Gov Race: Stenehjem Rakes It In With $239,000 In Contributions, Burgum Doesn't Have To Report


Yesterday was the last day for statewide political campaigns to report their year-end fundraising for 2015, and there was three very different stories for the three Republican gubernatorial campaigns.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem raked in $239,000 in contributions.

State Rep. Rick Becker, on the other hand, reported only $31,120 in contributions. Which is actually roughly half of what Democrat Sarah Vogel raised for her campaign in 2015 which she ended up abandoning late last month.

Fargo businessman Doug Burgum, on the other hand, didn’t have to report because he didn’t form his campaign committee until January of 2016. “My understanding is that since I announced my campaign in January 2016 (vs Q4, 2015), that my first reporting period will fall at a later date,” he told me via text message.

That’s right. Per the Secretary of State’s website, Burgum won’t be required to report anything until the pre-primary deadline on May 13.

Burgum, who has no small amount of personal wealth, has made comments previously about self-funding his campaign. I asked him if he planned on hitting up contributors. “Yes I plan on fundraising,” he told me. “If you would like to donate, you can use PayPal on my website :)”

Nobody likes a smartass, Doug.

All joking aside, though, by starting his campaign later than his rivals he gets to shield his campaign finances from scrutiny until just a month before the June 14 vote. I’m certain Burgum would say that isn’t by design, but for someone who is probably spending a lot of his own money on his campaign it’s a savvy move.

The big surprise was on the Democrat side. Despite never actually announcing officially that she was running for governor, and running an abbreviated campaign before quitting late last month, Sarah Vogel raised nearly double what Becker did.

Here’s a closer look at the specifics for the  candidates (with the exception of Burgum, obviously).

wayne+stenehjemWayne Stenehjem

UPDATE: The Stenehjem campaign just sent out this press release (PDF) about their fundraising. They report over $400k in cash on hand, with Stenehjem combining contributions from his Attorney General campaign. They’re also claiming 445 unique contributors with 89 percent of funds coming from in state.

Stenehjem received $56,700 from political action committees

Stenehjem took in $29,505 in contributions under $200 (over that amount candidates have to report the source of the donation), and $214,958 in contributions over $200.

He received $56,700 in contributions from 13 different political action committees, mostly groups representing coal and oil interests.


Among the reported individual contributions over $200, Stenehjem received $158,258 from 169 different people. Of that total, $135,658 or nearly 86 percent was from people with North Dakota addresses. The rest, $22,600, was from out of state (mostly Minnesota).

There was a tie for the largest contribution from an individual between Stephen Stenehjem of Watford City, the president of First International Bank & Trust and a relative of Wayne’s, and Niles Hushka the president of Kadramas, Lee & Jackson, an engineering firm.

Click here to see the spreadsheet.


Becker received $22,500 over in reportable contributions over $200 from 17 individuals, and $2,620 in contributions under the $200 reporting limit.

He also transferred $6,000 from his legislative campaign committee. That was the only “contribution” from an organization. The rest of Becker’s money came from individuals.

Of the $22,500 in reported individual contributions, just $11,700 or 52 percent came from North Dakotans. The other $10,800 came from out of state, most of it in the form of a $10,000 contribution from a Mr. Thomas Wirtz of New Jersey.

Wirtz was by far Becker’s largest contributor. The second largest was Becker’s fellow lawmaker, state Rep. Chris Olson (R-West Fargo).

You can view Becker’s spreadsheet here.

Vogel2Sarah Vogel

It’s interesting to me that Vogel, who ran such an abbreviated campaign, raised as much money as she did. She nearly doubled Becker’s take with $53,903 total. Which tells me that, while Democrats tried to put on a brave face when she announced that she wasn’t running, she was really seriously in the race.

I wonder what happened to push Vogel out of the race. Because, for a Democrat in a Republican state who never really said she was in the race, she put up a pretty big fundraising number. That’s a lot of money for Democrats to invest in a candidate who isn’t running. Vogel has said she’s returning the contributions, less what she spent, which means that whoever ends up running for the Democrats will have to re-raise all that money.

Of her total dollar figure, $5,500 was contributions of less than $200 and $48,403 was in reported contributions over $200.

She received $38,654.43, or nearly 73 percent, in contributions from North Dakota individuals. The rest came from out of state.

She received just two contributions from political organizations: $250 from state Senator Mac Schneider’s legislative campaign committee, and $500 from former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan’s still-active federal campaign committee.

You can view Vogel’s spreadsheet here.