House GOP plans in-person fundraiser amid surge of COVID-19 infections, deaths in Minnesota

    House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, addressed reporters on Oct. 19, calling for the state to fully reopen amid the pandemic. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

    The Minnesota House GOP caucus is planning on holding an in-person fundraiser on Dec. 2 in St. Paul amid a massive surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the state.

    The annual holiday fundraiser is planned to be held at The Town & Country Club with suggested donations ranging $300 for a dessert reception or sponsorship levels of $1,000, $2,500 and up to $5,000.

    The event will feature GOP lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Deputy Leader Anne Neu, R-North Branch. Registration is limited to 50 people, the capacity limit set under statewide COVID-19 regulations. 

    According to the invitation, first reported by Brian Bakst of MPR News, guests must remain seated at their tables, but: “The members will rotate from table to table and spend 10 minutes at each table.”

    The in-person fundraiser highlights partisan differences in how Republicans and Democrats have approached carrying on their political duties amid a widening pandemic now threatening to overwhelm hospital capacity and resources. 

    During the election, Republicans continued to hold events indoors, oftentimes featuring maskless participants, while Democrats preferred to hold events virtually or outdoors and require attendees to wear masks. 

    On Friday, the Minnesota Health Department reported 5,339 new infections, as well as 46 deaths due to the virus. Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday instituted new restrictions on bars and restaurants to help stem the continued rate of transmission.

    Despite its compliance with Walz’s public health directives, some Democrats criticized Republicans’ in-person fundraising event. 

    House DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley criticized the effort, saying it created unnecessary risk at a time when the state faces a growing crisis.

    Winkler said that while Republicans are not in violation of Walz’s executive order, “they’re ignoring the other side of it, which is, if you can work remotely, you should.”

    He added: “Politicians and donors have the privilege of being able to stay home and conduct their work remotely, because we are working in fields that don’t require in-person meetings, and we have the technology and the funds to do it.”

    A message seeking comment from a spokesman for House Republicans was not immediately returned Friday.

    Ricardo Lopez
    Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.