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Ads in the name of the law

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota campaigns, Minnesota governor, Political ads Updated: October 27, 2010 - 2:42 PM

A Hennepin County deputy sheriff's salary has become front and center in the latest war of words in the Minnesota governor's race.

The ad MN Forward, which has run ads supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer,  features a Minnesota deputy sheriff, identified only as "Dave."

"Dayton’s new taxes will be a horror show. I’ve been a police officer for 20 years. My wife’s a nurse. Mark Dayton says we’re rich and we should pay higher taxes," says the man, who according to Star Tribune sources is David Schultz, a Hennepin County deputy sheriff.

Schultz earns about $63,000 a year, according to Hennepin County sheriff's spokeswoman Lisa Kiava. Brian McClung, who heads up MN Forward, said that the deputy's wife is a nurse at a major hospital.

"They have worked at these jobs for their entire careers and their take home pay gets a fair amount above six figures," McClung said in an email. McClung did not identify the Dave in the ad as David Schultz because of unspecified "threats" but the Star Tribune confirmed that the two are the same.

In Minneapolis, according to Salary.com, the average registered nurse salary is between $64,000 and $77,000.

Adding the top range of the nurses' salary estimate to the $63,000 Schultz makes would put the couple's take home at $140,000 a year -- an income less than Dayton's tax hike proposal would hit.

Dayton has proposed raising income taxes on top earners. He backs the idea of taxing couples who earn more than $150,000 in taxable income at 10.95 percent, a rate that would put the top bracket near but not at the top income tax rate compared to other states.

The income level of $150,000 in taxable income actually equals about $173,000 in take home pay,  a level Schultz and his wife are unlikely to hit unless he has significant overtime or she earns far more than the estimated averages for a registered nurse.

While the ad certainly is unclear on all those details and may be misleading, the message is one that strikes at the heart of the contest between Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer.

Emmer and his supporters promote his promise not to raise state taxes.  Dayton has said he will raise taxes on what he calls "rich" and will protect the middle class.

The nurses and law enforcement unions have endorsed Dayton.

"Nurses and police officers are the heart of the middle class in Minnesota, and we endorsed Mark Dayton for governor because he is the only candidate who will protect them and all middle-class Minnesotans," the Minnesota Nurses Association and the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis  said in a joint statement in reaction to the MN Forward ad.

Ads in uniform?

The MN Forward ad and Dayton ads before it also raises the question about whether uniformed law enforcement officers can appear in political ads. But the officers in ads should be in the all clear, according to experts.

Hennepin County deputy's are forbidden from wearing uniforms while doing political activity.

"An employee shall not...engage in political activity during compensated hours of work or while in uniform," the code of conduct says.

Schultz, in the Forward ad, is wearing a uniform and has a badge but Kiava, of Hennepin County, said it is not the Hennepin County uniform and does not include the Hennepin County insignia, patches or the badge.

The Minneapolis officers are permitted to wear uniforms and appear in ads, since they are members of the Minneapolis police union.

"At no time, shall any sworn employee appear in the MPD uniform in any media advertisement for political candidates, with the exception of the current elected Police Federation officials or their designee," according to the department's rules. "The Chief shall be notified in advance of any Police Federation official or their designee appearing in any political advertisements."

Minneapolis Sgt. Jesse Garcia , a department spokesman, said that the chief was notified of the appearance.

But the rules also state that: "Any advertisements shall identify the Police Federation official or their designee who appears in the advertisement, and shall state that it is not an endorsement by the MPD."

The Dayton ad does not include that disclaimer and should have according to the policy.

Here's MN Forward ad and here's the transcript:

SFX: Doorbell rings
KIDS: Trick or treat!!
KIDS: Hey!!
DAVE: Think that’s bad? If Mark Dayton gets elected more of our hard-earned money will be taken away.
DAVE:  Dayton’s new taxes will be a horror show.
DAVE: I’ve been a police officer for 20 years. My wife’s a nurse. Mark Dayton says we’re rich and we should pay higher taxes.
DAVE:  He’s wrong.  We shouldn’t pay for his out-of-control spending.
DAVE: On Election Day, say “no” to Dayton’s job-killing taxes. 
 


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