Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, working an image of down-home Midwestern charm, introduced America to an aspect of her life last week that candidates usually shy from on the campaign trail: her dating history.
“My first Senate race, I literally called everyone I knew and I set what is still an all-time Senate record: I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends,” Klobuchar said during the fifth Democratic presidential primary debate in Atlanta. “And I’d like to point out, it is not an expanding base.”
The line landed, inspiring tongue-in-cheek tweets, a “Saturday Night Live” spoof and a new fundraising plea. “Tonight, let’s see if we can outraise them,” the campaign wrote of the ex-boyfriends’ contributions in a promoted Facebook post calling for donations.
While the quip may be new to national audiences, the Minnesota Democrat has been using the line for years.
“I raised $17,000 from ex-boyfriends — true story!” she told a crowd at a Washington Press Club Foundation dinner in 2009. Back then, the joke had a second punchline. “I know that is the record in the Senate, but in the House it’s held by Barney Frank,” she added, referring to the now-retired openly gay congressman from Massachusetts.
She repeated the claim in her 2015 book, “The Senator Next Door,” describing an “unorthodox” fundraising strategy that “involved going through every old address book and Rolodex I could find.”
In that telling, she credits the “expanding base” retort to her husband, John Bessler.
Klobuchar, who was married in 1993, never says how many boyfriends gave to her bid. But given federal contribution limits at the time — $4,200 per election cycle — at least four former suitors must have written a check for the math to work out.
So who are the generous exes? And are they still helping Klobuchar fund her presidential ambitions? For now, the Minnesota Democrat isn’t saying. The campaign declined to provide a list of names or details about how the sum was calculated.
“One of the reasons for the senator’s success in life,” a spokeswoman responded, “is being discreet about her ex-boyfriends.”