Campaign cash continued to flow in Minnesota in the opening three months of the 2020 election year.
Fundraising reports for federal candidates were due April 15. The quarterly cash reports are closely watched by political handicappers and donors looking to gauge candidates' strength.
As is often the case, most incumbents maintained a cash advantage both in money raised and cash on hand. Dan Feehan, a Democrat running a rematch against GOP Rep. Jim Hagedorn in southern Minnesota's First Congressional District, is the only challenger who ended March with a bigger bank account than his incumbent rival.
The fundraising quarter, which spanned Jan. 1 to March 31, included the first few weeks of coronavirus-related slowdowns and eventual shutdowns. The change has already had an effect.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said it "created a huge financial crunch for everyone in politics ... particularly challengers." Those pressures will likely be more apparent in the next round of filings, due in mid-July. Martin said the state party could see a 75% revenue drop.
"The second quarter of this year is going to be the most difficult and challenging for the state party," he said. "Everyone's tightening their belt."
State fundraising heats up
It's not just federal races attracting cash. The year's first updates from state-level candidates and committees were also due last week. With no statewide offices up for a vote, all eyes will be on the battle for control of the Minnesota Legislature.
Similar to the federal dynamic, the caucuses in power maintained an overall fundraising edge. The Senate Victory Fund, working to protect the GOP's narrow majority in the upper chamber, ended the quarter with more than $2.2 million on hand, compared with $647,000 in the Senate DFL Caucus account. The House DFL, meanwhile, has $1.1 million available and the House GOP has $487,000.
Minority parties in both chambers outraised their opposing caucus. House Republicans took in about $364,000 over three months, about $37,000 more than DFL rivals. The Senate DFL Caucus took in $645,000 — close to double that of the Senate GOP — thanks in large part to more than $300,000 in transfers from the state DFL Party.
Franken spreads the cash
Former U.S. Sen. Al Franken is still spending down his Midwestern Values Leadership PAC. But in addition to paying for consultants and travel related to his ongoing political work, the Minnesota Democrat is increasing his political contributions.
Franken donated $5,000 to Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy and another $50,000 to Win Minnesota, a PAC supporting Democrats.
Former lawmakers are allowed by law to use such funds in this way. A Franken spokesman previously told the Star Tribune that the PAC "will be fully engaged in helping Democrats in 2020."