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Gov. Tim Walz solicits six-figure donations for inauguration committee

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Gov. Tim Walz solicits six-figure donations for inauguration committee

Nov 30, 2022 | 9:20 am ET
By Max Nesterak
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Gov. Tim Walz solicits six-figure donations for inauguration committee
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Gov. Tim Walz points to the Duluth Lift Bridge while on a fire truck aerial ladder at a local fire station on Wednesday. Nov. 2, 2022. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota reformer.

As Democrats prepare to take control of the Legislature, DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s inauguration committee is soliciting donations as large as $100,000 for reelection celebrations in January.

Perks for donors include advertising at the event, tickets to a “pre-inaugural reception,” and commemorative photos with the governor, according to a flier first reported by PR man Blois Olson. Donation levels start at “friend” at $5,000 and increase through “advocate” at $25,000, “champion” at $50,000 and “premier” at $100,000.

Inauguration committees for governors regularly rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from organizations with political interests at state Capitols.

Four years ago, Walz’s inauguration committee brought in $690,000 in donations from labor unions, corporations, lobbying groups and tribes, according to federal tax filings. That far exceeded the $195,000 Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton raised in 2015 and the $370,000 Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty raised in 2003.

Most of the money Walz raised for his “One Minnesota Inaugural Committee” was spent on inauguration events around the state, but $170,000 was rolled over to a progressive nonprofit political group that supported Walz’s reelection.

A spokesperson said tickets to all the inauguration events will be free, and donors will not get special access to the governor, even though the flier offers donors tickets to a “pre-inaugural reception.”

“The event is traditionally funded by contributions by businesses and individuals, not by taxpayer dollars. We’re grateful for contributions at any level that help make this event happen,” Walz spokeswoman Claire Lancaster wrote in a statement.

Lancaster said a list of donors wasn’t available to share but noted they will be disclosed in future tax filings.

Unlike political campaigns, inaugural committees aren’t subject to restrictions on who can donate and how much. That’s raised concerns from watchdog groups about the influence of money on politics.

Big donations from corporate entities are also sure to raise eyebrows among Walz’s progressive supporters, who frequently call for higher taxes and more stringent consumer and environmental regulations of those companies.

Walz’s $100,000 ask this year is double what top donors gave when he was first elected.

Tax filings for 2018 and 2019 show four organizations gave $50,000: the public employees’ union, AFSCME Council 5; the construction workers’ union, Laborers District Council; a South Dakota-based biofuels company, POET LLC; and a Minnesota-based education software company Infinite Campus. The teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, gave $40,000.

Donors that gave $25,000 include UnitedHealth Group, lobbying firm Winthrop and Weinstein, Prairie Island Tribal Council, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Minnesota Association of Realtors and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

The tax filings show most of the money raised — about $530,000 — went to venues, caterers and other expenses related to inauguration events. Kristen McMullen, co-chair for the inaugural committee, told MPR News at the time that the money was needed for accessible events in several cities around the state.

Walz’s inauguration committee was still left with a sizable surplus, which it held onto until 2021, when it gave $170,000 to Leadership Matters MN, a progressive non-profit political group that supported Walz’s reelection.