Tag Archives: Campaign Finance

Following the money on Mark Dayton

As an equal-opportunity opponent of institutionalized corruption current campaign finance law, I’ll take a look at the biggest fish in the gubernatorial pond, incumbent Mark Dayton.  Dayton has raised a total of $1,086,739.75 for his 2014 campaign, a number which dwarfs that of the highest GOP fundraiser, Scott Honour.

So where does that money comes from?  A few of Minnesota’s key political families play a big role.  Followers of MN politics will probably recognize the last names of Borman, Cowles, Dayton, Messinger, Pohlad, and Sieben – combined they donated $130,600, which is over 12 percent of Dayton’s total.  Those families each donated between $12,000 and $20,000 except for the Dayton family, who donated $54,750 in total.

Continuing the focus on big-money donors, let’s look at those who contributed the maximum amount of $4,000.  There were 106 such donors contributing to the 2014 cycle, a number which includes contributions from political committees (22 total) and registered lobbyists (11 total).  That means max donors accounted for almost 40 percent of Dayton’s fundraising total.

Looking further at those same max donors, there were 14 instances where 2 donors at the same residence donated the maximum amount – a fairly common tactic to maximize political influence. There was also one instance of three max donors using the same PO Box (the above-referenced Messinger family).

I was planning on going further in-depth on Dayton’s fundraising, but there are a handful of other projects I need to tackle this week, so I’m cutting this one short – I just don’t have the bandwidth to give this the attention it deserves. I’ll write more on the influence of money as we get closer to the election. I’ll leave you with this short speech from Senator Wellstone on the realities of political corruption:

 

Following the money on Scott Honour

Every year before an election, candidates for state office are required to file with the MN Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.  And every year, intrepid reporters dig through those disclosure forms, creating pretty graphs or writing interesting stories about numbers.

I like to dig through those reports too, though my approach is less methodical in some ways (and moreso in others).  I don’t know the candidates very well, and I find campaign rhetoric to be quite tedious, so I focus on the process.  For the record, I don’t hate all the players, but I sincerely hate the game – when money mixes with politics, democracy always loses.

I was able to extract some text from the online filings (despite them being “copy-protected” which renders the copy-paste function on some PDF readers unusable) and was able to glean a little bit of interesting information from it.  Let’s kick things off with our top moneymakin’ challenger Scott Honour!

Scott Honour had itemized contributions from approximately 309 donors in 2013, and raised a total of $596,680.  Not too shabby! 16 current employees of the Gores Group (based in Los Angeles, and where Honour was once senior managing director) contributed $21,250, not including spouses, who kicked roughly an additional $10,000.  Not to be outdone, 11 employees of Moelis & Company chipped in $26,750 (their spouses gave an additional estimated $13,250).  So employees (and spouses) of just two companies account for over 10 percent of Honour’s total fundraising!

Also interesting was that of those 309 total donors, approximately 91 were from California – a close second to Minnesota, which had 134 donors.  So less than half of Honour’s donors live in MN – in fact, one $4K donor (the maximum amount allowable) lives in Singapore!

Speaking of max donors, there were a total of 58 individuals who donated the $4,000 max to Honour’s campaign in 2013 – that’s over $250K!  How many of these folks are connected with good ol’ Minnesota businesses?  Well, not too many – here are their employers (number in front is how many $4,000 donors that employer accounts for):

1 API Group
1 ATEK Companies
1 Bijan
1 BreitBurn Mgt Co.
1 Dalton Capital
1 ELO Touch Solutions
1 GTL
1 Gold Mine
1 Golden Gate Capital
1 Gravitas Development Group
1 Legendary Media
1 Macquarie
1 Meagher & Geer PLLP
1 Medtox Scientific
1 Miller Barondess LLP
1 Mount Yale
1 Northern Pacific Group
1 Norwest Equity Partners
1 Overbrook Capital
1 Palisades Ventures
1 Sagent Advisors
1 Self-employed actress
1 Self-employed entrepreneur
1 Skadden Arps
1 Superior Edge
1 TCF Bank
1 Top Hat
1 UCLA
1 Weil Gotshal
2 Self-employed Investor
3 The Gores Group
5 Moelis & Co.
6 Retired
13 Homemaker

Most of those are investment groups of some form or another, so I’m not really sure what they do.  Though judging by their contributions, an ally in office must be vital to their success – I suppose they are allowed a bigger say in who gets elected since they’re the ones that will eventually profit from it.  I’ll admit I was curious about the “self-employed actress” that could afford to give $4,000 to Mr. Honour – maybe it’s a celebrity! It turns out she’s just good pals with the Gores Group folks.

Is this the kind of candidate Minnesotans are willing to get behind?  Is an important factor in choosing a governor is to know how many friends they have in the financial services sector?

Anyway, the above information probably isn’t a surprise to those who follow politics closely.  But I hold Minnesota Republicans to a higher standard than their national counterparts and they should be wary of thinking a professional money man is palatable to the voters of this great state.

(And yes, while this post is focused on a Republican, Mark Dayton’s filing is even more interesting and some data from that will be detailed in a future post.)