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Winning unlocks loads of new money for House GOP

Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt announces that the Republicans had gained a House majority in this file photo from Nov. 4. Newly filed campaign finance reports shows the House Republican campaign arm pulled in nearly $170,000 the rest of the year — more than five times the haul of House Democrats.

ST. PAUL — To the Minnesota House victors went the campaign money spoils.

An analysis by The Associated Press of new campaign finance reports filed this week shows how Republicans turned their House takeover into a moneymaker. The bandwagon giving effect is hardly new but was more pronounced in this campaign, perhaps because there was significant doubt about who would win the House right up to the election.

"It really is the money following the power," said Larry Noble, a senior counsel at the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center that studies money in politics. "Political contributions are the only bet you can place after the roulette wheel has stopped. Now, they want to make sure they're on the 'right side.'"

After picking up 11 seats to secure the majority on Election Day, the House Republican campaign arm pulled in nearly $170,000 the rest of the year — more than five times the haul of House Democrats. More than $1 in every $10 the House Republican Campaign Committee raised in 2014 from lobbyists, political funds and donors giving more than $200 came after the result was clear. Less than 1 percent of itemized House Democratic donations were raised in the same span.

"We didn't do anything different than we would have done in the past," said Anne Neu, executive director of the House Republican Campaign Committee. She said the group did "just a little bit better this year" than in years past.


House Republicans more than tripled their postelection take in 2014 compared to 2012, when the GOP lost the majority.

The AP's analysis excluded money transfers from political parties or candidates to the caucus accounts. It also excluded in-kind contributions from organizations that donate staff time or office space and donations less than $200, which don't meet the state's threshold for detailed contributor reporting.

Dozens of lobbyists and political action committees flocked to the new GOP House majority to cut checks, providing more than three-quarters of the group's postelection campaign cash. Just one lobbyist cut a check to House Democrats' campaign arm after they lost the majority.

The late-year donors included several dominant government relations firms as well as political funds representing the petroleum industry, American Indian tribes, hospitals and utilities. Labor unions that send more money to Democrats made notable donations to the House Republican majority, including $5,000 from the political account for the Education Minnesota teachers union.

And it's only a partial glimpse because the campaign reports don't cover the five days at the beginning of 2015 before money-raising restrictions kick in, when legislators typically have a flurry of fundraisers.

The return to power was also a boon for individual GOP House members, particularly those with key committee spots or leadership roles. They outraised Democratic lawmakers five-to-one in the postelection blitz. Because donation limits reset with the new year, those lawmakers will be able to hit the same donors up for new checks as they prepare for the next race.

The state Senate wasn't on the ballot in 2014, but the Democratic majority there still proved fruitful. The Senate DFL brought in $161,000 after Election Day — again, five times what Senate Republicans raised.

Roger Moe knows it from both ends. As a former Democratic Senate Majority Leader, he acknowledges it was easy to raise money after elections when the power lineup was fully apparent. Now a lobbyist for two dozen clients, Moe hedged his House bets in 2014, giving $950 to the Democratic caucus ahead of the election and $300 to Republicans the month after. Last year, Moe also gave big checks to Dayton and majority Senate Democrats.


"This is how it works. You're going to have to deal with the majority, and you're going to deal with the chairman of the committees. The majority on the committee is going to come with the party that has control," Moe said. Still, he added, "Regardless of who you represent or what organization you are, you still have to make your argument."

Dayton, who won re-election in his final political campaign, received more than $26,000 in contributions after the election — nearly half of which came from Minnesota Vikings owners Mark, Zygi and Leonard Wilf. The governor personally gave more money away, sending $50,000 to the state Democratic Party. Dayton solicited donations toward his inaugural celebration but won't have to disclose details for several months.

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