Minnesota State Capitol
by Steve Timmer
Jan 9, 2014, 1:00 PM

I think I am maxed out, Representative

Oh, hey, not a problem!

Well, it could be a state senator, too.

There was a substantial campaign finance bill passed by the legislature last session, and its consequences are beginning to be felt. There were some changes in enforcement of campaign practices jurisdiction, already discussed here some time ago. One of the other things the bill did was raise campaign contribution and spending limits.

Contribution limits are now measured by campaign cycles, rather than annually.

For now, let’s focus on just one office: state House member. Under prior law, a candidate for the House could receive individual contributions of a maximum of $100 in a non-election year and $500 in an election year. Now, it’s $1,000 for the cycle and it doesn’t matter when the contribution is made during the cycle.

This is good news and it’s bad news. Perhaps you think it is all bad news, friends; I don’t, but there is now more candidate incentive to raise funds in off years. There certainly seemed to be more fund raising going on last year than in previous non-election years, at least based on number of solicitations made to me. (The reinstitution of the campaign contribution credit undoubtedly also had an effect on that, too.)

It would be a good idea to raise as much money as possible in the off years, for a couple of reasons. First, a healthy war chest is the best way to ward off primary and quality opposition party challengers. Second, the less fund raising that a candidate has to do when the candidate is trying to campaign, the better.

For readers concerned about a candidate just filling his or her campaign coffers with larger donors, there are still limits on the ability to do that. In the current 2013 – 14 cycle, for example, a House candidate cannot receive more than $12,000 in the aggregate from lobbyists, political committees or funds (or other associations not registered with the Board; some don’t have to), or individuals who contribute $500 or more.

There is obviously some family and workplace bundling that goes on at the $1,000 level, but a candidate still cannot raise the necessary funds in many, probably most, races just from a few wealthy donors.

I will write about senate candidates and the constitutional officers later.

Update: A question was raised by my artless use of the term “family and workplace bundling.” Sounds nefarious, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, at least mostly. One of the ways that bigger donors will occasionally contribute more is to have a spouse contribute as well. This is why “homemaker” is one of the more common professions among the higher ranks of donors. Seriously. College student children, too.

At work, managers and execs often hit their colleagues up for donations to their favorite candidate, and sometimes it is pretty easy for more junior people to see which way the wind blows.

Directly making a contribution in the name of another, though, is illegal. As are corporate campaign contributions.

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