,000 of the Catholic Conference funds went to Minnesota for Marriage.

The Minnesota Family Council reported giving $226,000 to Minnesota For Marriage. The council reported that its marriage protection fund spent an additional $120,000 on its own in the amendment campaign.

Caucuses report good years

The four state legislative caucuses all reported what they characterized as strong fundraising.

House Republicans reported the highest total, with $1 million raised in 2011. Nearly $750,000 of that was on hand as the caucus headed into 2012, according to a release from the House Republican Campaign Committee. The release did not offer details, but House Speaker Kurt Zellers seemed confident as his caucus seeks to hold the majority it won in 2010.

"We are ahead of where we expected to be," Zellers said.

Minnesota Senate Republicans raised $856,000 and ended the year with $691,000 cash on hand.

Both the House and Senate DFL campaign committees reported what they said were off-election-year records in 2011. They are trying regain the majorities they lost in both legislative chambers in 2010. The House DFL Caucus says it raised $860,691.

DFL Senate elections manager Mike Kennedy said the caucus raised $854,000 last year and had $403,000 cash on hand. Both DFL caucuses reported strong growth in their small donors. Although large donors help parties fund their election activity, small-dollar contributors can translate to on-the-ground volunteers and votes.

"Democrats were energized by what happened in the 2010 elections and what transpired in the 2011 legislative session," Kennedy said.

Gov. Mark Dayton, who will not be up for re-election until 2014, raised only $211,000 in 2011 and spent nearly as much -- $194,000. He started 2012 with $46,506 in cash on hand.

Federal picture

In federal races, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar started the election year with $4.6 million in the bank. She also said she raised $1 million in the last three months of 2011. Those figures, plus her polling numbers that place her in the top 10 of most popular senators, will do little to encourage more potential challengers to come forward.

Three Republicans have taken on the challenge. None has raised anything close to Klobuchar's haul. Former state Rep. Dan Severson said he raised $45,171 for the period and closed the year with $34,157 on hand. Anthony Hernandez, another Republican who hopes to take on Klobuchar, said he expected to report under $10,000 raised in the quarter. Joe Arwood, a third Republican challenging Klobuchar, raised $1,170 in the last cycle and has $1,883 cash on hand, according to Rick Weible, who works with Arwood's campaign.

In congressional races, U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican who represents the suburbs west of Minneapolis, reported raising $316,000 in the final three months of 2011 with just over a $1 million in cash on hand to close out the year. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minneapolis, raised $243,314 in the final three months and had $142,016 on hand, according to his campaign office.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a rural Democrat who always tops GOP lists of congressional targets in the state, raised $210,000 in the fourth quarter, bringing to just over $1 million the amount he has raised for the 2012 election. After expenses, he reported $617,000 in csh on hand.

Meanwhile, the Democrats' top congressional target, freshman Republican Chip Cravaack, raised $206,000 in the fourth quarter. Altogether, he has raised $807,000, with $515,000 left in the bank.

Staff writer Kevin Diaz contributed to this report. brad.schrade@startribune.com • 612-673-4777 rachel.stassen-berger@startribune.com • 651-292-0164

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    The debate is over whether to permanently deny committed same-sex couples the same legal status afforded opposite-sex ones.

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