Deephaven's Robert Cummins, 56, is that most curious of political animals: He asserts his influence through money alone and seeks no special attention for it. He's never run for office; he doesn't write op-eds or speak to the media; he's not on the lecture circuit. He is a strict conservative, an evangelical Christian, and as CEO of Primera Technology, a very wealthy man.
He distributes his fortunes generously, but not widely. These days, most CEOs give to both major parties—a sort of protection plan against the inevitable shifts of the political winds. Cummins's money is red only. He's given $325,000 to the state Republican Party since 1998, and in that same period he's written dozens of checks to state committees and candidates—$250 and $500 at a time—totaling more than $35,000.
He's also a faithful contributor to Freedom Club—a group founded by a cadre of Minnesota entrepreneurs, including Cummins (who led the group in its early stages), which raises money for the Republican Party and its candidates through separate state and federal political action committees, or PACs (since the club's inception, he's given the state PAC $13,000 and the federal PAC $30,000). The group donates to candidates and causes that toe a strict conservative line. It's a powerful interest group in the state that has irked Democrats and Republicans alike.
William Cooper credits Freedom Club efforts as being a "key element in the resurgence of the state Republican Party."
But it's not just the party that gets Cummins's money. He also feeds the coffers of organizations doing the fieldwork of conservative core issues. Since 2004, he's given $408,000 to the anti-gay-marriage groups Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage and the like-minded Minnesotans for Marriage.