Gripes about campaign cash and attack ads are baffling, considering the source.
Since Nov. 2, we've heard lots of grumbling from Minnesota Democrats. In a year of unprecedented GOP gains across America, they're not satisfied that their candidates won every statewide office in our state (subject to a recount in the governor's race).
DFLers, it seems, are sore that they didn't win the Minnesota House and Senate as well -- completing their sweep. They don't seem to grasp that the tide that washed through the Minnesota Legislature was a nationwide phenomenon, as voters shouted "enough" to a Democrat-led glut of taxes, spending and deficits. Today, Republicans hold more legislative seats across the country than at any time since 1928.
DFLers should be counting their blessings. Instead, from their blinkered perspective, the GOP's capture of the Minnesota Legislature appears aberrant and dreadful. And they've found a bogeyman to blame: Minnesota businesses. Their gripe seems twofold. First, business, through independent groups like the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses, spent too much -- i.e., "bought and paid for" the Legislature. And, second, business groups unconscionably exploited voters with negative advertising.
We hear this so much that the reality comes as a surprise: Minnesota Democrats and their allies actually outspent Republicans and their allies in 2010 roughly 2 to 1, though final totals won't be known for some time.
The Senate DFL caucus raised four times more than the Senate GOP caucus, and the House DFL caucus raised two times more than its GOP counterpart. The DFL state party raised over three times more than the state GOP. Mark Dayton raised more than one and a half times what Tom Emmer did.
Contrary to the DFL mantra, voters' attention to business groups' message was perfectly logical. On Nov. 2, the No. 1 issue was jobs -- how to grow them, how to keep them here, and how to attract new, job-creating businesses to our state.
Business promoted a pro-jobs agenda of more streamlined government, lower taxes and more controlled spending. Voters resonated to this message in an age when capital is highly mobile, and you can work as easily from South Dakota, Mumbai or Beijing if you have Internet access and a smart phone.
Without business' involvement, Minnesota's electoral field would largely have been left to Democrats and their biggest donors: public employee unions such as Education Minnesota, AFSCME and SEIU, and Indian tribes with big-bucks casino interests.
All political contributions have an element of self-interest. But we all benefit from a healthy business climate. More jobs mean more prosperity, more families with good health insurance, more kids in our schools.
But the interests of public employee unions and tribes don't parallel voters' interests. These groups are monopolies, intent on electing legislators who will lock in their monopoly benefits. Unions donate huge sums to elect their own bosses, expecting them to increase benefits and hire more public employees to keep union donations flowing.
DFLers' second complaint is that business groups relied on below-the-belt negative advertising. This rings hollow. In 2010, the left threw the first and dirtiest mud ball.
On July 6, Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) -- an independent, DFL-allied group funded primarily by public unions and Dayton's family -- launched what was probably the earliest attack ad in Minnesota campaign history, targeting Tom Emmer more than a month before the DFL even had a gubernatorial candidate.
Factcheck.org, a project of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Center, labeled the first ABM ad's claims about Emmer "false" and "pure nonsense." A second ad used a mother's grief about her son's death at the hands of a drunk driver to focus on Emmer's decades-old DWIs. You can be sure ABM didn't mention that its own favorite candidate -- Mark Dayton -- is a recovering alcoholic who has acknowledged temporarily returning to drink sometime after February 2005 while representing Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.
Thanks to ABM's early funding edge, its anti-Emmer ads ran 2,400 times before the Aug. 10 primary, while the one pro-Emmer ad that ran appeared just 330 times, according to the Campaign Media Analysis group.
Every ad that ABM ran -- with its $5 million-plus budget -- was negative. ABM's parent organization, ProgressNow, prides itself on taking negativity to new lows. Yet when Republicans use negative mailers that focus on DFL candidates' records, Democrats moan about our negative electoral climate.
If business "bought" Minnesota's new legislative majorities, does that mean the unions bought our Legislature in previous years? Democrats' outrage seems to betray a sense of entitlement to power. Instead of fuming, they might better reflect on whether such arrogance is one reason that voters around the country drummed them out of office.
Reach Katherine Kersten at email@example.com.