Franken fundraising accelerates as outside groups enter the Senate race

WASHINGTON - Amid signs that Republicans are beginning to target DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken this fall, Franken's fundraising picked up considerably in the first three months of 2014.

Days ahead of a federal disclosure deadline, the first-term senator's campaign announced that Franken raised $2.7 million, a 28 percent increase over the previous quarter. Franken now has $5.9 million in the bank, a $1.1 million increase from the end of December.

Franken's campaign touted its base of small donors, noting that 97 percent of the contributions he received were for $100 or less and that more than 25,000 first time donors gave to the campaign.  Franken's campaign has been aggressively courting donors online.

None of Franken's GOP challengers, who include state Rep. Jim Abeler, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, and businessman Mike McFadden, have reported their fundraising numbers yet, but Franken is likely to maintain a significant financial advantage. McFadden has raised the most of a Republican in the race so far with $1.7 million in the bank as of Jan. 1.

That financial edge may be blunted because conservative outside groups with Franken in their sights have begun operating in Minnesota. An anti-Franken super PAC called the Heartland Campaign Fund was recently established by a GOP political operative. An outside group called American Encore that does not have to disclose its funders also recently began airing ads attacking Franken for supporting stricter campaign finance rules.

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