According to documents released Wednesday by Minnesota's campaign finance watchdog, Minnesotans United for All Families has over one and a half times as much cash on hand as their opponents in the battle over a state constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage.
The campaign filings show Minnesota for Marriage, the main group pushing for passage of the amendment has around $483,000 in its coffers to spend on ads, wages, and other expenses between now an Nov. 6. Minnesotans United, by contrast, has around $751,000. Since January, Minnesotans United has raised over $6 million, while Minnesota for Marriage has raised barely $2 million.
Despite the monetary disadvantage, the former group was upbeat.
"We are pleased with our fundraising efforts to-date and are incredibly grateful to the thousands of supporters who have donated their time and money to see marriage preserved in Minnesota so that it can continue to be our most fundamental social institution and the most pro-child institution we have," Minnesota for Marriage Chairman John Helmberger said in a written statement.
Both groups are wise to keep extra cash on hand, said John Eighmey, the Mithun Chair of Advertising at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism.
"You don’t know in any situation what future holds," he said. "Having resources to respond to the communication environment of the moment is a crucial thing to do."
So far, both sides have spent significant portions of their budgets on advertising. According to filings with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, Minnesota for Marriage has spent around $99,000 on advertising—principally radio and online ads—while Minnesotans United had spent around $2.2 million on advertising, chiefly on television ads.
While same-sex marriage partisans' ads have been aimed at the general public, their opponents have homed in on their religious supporters. Minnesota for Marriage has bought advertising space on a variety of Christian radio stations and talk shows, and rented or purchased voter mailing lists from the state Republican Party and the National Organization for Marriage, a national group behind many ballot measures to ban same-sex marriage.
"One of the keys to success in elections is mobilizing your base," Eighmey said.
Using ads, campaigns can "activate people who hold a viewpoint and getting them to be at the polls to vote," he said.
With polls saying the marriage issue is an even race, getting as many of a campaign's guaranteed supporters to the polls can be crucial.
Minnesotans United, though, is likely holding extra cash in reserve to deal with the same barrage of attack ads that Minnesota for Marriage's strategist Frank Schubert has effectively deployed in other state ballot fights, like California's Proposition 8.
“We know that soon, the special interests pushing this amendment will flood the state with money to fund incredibly hurtful, misleading and divisive television ads,” Minnesotans United head Richard Carlbom said in a press release issued Wednesday.
"All parties that participate in this with different viewpoints need to be in the mix at all times" in order to make sure their side's message isn't drowned out, Eighmey explained.
In the past, supporters of same-sex marriage have told Patch that they're pinning their hopes on Minnesotans United's outreach efforts to "inoculate" swing voters against what they called last-minute scare tactics. By asking their supporters to talk with their friends and family about the issue and explain the issue's impact on their lives, Minnesotans United hopes to prevail against Schubert's time-tested tactics.
"The first thing to realize is that most impactful form of communications is interpersonal. One person talking to friends and colleagues," Eighmy said. "It’s an enduring aspect of marketing over the decades, if not centuries."
Campaign finance documents show the investment the group has put into these manpower-intensive, on-the-ground organizing efforts, spending over $1.5 million on payroll alone in 2012, while their opponents spent a bit more than one tenth that amount.