Minnesota For Sale: Forbes 400 edition

23 of America’s richest billionaire families donated to Minnesota Democrats (DFL) in the past three years. Collectively, they donated over $6.2 million to the MN DFL in that time. These 23 collectively hold wealth of nearly $350 billion. That’s with a “b.”

Each year, the financial magazine Forbes publishes its famous list of the 400 richest Americans. Of the current 400, the following donated to MN Democratic campaigns and political causes in the years 2020-22,

A few notes: instances where the donation was recorded in the name of an immediate family member (rather than the 400-named individual) are indicated with parentheses. The “+” sign indicates where the individual 400 member and immediate family member(s) donated during the period.

The largest single donor, the Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (No. 310), donated more than $2.6 million to Minnesota Democrats.

Sam Bankman-Fried (No. 41), of the disgraced crypto company FTX, is now said to be worth less than $10 million.

Only two “local” billionaires appear on the DFL donor list. Giving $450,000 was the Cargill-heiress Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer. She is descended from Cargill’s founder William W. Cargill.

MN Campaign Finance Board records show her donations coming from a Minnetonka address. Forbes lists her home residence as Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Bill Austin is the founder of the Eden Prairie-based Starkey Hearing Technologies. He is the only member of the current Forbes 400 recorded as giving donations to both Minnesota Democrats and Republicans.

His donations list a Brownsville, Texas, address.

On the Republican side of the aisle, the cupboard is much barer. Only 7 of the Forbes 400 gave to Minnesota state Republican candidates or causes in the past three years, giving a total of $70,000. Of the $70,000, a total of $49,000 was donated by Bill Austin.

None of the famous Republican names appear on the list. Charles Koch (of “Koch Brothers” fame), No. 13, does not appear, and neither does his brother David’s widow, Julia.

Other famous names, such as Peter Thiel (No. 252) and Donald Trump (No. 343) do not appear.

Finally, neither the late Sheldon Adelson nor his widow Miriam (No. 26) appear.

Other names that are famous in Minnesota political circles are also missing. Big DFL donors Alida (Rockefeller) Messinger, the Pohlad family (Twins), and Zygi Wilf (Vikings) are all rich and large DFL donors, but not wealthy enough the make the current 400 list. To make the cut in 2022, you needed a personal net worth of at least $2.7 billion. Minnesota billionaire Glen Taylor (Timberwolves, Star Tribune) no longer appears on the Forbes 400 list.

The Rockefeller fortune has been so diluted by the succeeding generations that no member appears on the current 400 list. David Rockefeller (Alida’s uncle) appeared on the original Forbes 400 list published in 1982 and for many years thereafter.

Forbes maintains a separate list of the top 50 wealthiest families, and the Minnesota-based Cargill-MacMillan family appears at No. 4. The 71 members of the Rockefeller family (worth a collective $8.4 billion) appear at No. 43.

The Pohlad family dropped off the Forbes family list in 2016.

Forbes maintains a larger list, a real-time tracking of all of the world’s billionaires. Glen Taylor ranks No. 1,104 on the world list. Stanley Hubbard (broadcasting) ranks at No. 1,804.