Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn. He sees little support for his long-shot primary bid against President Joe Biden from a group of powerful men in his home state who donated to his previous successful congressional bids, according to reports. people close to the case.
Phillips, a businessman who was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, was asked by some of his previous donors to return their donations or demand that he not use these funds for his presidential campaign.
Others decided not to help Phillips run for office. president but didn’t go that far in demanding their money be returned. These former supporters told CNBC that they support Biden and are not in favor of the Minnesota congressman’s primary candidacy.
Phillips announced he was running for president against Biden in late October, citing his belief that the commander in chief cannot be re-elected. A morning consultation survey released last week shows Phillips with just 4% support among likely Democratic primary voters.
Biden, on the other hand, enjoys 73% support in the same survey, despite a new New York Times/Siena College survey showing the president trailing expected Republican nominee Donald Trump in key states such as Michigan and Georgia. A spokesperson for Phillips’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Phillips will need to raise millions of dollars if he is to have any chance of raising his national profile against an incumbent president. He will likely have to look outside the group of Minnesota donors who helped him win three congressional elections, according to Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is supporting Biden’s candidacy. Biden won the state over Trump by about 7 percentage points in the 2020 election.
“I haven’t heard from any donors who think it’s a good idea,” Martin said. “I don’t talk to all of his donors, but I talk to a lot of donors.”
Of the more than $10 million Phillips has raised since first running for Congress in 2018, a large majority of contributions have come from Minnesota. During his successful 2022 re-election campaign, Phillips raised about 82% of his more than $2 million in donations from state donors, including nearly $1.5 million from state-based donors. in Minnesota, according to data from the nonpartisan organization OpenSecrets.
Vance Opperman, a Democratic Party fundraiser for Twin Cities Business magazine called “the ultimate influencer” in Minnesota, told CNBC in an interview that he texted Phillips and asked that his past congressional campaign donations not be used in his campaign against Biden. Opperman said Phillips told him his contributions would not be used for the primary against Biden.
“None of your contributions to my congressional campaign will be used in any manner other than as intended by my congressional campaign,” Phillips told Opperman in a text message, according to the longtime Democratic fundraiser.
“We have had weekly contact with everyone who writes checks to Democrats. This topic [Phillips running for president] arose. Nobody’s going to give it to him,” Opperman said.
Opperman donated $5,800 to Phillips in 2021, according to Federal Election Commission records. Phillips’ congressional political operation has more than $300,000 that can legally be transferred to his presidential campaign committee, records show. His congressional campaign so far this cycle has raised more than $730,000.
Opperman has been a Biden ally for years and said he helped organize a presidential campaign fundraiser in Minnesota, which took place after Phillips announced his candidacy for president.
Opperman said that after it became apparent earlier this year that Phillips was at least considering a run for president, he was forced to cancel a September fundraising event for the member’s re-election campaign of Congress of Minnesota. He said nearly half of the 20 guests had canceled their planned appearances.
But Opperman isn’t the only one unwilling to help Phillips in his latest political effort.
James Deal, the former president of NAU Country Insurance Company, a major farmland insurance company that operates throughout the country, recently requested that his donations to Phillips be returned, according to an email his wife sent to the Phillips campaign.
“On behalf of myself and my husband, Jim Deal, we would like a refund of our contributions to your congressional campaign. We are very disappointed in Dean’s decision to challenge our President Joe Biden,” the wife said from Deal, Pamela, in an email to the Phillips campaign earlier this month.
Jim and Pamela Deal teamed up to donate $11,200 to the Phillips campaign during the 2022 election cycle, according to FEC records. They donated another $13,200 in late June. The couple did not respond to a request for comment.
Sam Kaplan, a Minnesota-based attorney who donated to Phillips’ campaign, is among the contributors who told CNBC they would not help Phillips, but have not yet requested reimbursement.
“I don’t think he has a chance,” Kaplan told CNBC.