DFL U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson raised $164,000 during the fourth quarter of 2013 and finished the year with $357,000 in cash on hand, according to newly released Federal Elections Commission (FEC) documents. Peterson’s collections and holdings are relatively modest for a congressional incumbent, and will inevitably be seized on by Republican campaigners as evidence that the 12-term House member is not interested in running for re-election this year.
Peterson, for his part, has continued to put off that question, telling reporters that he plans to decide his future early this year — but not before finding a resolution to the federal farm bill, a top concern for the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
As has been typical of past Peterson fundraising, only a small percentage of his contributions for late 2013 came from individual donors. Of the $164,000 total, less than $13,000 was from individuals. The remainder came from trade industry organizations and political action committees, including a number of political funds that represent agricultural interests. The Land O’Lakes Inc. PAC donated $5,000 to Peterson, bringing the Arden Hills-based milk co-operative’s yearly total to $10,000. Also hitting the $10,000 mark for 2013 was the National Milk Producers Federation PAC, a Virginia-based organization that represents a number of large dairy co-ops.
In what might be a good indication of Democrats’ interest in keeping Peterson in office, he also collected funding from the lead Democrat in the Congress. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave a pair of $2,000 donations to Peterson’s re-election fund in mid-December, as rumors continued to circulate that the Minnesotan might opt out of another bid for Congress.
Over the course of the entire year, Peterson received just over $500,000 in total donations, with about $71,000 of that sum coming from individuals. His low quarterly totals have been repeatedly bandied about by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has hinted that Peterson is planning to back out of his 2014 contest. Hopes that Peterson would leave the race have picked up since state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, announced his candidacy late last year. Westrom’s popularity and conservative record on agriculture, Second Amendment and social issues are thought to make him the strongest opponent Peterson has faced in years.
Minnesota Farmers Union lobbyist Thom Petersen, who has paid close attention to the race in that district, said his hunch is that Peterson plans to run again. Petersen attended a recent farm industry fundraiser for the DFL congressman, and said Peterson seemed “interested” in connecting with donors and, more importantly, potential voters.
“That’s kind of who he is,” Petersen said. “He’s never been too interested in fundraising.”
Petersen observed that the Democrat’s focus on passing the farm bill was probably sapping some of the time and energy that might otherwise be devoted to reaching wealthy donors and holding fundraising events. But Peterson is also savvy enough to realize that his campaign might actually be better served by crafting a strong farm bill than by collecting donor cash, the lobbyist observed.
“He feels like that’s his job — to get [the farm bill] done,” Petersen said.
More proof that Peterson is perceived as a vulnerable incumbent came early Tuesday, when the conservative outside spending group American Future Fund released a radio ad targeting Peterson over his continued support over one aspect of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The ad points out that Peterson and other members of Congress get to shop for “gold-plated” insurance plans on a separate website from members of the public. The radio spot also highlights the fact that Peterson first ran for Congress in 1984, and urges listeners to tell Peterson to “get with the times.”
Westrom, who did not join the race until early December, has yet to release his fundraising totals for the final quarter of 2013.