The Democrats’ 2018 election victory to take over the U.S. House was propelled by small donors who gave to groups like Act Blue, which masterfully marshaled it to the right races.

That’s not the story of the 2018 Minnesota state election, however, according to campaign finance reports released last week.

The reports show massive donations to outside groups who are allowed to raise and spend money freely and unleashed a torrent of money to help Democrats.

For instance, consider Minnesota Victory PAC, an independent group set up to help candidate and now Gov. Tim Walz, first during the Democratic primary and then during the election.

The group raised $3.78 million, of which about $2.79 million came from the state DFL Party. The other $1 million or so was raised from just a couple dozen donors who gave some eye-popping sums, including $115,000 from Education Minnesota, the teachers union; $50,000 from Jeffery Ettinger, the former CEO of Hormel; $200,000 from Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun-control group linked to Michael Bloomberg; $100,000 from the laborers union; and, $75,000 from Robert Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins.

That’s just a sampling.

The group paid well for talent, too. Bill Lofy, a key aide to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and chief of staff to former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, raised the money and directed the spending. And he took home more than $260,000 in pay by the end of the year.

WIN Minnesota, which is another of the Democrats’ big-money groups, lists $3.7 million in contributions received, but their year-end report is only the length of a college midterm essay. That’s because they were also supported by big checks, from donors like Alida Rockefeller Messinger, who gave $1.1 million. Vance Opperman, another stalwart Democratic donor, spent $100,000. He was more generous with the Democratic Party, to which he gave $250,000.

Indeed, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin showed why he’s known as such a skilled fundraiser. The party raised $15.5 million, and that doesn’t include to its federal account. The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which is an influential public sector union, gave nearly $1 million, between the national umbrella and the union local.

Jeffrey Anderson, who represents plaintiffs who have been the victims of sex abuse by Catholic priests, gave the party $46,500 and plenty more to other outside groups.

The teachers union kicked in $1.6 million. The AFL-CIO nearly $400,000.

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux gave $130,000 to the DFL.

Sometimes the names are famous: billionaire philanthropist George Soros gave $250,000. Other times, they are unfamiliar. Who is Thomas Clarke of Buchanan, Va.? He gave $100,000 to the Minnesota DFL.


J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican