Lest there be any doubt that congressional fundraising records will fall in the Democrats' efforts to unseat conservative icon Michele Bachmann, State Sen. Tarryl Clark announced Tuesday that she's surpassed the million-dollar mark.

The St. Cloud DFLer becomes the first nonincumbent U.S. House candidate in Minnesota history to top $1 million at this point in an election year.

A week after winning the DFL endorsement, Clark released preliminary figures showing she has raised a total of $1.1 million since entering the race last July. Half of that amount -- $505,000 -- was raised in the past three months. Clark's take comes off a base of 12,000 contributors, the campaign said.

Full first-quarter 2010 reports aren't due to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) until next week. Neither Bachmann nor DFLer Maureen Reed, who also is in the race, has released preliminary totals so far.

But previous reports show that Clark still has some work to do to catch up to Bachmann, who used her birthday Tuesday to pitch for more dollars. Her Wednesday rally with Sarah Palin probably won't hurt her cause either.

Bachmann's campaign ended 2009 with more than $1 million in the bank, having raised $1,552,864 for the election. Of that, $591,600 was raised in the last three months of the year.

With a national fundraising base aided by her frequent appearances on cable news and at Tea Party events, Bachmann is expected to keep posting formidable numbers. Once the full reports are in April 15, the public will get a chance to assess how much of the money flooding into Minnesota's Sixth District race comes from outside the state, a measure of how "national" the contest might get.


Seifert signed it, Emmer won't

Republican Reps. Marty Seifert and Tom Emmer are running for governor. Both have inveighed against taxes during their legislative careers. The Taxpayers League of Minnesota rates Emmer a "best friend" of the taxpayer and Seifert a "hero" for their work at the Capitol last year.

But when it came time to sign the Taxpayers League of Minnesota's "Taxpayer Protection Pledge," Seifert did and Emmer didn't.

Taxpayers League President Phil Krinkie said the pledge makes clear "which side of the fence Rep. Seifert is on." Krinkie and Seifert held a news conference Tuesday, after Seifert ceremonially signed the pledge. (Seifert said he first signed it in early March, "the day after I got it.")

Emmer spokesman Noah Rouen said that Emmer has been "pretty clear from the beginning," that while he remains opposed to tax increases, he would not sign the pledge.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed the pledge in 2002, when he was in a tight endorsement battle against pledge signer Brian Sullivan. But after winning his first term, Pawlenty declined to sign any interest group pledges in his race for re-election.

Does the signature make a difference? Krinkie and Seifert say it does.

Krinkie said the governor has slipped and raised taxes during his two terms.

The most glaring example? The 2005 "health impact fee" Pawlenty suggested and signed into law that raised the government take per pack of cigarettes. Seifert also voted for it.

That year, Emmer, who did not sign the 2005 pledge, scored a 64 on the Taxpayers League's ratings and Seifert, who signed the 2005 pledge and was found to have broken it, scored a 73.

"The Taxpayers League still calls it a tax," Krinkie said. (Krinkie, then a House member, scored 100 percent and was named a taxpayer "hero.")

Despite that, Pawlenty remains a taxpayer hero to the League.

"We are all sinners. Some just sin more than others," Krinkie said.