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Parties launch last-minute fundraising plea

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Perhaps you've been getting the fundraising emails, too.

"Time is running out to help the DFL counter the money flooding into our state," says one plea from the DFL party.

"You can stop Democrats in their tracks!," reads another fundraising email from the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Both parties are asking for a relatively modest amount - $50 before June 30.

And it's no coincidence.

At midnight on June 30, the state's political contribution refund program expires for two years.

That means Minnesotans who give political contributions of $50 or less to candidates or political parties won't be able to get a refund from the state's revenue department.

DFLers and Republicans are using the looming deadline to raise money.

"June 30 will be the last chance to take advantage of the PCR and support the DFL for free – so don’t wait," reads an email from the DFL signed by Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. "Please, give now!"

The program shells out millions every election cycle - during the 2007-2008 cycle, it paid out more than $10 million to Minnesota contributors - and it isn't the first time legislators have suspended the program to use the money for something else.

This year, it was House Republicans that pushed the proposition and the maneuver is somewhat ironic: The state's Republican party and local units routinely get more money from the program than Democrats do.

For instance, the latest round of data from 2013 shows that Republican party units raised nearly $900,000 from the program to the DFL's roughly $500,000.

The GOP's resistance to the program is largely philosophical.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who sponsored a bill this year to get rid of the program, called it "welfare for politicians,” according to the Pioneer Press.

“We must end both of these political welfare programs that consume large amounts of taxpayer dollars each biennium,” Drazkowski told the Pioneer Press.

Drazkowski himself has benefited from contributions eligible for a refund.

Neither party responded to MPR's inquiries about whether the recent fundraising effort around the refund program had been successful.

GOP Party chair Keith Downey said his party has seen a slight uptick in contributions, in part because many people usually give earlier in the year.

And even though the GOP tends to benefit more from the program, Downey said he had no problem eliminating it for two years because he doesn't think public money should be used to subsidize elections.

In fact, Downey said he would have liked legislators to go a step further and eliminate another source of public funding that goes directly to candidates, which Downey said tends to benefit Democrats more than Republicans.

The DFL party did not respond to MPR's inquires about whether its recent fundraising effort around the refund program had been successful.

UPDATE:

"The Political Contribution Refund Program has been popular with DFLers because it's an easy way for people to help the party build to win, build to last," said DFL party chair Ken Martin in an emailed statement. "People are disappointed the program is ending and online outreach fundraising efforts in June have been successful. Numerous local units are also communicating with their members about taking advantage to make a free, refundable donation before June 30."

"Even though the PCR program ends June 30 we look forward to continued support from small donors who are committed to working with us to elect progressive leaders who are committed to building an even better Minnesota."