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Parties in power retain edge in campaign money chase

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Being the party in power is paying off for House Republicans and Senate Democrats, who are out front in the money chase as they aim to keep control in November's elections.

Campaign reports made public Tuesday by state regulators show the majority caucuses with an edge as the election year starts.

The Senate DFL's main campaign fund had almost $1.2 million in the bank compared to a Senate Republican balance about one-third of that. State senators haven't faced voters since 2012.

The House Republican campaign arm had a financial advantage, about $679,000 to roughly $570,000, over its Democratic counterpart.

The GOP took control of the House by routing Democrats in rural Minnesota and other swing districts in 2014. It proved instrumental in fundraising: On the day before the 2015 session began, House Republicans pulled in $124,000 in contributions and the new House speaker, Kurt Daudt, grabbed another $11,450.

Individual candidates were also required to file annual reports by Monday that document fundraising and spending. But candidates running in competitive districts are increasingly seeing their own activity swarmed by independent groups who can raise and spend money more freely.

Those outside groups will loom large, and a sampling of major past players in state elections are already stocking up.

  • Among groups typically aligned with the Democrats, WIN Minnesota came into 2016 with $276,000, Education Minnesota's political arm had $114,000, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee was sitting on $110,000 and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota had $61,000 at the ready.

  • Among groups partial to Republican candidates, the Minnesota Business Partnership PAC had $171,00 as of Dec. 31, the Freedom Club state fund had $114,000 and the Minnesota Action Network and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce political fund each came in with roughly $97,000.

The maze of entry points for political money makes it difficult to give a full campaign money picture. For example,  another big GOP player, the Minnesota Jobs Coalition,  reported a mere $14,000 on hand, but that group tends to run much of its operation through a separate account regulated by the IRS, which requires less disclosure.