Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline’s leading Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Mike Obermueller, raised $81,150 during the first three months of 2014.
With $1.66 million banked for his reelection bid, Kline has an eight-to-one cash advantage over Obermueller, who has roughly $238,000 in cash reserves.
The other Democrats seeking the Second District party nomination, Thomas Craft and Paula Overby, have yet to file their campaign finance reports.
Kline defeated Obermueller, 54 percent to 46 percent, in 2012.
National Democrats had high hopes for Obermueller’s 2014 campaign, but their interest and support has flagged in recent months.
The Rothenberg Political Report, a respected political handicapper, has changed its rating on Kline’s seat, which covers the Twin Cities’ southern suburbs, to “Safe Republican.” Until the change, Kline’s seat had been listed as “Republican-favored.”
The Rothenberg report cited Obermueller’s lackluster fundraising as part of their decision to change the rating.
Unless Democratic groups “decide to spend a couple million dollars to pull Obermueller toward the finish line, it doesn’t like this seat will be playing in the fall,” the Rothernberg report concluded.
The other Democrats seeking the Second District party nomination, Thomas Craft and Paula Overby, have yet to file their campaign finance reports. Democrats in the Second District will choose Kline’s opponent during their April 26 nominating convention.
On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal limits on how much an individual can give to campaigns in aggregate, which could allow high dollar donors to spread their largess to a wider swath of political hopefuls and parties.
Unlike the federal system, which essentially limited how many donations in total a donor could give, Minnesota law does not place restrictions on the number of campaigns to which a high-dollar donor can contribute.
Current state law allows donors to give massive amounts to parties or PACs and allows donors to spread their donations to as many candidates or party committees as they wish.
"We’ve never limited the amount that an individual donor can give to a whole group of candidates," said Gary Goldsmith, executive director of the Minnesota campaign finance board. "We don’t limit at all the amount of money that an individual can give to a party."
Minnesota does place limits on how much candidates can accept from certain types of donors but Goldsmith said those restrictions were not considered by the court.
Other states, including Wisconsin, do have laws to limit the aggregate donations a contributor can spend in an election cycle, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics. Those nine states' laws may be directly impacted by the federal decision.
The Supreme Court did not overturn the concept of limiting what a campaign can accept from a donor. Currently, donors are limited to giving $5,200 per candidate per election cycle to federal candidates. Minnesota law puts similar restrictions on what an individual can give to a single candidate.
The court's decision will have a much more far reaching impact on federal campaigns and parties, including those from Minnesota.
DFL chair Ken Martin said the ruling allows parties to tap donors for funds, even if those donors had already given to multiple other parties or candidates.
"It has a big impact on state parties," said Martin.
Currently, donors are limited to giving $123,200 for 2013 and 2014 in total to all federal campaigns. That limit made federal cash difficult to raise, Martin said. The Minnesota parties were not limited to what they could raise from individuals in their state committees.
After the decision, Minnesota parties will be able to raise more federal money -- up to $10,000 per individual -- from donors whether or not those individuals had already given to many other federal committees.
"That is hugely helpful to state parties," Martin said. He said the lifting of the overall cap will mean that parties can be more involved in helping federal candidates "up and down the ballot here in Minnesota."
Minnesota Republican Party chair Keith Downey said the decision may mean candidates and parties will be able to raise more.
"It will serve to direct campaign spending toward those who are closest to the public and most publicly accountable for their campaign activities. It also underscores the importance of both transparency and the protection of political speech, which are so important in our political process," Downey said.
Several donors with Minnesota ties have contributed enough in 2013 that they could have bumped up against the limit the court struck down.
According to a Star Tribune analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics, John Grundhofer, former chairman of U.S. Bancorps, donated $142,200 through the end of last year and Patricia Grundhofer, whose is listed on federal documents as the director of the John F. Grundhofer Charitable Foundation, donated $125,600. They gave primarily to non-Minnesota Republican committees.
Stanley Hubbard, head of Hubbard Broadcasting and a a frequent donor to state as well as federal causes, gave nearly $100,000 to federal committees last year alone. He said that every election cycle he gets many calls soliciting donations and he has to refuse them because he is maxed out.
Hubbard has a simple prediction for what will happen now that the court rejected the overall limits: "They are going to start calling."
Star Tribune data editor Glenn Howatt contributed to this report.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline, the chairman of the House Education Committee, argues that local educators, not the federal government, are best equipped to solve the problem of racial disparities in school discipline.
The federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights released a report last week that shows that black students are suspended and expelled at a rate that’s three times higher than their white peers.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder have urged educators across the country to move away from practices that suspend students for minor infractions and disproportionately affect minority students.
Looking to crack down on disparities in school punishment, the Obama administration released national guidelines this year that encourage districts to reconsider “zero-tolerance” discipline policies that federal officials said have led to high suspension and expulsion rates, especially among minority students.
In a February letter to Duncan and Holder, Kline agreed that “opposing discrimination is a shared goal,” but argued that the federal guidelines “may have a chilling effect” on teachers and school leaders already working to address the issue.
Kline led the letter, which three other Republican committee members signed. The lawmakers said the Obama administration guidelines contain practical recommendations, but “ultimately, we fear the departments’ guidance could limit educators’ ability to enforce appropriate discipline policies needed to promote a safe learning environment for students,” they wrote.
Kline’s staff did not respond to requests for comment on last week’s Education Department report on racial disparities.
While unveiling the federal guidelines in January, Duncan said the discipline disparity “is not caused by differences in children” but rather by “differences in training … and discipline policies.”
Minnesota congressman John Kline is offering scant details on Republican plans to craft an alternative to President Obama’s health care law.
Kline met privately on Friday with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and fellow Republican Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Dave Camp of Michigan on Friday to begin gathering the party’s best ideas.
The session didn't produce legislation, but Cantor has pledged to introduce a bill this year that would replace the Affordable Care Act and not just repeal it.
To that end, he’s drafted top committee chairs – Kline on Education and the Workforce, Ryan on Budget and Camp on Ways and Means – to build support on their respective panels and find consensus among the party with the help of McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the Republican Conference.
“The American people deserve positive health care solutions and that’s what we intend to deliver,” said Kline spokesman Troy Young. “Congressman Kline is pleased with the meeting and expects this to be the first of many, but it would be premature to address any specific ideas that were discussed today.”
House Republicans, including Kline, have voted more than 50 times to repeal, defund or alter the Affordable Care Act, but thus far been unable to unify around a credible alternative. But the Democratic-led Senate has slammed the brakes on their plans.
Now, months ahead of the 2014 elections, the GOP wants to show what it will do to reform the nation’s health care system, not simply what it opposes.
Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline will host a campaign event today with Tea Party activist and former congressman Allen West.
Kline and West will participate in a telephone town hall meeting with residents in Kline’s district, which covers the suburbs and exurbs south of the Twin Cities.
Scheduling the event with West -- a favorite of the GOP’s right wing -- may help boost Kline’s conservative bona fides ahead of his district’s April 5 nominating convention.
For the second consecutive election cycle, Kline faces a challenge from the right from David Gerson of South St. Paul. Kline easily defeated him in the 2012 primary, wining 85 percent of the vote.
This time around, Marianne Stebbins – the Minnesota coordinator of Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign -- is leading Gerson’s political operation. Stebbins helped Paul capture a majority of the state’s delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Because he’s a Republican in a district that President Obama won in 2012, Kline is also facing considerable pressure from the left – and partnering with West will do little to dissuade Democratic efforts to link him with the Tea Party.
Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Change is trying to tie Kline, and other swing-district Republicans, to the conservative movement with “Tea Stained,” a legislative scorecard that ranks lawmakers by votes the group sees as aligned with Tea Party values.
Kline and West have worked together before. In the days leading up to West’s 2010 election, Kline helped host a high-dollar Capitol Hill fundraiser for him, with ticket prices ranging from $500 to $5,000. West served one term in Congress before losing his 2012 re-election bid.