Eighteen Minnetonka residents donated in 2011 to a group fighting a constitutional ban in Minnesota on same-gender marriage. No Minnetonka residents donated to the major campaign supporting the amendment.
According to campaign finance statements released last week, Minnetonka residents contributed a combined $89,430 to Minnesotans United for All Families. Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO and current board of directors chair for Carlson, gave $40,000 to the cause—the largest donation on the list by any individual. Carlson, formerly Carlson Companies, owns Radisson Hotels, Country Inns and Suites and T.G.I. Friday's, among other hospitality and travel services. Carlson-owned and franchised operations employ about 190,000 people around the world.
The donation was given by Nelson personally, and Carlson company-wide has not taken a position on the amendment.
The second highest donor on the list to fight the amendment was Wendy Nelson, with a donation of $25,000. Wendy Nelson is the daughter of Marilyn Carlson Nelson and on the board of trustees of the Carlson Family Foundation. Dr. Glen Nelson, Marilyn's husband and a member of Carlson's board of directors gave $10,000. George S. Pillsbury, who served in the Minnesota State Senate from 1971 through 1982, contributed $10,000.
The other 14 donors from Minnetonka combined to contribute $4,430.
“We're most excited about how low our average contribution was—about $152 without factoring in in-kind donations,” said Jake Loesch, spokesperson for Minnesotans United. The number, Loesch said, showed broad support for their cause. Loesch said the Minnesotans United campaign wasn’t deterred by the paltry $7,518 collected from religious institutions around the state.
The Catholic Church has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into support for the amendment. Minnesotans for Marriage reported receiving $350,000 from a fund affiliated with the Minnesota Catholic Conference. The donations made up more than 40 percent of the $830,00 the group collected in 2011. According to the Star-Tribune, the Church tapped investments to generate the cash.
“We’re quite happy with our fundraising efforts to date,” said Chuck Darrell, spokesperson for Minnesotans for Marriage. “It sends a strong signal of support for our efforts going forwards.”
The huge infusion of religious money on one side—complemented by $226,000 from the socially conservative Minnesota Family Council and $250,000 from the equally conservative National Organization for Marriage—stood in stark contrast to amendment opponents.
Around 75 percent of the $1.2 million collected by Minnesotans United For All Families came from Minnesota residents, nearly all of whom were small donors. By contrast, only eight private donors gave to the Minnesotans for Marriage campaign. The largest contributions to Minnesotans United’s coffers came from the national pro-gay organization Freedom to Marry, which donated $178,000.