By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Outside groups spent a record amount of money to influence Minnesota state political campaigns last year.

And when you add in what the candidates themselves spent, a new report reveals that the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” was awash in money.

So where did all that cash come from? Here’s what we found.

Millions of dollars flooded into Minnesota during state campaigns in 2018, for every office from the state legislature to the governor. Most of it was spent on television ads – and most of the ads were negative.

Now, data from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board reveals a total of $61 million was spent just on last year’s state elections – and $33 million of that money came from independent outside groups trying to influence the outcome.

In just the governor’s race, Democratic-leaning groups spent $6.3 million to help Gov. Tim Walz win. Others spent $5.7 million to defeat the Republican candidate, Jeff Johnson. That’s more than either candidate raised or spent themselves.

Democratic-leaning groups include:

  • Alliance for a Better Minnesota: $8.4 million.
  • WIN Minnesota: $3.8 million.
  • Education Minnesota: $3 million.

Republican influencers include:

  • Freedom Club: $1.9 million.
  • Minnesota Jobs Coalition: $1.4 million.
  • The Coalition of Minnesota Business: $875,000.

State officials report 79 people gave more than $50,000 each to influence the 2018 election — a total of $18 million. That is more than half of all of the outside money spent last year.

For Democrats, the top individual donor is Alida Rockefeller Messinger, the ex-wife of former Gov. Mark Dayton. She gave $2.2 million to Democratic groups.

The top Republicans are longtime GOP funders Bob and Joan Cummins, who together gave $1.6 million.

Here are some of the sources we used for this Reality Check:

Minnesota Campaign Finance Board

Public Integrity State Politics

Open Secrets Outside Spending

Freedom Club

WIN Minnesota PAC

MN Action Network

MN Victory PAC

Education Minnesota PAC

Pat Kessler