Who are the eight Minnesotans who have bundled over $50k for Obama and McCain?
Individuals are prohibited from contributing more than $4,600 to campaigns during an election cycle. But donors seeking to support and curry favor with politicians often bundle together donations from friends and associates in order to increase their profile. Campaign-finance reform groups have been advocating for greater transparency from the presidential campaigns with regards to such bundled contributions. Following a report in The New York Times detailing the laxness of reporting efforts by both Barack Obama and John McCain, the web sites of both candidates have been substantially updated in recent days. Each campaign now lists more than 500 supporters who have raised at least $50,000.
Among the most prolific fundraisers are eight Minnesotans, four each for Obama and McCain.
On the Democratic side, topping the list are Sylvia and Sam Kaplan. The veteran DFL rainmakers have raised more than $200,000 for the Obama campaign. The couple were early financial backers of Paul Wellstone when he upset Sen. Rudy Boschwitz in 1990 and provided key support for Keith Ellison in his 2006 Congressional run after he’d been tarred as hostile to Jewish interests. In the current election cycle, the Kaplans have contributed $46,000 to various political campaigns and causes, primarily to Minnesota Congressional candidates. Sam Kaplan is a partner at one of Minnesota’s most influential law firms, Kaplan, Strangis and Kaplan, while his wife owns Bar Abilene and serves on numerous charitable boards. Brian Lambert profiled the Kaplans in The Rake last year. (See the Kaplans’ 08 cycle donations.)
A somewhat more surprising entrant on the $200,000-plus list is state Sen. Dick Cohen. He has represented southwest St. Paul at the legislature since 1976 and is an attorney specializing in personal-injury and family law. Cohen says he’s been an Obama supporter from the outset of the presidential campaign. “I think he represents something unusual in American politics,” he says. “I think he’ll have a very talented administration and politically, ideologically I agree with him.” Cohen says the secret to his fundraising success is simple: “I just got on the phone and called people.” (See Cohen’s contributions for this cycle.).
St. Paul resident Lou Frillman makes the next tier of Obama bundlers, raising between $100,000 and $200,000 for the campaign. Frillman is president of GVA Marquette Advisers, an international real-estate consulting firm. He’s a veteran contributor to Democratic campaigns, but has also made donations to Republicans Norm Coleman, Bob Dole and Bert McKasy over the years. In the current election cycle, he has provided nearly $20,000 to Democratic campaigns and causes. Frillman and his wife, Carroll, are also members of Obama’s Minnesota leadership team. (See the Frillmans’ 2008 cycle donations.)
Another key Obama bundler in Minnesota is Chris Pohlad, who has raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the campaign. The grandson of billionaire banker and Minnesota Twins owner Carl Pohlad, he has contributed $10,600 of his own money to political campaigns in the last four election cycles. Besides Obama, the other beneficiaries of Chris Pohlad’s largesse have all been Republicans. Sen. Norm Coleman, retiring Rep. Jim Ramstad, and President George W. Bush have all received donations from him in recent years. Most filings with the Federal Elections Commission list him as a student at the University of Puget Sound, although his most recent contribution to the Obama campaign states that he works as an analyst for PepsiAmericas. Perhaps not coincidentally, his father, Robert Pohlad, is the CEO of the Minneapolis-based soft-drink distributor. (See Pohlad’s list of political donations.)
Leading the money chase on the Republican side, as Minnesota Independent reported yesterday, is Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The VP aspirant and national co-chair of the McCain campaign has pulled in more than $500,000 for the cause, placing him in the top tier of fundraisers across the country. (Pawlenty has no record of personal contributions to federal campaigns.)
Three other Minnesotans have raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the McCain campaign. Most notable is former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz. The two-term Republican Senator has a long history of raising boatloads of cash for presidential campaigns. In 2000 he was a “Bush Pioneer,” raising nearly $400,000, and in 2004 he earned the title “Bush Ranger,” bringing in more than $200,000 for the campaign. In 2005 he was tapped by Bush to head the U.S. Delegation to the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. In the present election cycle Boschwitz has provided nearly $20,000 to Republican campaigns and causes. He is currently the chairman of Home Valu Interiors, a Minneapolis-based home-remodeling firm that he founded in 1963. Together, the Boschwitz family has contributed nearly $35,000 to Republicans this cycle. (See the Boschwitz family’s 2008 contributions.)
Also on the list of major McCain fundraisers is St. Cloud resident Marjorie “Midge” Dean. She is executive director of the Freedom Club, a group started by Minnesota businessmen in the mid-90s to support conservative causes. According to Open Secrets, the group’s political action committee has made just two campaign donations so far this election cycle, $10,000 each to Republican Congressional candidates Erik Paulsen and Brian Davis. In 2007 Dean was appointed by Pawlenty to the Governor’s Residence Council, a body that provides counsel on maintaining the official residence of the state’s top elected official. She was a Minnesota delegate to the 2004 Republican National Convention and will once again represent the party at this year’s gathering in St. Paul. She is a veteran GOP fundraiser, but made just $1,000 in donations during the current election cycle. (See Dean’s 08 contributions.)
Finally there’s Janice Unstad. According to Open Secrets, she’s made just one political contribution since 1990, a $500 donation to Bush’s 1999 presidential campaign. On the McCain campaign’s list of bundlers, she’s said to be a US West employee. Unstad was formerly director of corporate and foundation relations with the University of Minnesota Foundation. She’s a member of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, which establishes minimum qualifications for law-enforcement officers in the state, most recently re-appointed to a four-year term by Pawlenty in 2005.
Steve Perry contributed reporting to this story.