With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota campaigns

In response to DFL complaint, board clears GOP of campaign finance violations

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: April 23, 2014 - 6:16 PM

The Minnesota campaign finance board cleared the Minnesota Republican Party and the Senate Republicans' campaign arm of 2012 violations, according to a recently released decision.

The agency found that the Republicans made some mistakes on their year-end reports, filed  which made it harder to track the party's independent spending on senate races but the errors were inadvertent and fixed through corrections made last month.

"There is no basis to believe that the costs related to the independent expenditures were deliberately misreported. Instead, the record before the Board points to an attempt to report all of the associated costs that was foiled in part by an incomplete understanding of how to use the Campaign Finance Reporter software," the board wrote in closing its investigation.

The investigation was prompted by a DFL Party complaint, filed in January, which accused the Republicans of hiding 2012 spending.

In response to the investigation, the Republican Party treasurer Bron Scherer said the way the Republican Party and the Republican Senate committees did their reporting may have "created a potential for confusion" but the spending was not hidden. The board largely agreed.

In response to the decision, Republican Party Chair Keith Downey accused of the DFL of creating "media bluster" with its complaint.

In a statement, he said he hoped the board's conclusion, "will stop Democrats from filing a complaint and convicting us in the press before the Board even conducts its review."

The board this week also cleared the DFL of violations in response to a GOP complaint.

In January, Republican Party accused the DFL of blurring the lines between independent campaign work and House candidates by using photographs that were not publicly available. The board concluded that the DFL did independently obtain the photographs and found the DFL did not violate the rules of independence.

The recent GOP complaint has echoes of a 2012 Republican complaint. That one concluded in December 2013 and resulted in one of the largest campaign finance fines in state history.

Here's the board conclusion on the Republican Party matter:

04_22_2014_RPM by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Dayton blasts GOP, seeks more statewide construction projects

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: April 22, 2014 - 3:39 PM
Dayton says he wants more statewide construction projects.

Dayton says he wants more statewide construction projects.

Gov. Mark Dayton is blasting legislative Republicans for refusing to pay for additional construction projects that could bring new economic development to the state.

“They are just dead wrong,” Dayton said Tuesday. “The Republicans have been wrong on this since I arrived. They are short-changing projects all around the state that are job-creating projects.”

Democratic and Republican legislative leaders cut a deal last year to limit new construction spending to about $850 million this session. They made the agreement before a strong economic turnout left the state with a surplus of more than $1.2 billion.

Dayton says the strengthening economy and strong budget outlook give the state more cushion to increase statewide borrowing to pay for roughly $400 million in additional projects.

Since state borrowing requires a two-thirds vote, the measure gives Republicans a rare moment of leverage as Democrats control both the House and the Senate. 

Republicans say that the state should not run up taxpayer debt, and leaders have publicly not budged from the $850 million target. They say that the agreed upon number fits with historical averages and see no reason to break from it now.

The statewide construction measure stands as one of the last major initiatives to get completed in the final weeks of the legislative session.

Dayton said a recent Star Tribune story about an unfinished water project in southwestern Minnesota “is a prime example of where the lack of a public investment has crippled that area for economic growth.”

The governor said he is willing to fully fund the water project if it would persuade some GOP legislators to support a higher borrowing measure.

“I don’t think they have a toenail to stand on to justify this rigid ideology,” Dayton said. Holding to that number “would deny a whole range of projects around the state because of their fiscal ideology.”

GOP House candidate who ousted incumbent gets primary challenge

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 22, 2014 - 1:25 PM

A city councilman from St. Michael is running in the August primary for a Wright County-area House seat against a fellow Republican who snatched the party's endorsement from a sitting lawmaker.

Kevin Kasel launched his campaign Tuesday. He will run in the Republican primary for the House District 30B seat against Eric Lucero, a city councilman in nearby Dayton who in February won the GOP endorsement for the seat over state Rep. David FitzSimmons.

Lucero was critical of FitzSimmons' vote last year to legalize gay marriage. FitzSimmons was one of only four House Republicans to back the bill. FitzSimmons briefly considered a primary challenge but opted against it. The primary is on August 12. 

Kasel says he supported FitzSimmons for the endorsement and only decided to run in the primary once the incumbent decided not to. He described himself as a solid conservative, but suggested he'd be more effective at getting things done at the Capitol than Lucero. 

Lucero did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. 

In addition to serving on the St. Michael City Council since 2007, Kasel has worked for Best Buy and other companies as a process management consultant. Lucero, besides his service on the Dayton City Council, is an IT manager at an information security firm. 

GOP U.S. Senate candidate Abeler won't seek re-election to state House

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: April 22, 2014 - 1:46 PM
Rep. Jim Abeler and Abigail Whelan

Rep. Jim Abeler and Abigail Whelan

Describing himself as “all in” as a U.S. Senate candidate, Minnesota State Rep. Jim Abeler said Tuesday that he will not seek re-election to his longtime House seat.

Flanked by family and supporters, Abeler, R-Anoka, a 16-year House veteran, said Tuesday that the decision to give up his seat was difficult but necessary to devote his time to the Senate race.  He added that he will likely run in a primary if he doesn’t receive the Republican Party endorsement.

Abeler, a leader in the Health and Human Services field, said it’s time to take his knack for collaboration to Washington in hopes of breaking what he called a seemingly hopeless partisan gridlock.

“I grieve when I see what’s happening in Washington, I grieved during the shutdown,” Abeler said. “These people do not know how to get anything accomplished.’”

Abeler is backing Abigail Whelan of Anoka to fill his House seat. It’s the first foray into running for office for Whelan, 26, a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Whelan previously served as a legislative assistant for State Sen. John Pedersen, R-St. Cloud, and campaign manager for former Sen. Mike Jungbauer, R-East Bethel. She currently works as an administrative assistant for a home health care company.

Abeler said he chose to step aside because “it’s hard to have a foot in both camps,” but also to be fair to Whelan, who has been endorsed by Anoka County Republicans.

“If people think that she is a placeholder then that affects fundraising, it affects focus and it affects people’s confidence.” Abeler said, adding that it wasn’t easy to step aside—no less than 57 people asked him to run for a ninth term. But the Senate run is paramount.

Abeler has made more than 300 campaign stops throughout the state since announcing his candidacy last June. He is one of seven Republicans vying for Sen. Al Franken’s seat, including businessman Mike McFadden and State Sen. Julianne Ortman. Abeler, who has raised $109,250, lacks the funding of McFadden and Ortman, but said his experience, name recognition and willingness to collaborate will likely take him far.

“If good people don’t go to Washington, Washington cannot be good,” Abeler said. “Washington is supposed to be us. St. Paul is supposed to be us.”

See the updated list of legislative retirements here.


 

House Elections panel to review Dayton campaign board appointees

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: April 21, 2014 - 4:25 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton's three most recent appointees to the state of Minnesota's campaign watchdog board are coming up for review by the House Elections Committee. 

The panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning for an overview of the appointments of Christian Sande, Ed Oliver and Jon Stafsholt to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Oliver's appointment is the most notable, as he served from 1993 to 2002 as a state senator from western Hennepin County. 

When Dayton appointed Oliver last summer for a term that expires in 2017, he became the second former GOP legislator that the Democratic governor tapped for the campaign finance board. Former state representative Neil Peterson of Bloomington was the first. 

The board's current chairwoman is also a former state lawmaker. Deanna Wiener is a former DFL senator from Eagan. 

Dayton's other two appointees up for review by the House panel are Christian Sande, a private attorney who once ran for secretary of state as a Democrat; and Jon Stafsholt, a retired district judge from the state's Eighth Judicial District in west-central Minnesota.  

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