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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

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TSA pockets almost $6,900 in loose change left at MSP airport security, part of approximately $675,000 nationwide total

Posted by: Beena Raghavendran Updated: April 17, 2015 - 10:11 AM

The Transportation Security Administration is using the $674,841.06 in cash passengers forget after emptying their pockets for airport security metal detectors during fiscal year 2014 for its own security operations.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport’s cash collection is just a part of that — $6,896.81 in loose change was left behind at airport security in fiscal year 2014 — but has the 25th highest collection amount at any airport in the country, the TSA said.

The unclaimed money is documented and turned into the TSA financial office, but anything left unclaimed is used for the TSA’s “critical aviation security programs,” a March TSA report said. Congress authorized the TSA’s spending of these funds in 2005.

This is MSP’s highest collection rate in the past few years; the airport’s TSA collected $5,772 in fiscal year 2013 and $4,983.31 in fiscal year 2012.

The TSA defines unclaimed money as “money passengers inadvertently leave behind at airport screening checkpoints during screening,” it said in its report. Most times, these are coins they remove from their pockets to avoid aggravating metal detectors.

“TSA always seeks to ensure that all traveler property, including loose change, finds its way back to the proper owner,” the report reads. “However, when loose change does not, it will be directed to critical aviation security programs.”

The left-behind cash shouldn’t be going to the TSA, said Douglas Kidd, the executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers.

“The idea that TSA is using money that people have left behind to fund TSA operations is, to my mind, a real conflict of interest,” Kidd said. “They should not be profiting from other people’s misfortunes.”

Wendy Thomson, co-founder of Freedom to Travel USA, called the TSA’s decision to keep the loose change amounts “sleazy.” She said that while losing a few cents probably won’t impact the average passenger, the TSA could spend the money elsewhere.

“If they had an inkling of any type of goodness in them, they would at the very least donate it to a good cause,” she said.

But donating funds to charity means extra money would be spent pinpointing where those donations would go, according to the TSA. 

To eliminate instances of lost change at airport security, TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers recommended that travelers put the change in a carry-on bag and secure it with a zipper.

“This will prevent the coins from being left behind in a bin and ultimately used to offset the cost for TSA operations,” Dankers said. “TSA would prefer that travelers take their change when departing the security checkpoint.” 

Franken calls argument to kill health insurance subsidies 'ridiculous'

Posted by: Jim Spencer Updated: March 4, 2015 - 3:18 PM

U.S. Sen. Al Franken said opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raised a "ridiculous" argument at the Supreme Court Wednesday when they told the justices that the nation's health care reform law does not allow premium-lowering tax credits in 34 states where the federal government runs insurance exchanges.

"I was actually there when the law was written and passed," Franken told a press conference after the oral arguments. "I know what our intention was."

It was not, the Minnesota Democrat said, to exclude millions of Americans from health insurance coverage by denying them subsidies needed to afford policies. Franken accused ACA  opponents of seizing on a few words in a 2,200-page bill to "reverse engineer" an argument that would kill the entire law.

The health law does say that premium subsidies are available to state-run exchanges. But it also says that the federal government will operate exchanges in states that refuse to form them. Subsidies, mandatory participation and coverage of pre-existing conditions are the three-legs of the legislative stool that support health reform. Getting rid of any of them will undermine the rest, most experts agree.

Joining Franken at the press conference were Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and premium tax credit beneficiaries Bonita Johnson of Detroit and Terry Donald of St. Petersburg, Fla. Johnson and Donald receive premium subsidies from federally run exchanges. Johnson said her health insurance would cost four times as much without subsidies and no longer be affordable. Donald, whose wife has cancer, said his insurance would be six times as much and he would have to drop coverage.

"This was not anyone's thinking" when the health care law passed in 2010, Franken said.

Dayton, Johnson at fundraising parity for the year

Posted by: Updated: October 28, 2014 - 4:48 PM

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt

Although DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has had a fundraising advantage throughout the campaign, Republican challenger Jeff Johnson has caught up.

According to fundraising reports made public on Tuesday, Dayton has raised just over $2 million in his quest to keep the governor's job and Johnson has raised $1.96 million since January. As of Oct. 20, neither had very much money left for the final stretch -- Dayton had just $342,000 and Johnson had $454,000.

Both candidates have spent time fundraising in the final weeks. Last week, Dayton brought former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Minnesota for a fundraiser. The cash from that fundraiser has yet to be fully reported the state because it came after the close of the reporting period.

For months, Johnson's schedule has been as likely to say he is raising money at private events as he is doing retail politics.

The push has paid off for Johnson of late.

Since Sept. 16, the last fundraising report, Johnson brought in $710,000, while Dayton brought in $427,000.

Still, over the two year campaign period, from 2013 to 2014, Dayton has raised and spent far more money.

Katharine Tinucci, Dayton's campaign manager, on Tuesday said the campaign had released its last television ad of the cycle. The ad, called "Rising," highlights the progress Dayton believes he has brought to Minnesota and hopes to bring.

"The October 20th cash on hand figure coupled with a strong last week of fundraising puts the Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota campaign in position to finish the final week of the campaign with a robust advertising buy to help get out the Governor’s message," Tinucci said.

The campaign will spend about $350,000 to air the ad during the final week of the campaign, bringing its total ad spending to about $2 million, she said.

Dayton can only raise about $600,000 more for his campaign given the spending cap he agreed to abide by in exchange for a public subsidy.

Johnson has a lot more room to grow -- if he can raise the cash. He has spent $1.8 million so far and is permitted to spend almost $4.4 million. Johnson has a higher spending limit because he faced a contested primary.

Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet did not qualify for a public subsidy and has run a much lower dollar campaign than either Johnson or Dayton. She has raised $20,665 this year and spent $13,191.

Here's a further look at Dayton and Johnson's fundraising numbers for 2014, as reported to the state campaign finance board:

Updated

Progressive think tank founded by Entenza shutting down

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 29, 2014 - 5:03 PM

Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank that DFL politician Matt Entenza founded seven years ago, is shutting its doors. 

Stuart Alger, a Minneapolis attorney and board of directors chairman for Minnesota 2020, confirmed Monday that the board made the decision last week. Dave Colling, a veteran DFL operative who has frequently worked for Entenza, has been brought in to help the organization close down in an orderly fashion. 

Minnesota 2020 delved into many public policy questions facing the state, producing lengthy and deeply researched reports on everything from transportation and energy policy to education and taxes. The group also frequently sponsored public forums featuring high-profile politicians and other civic leaders. 

Alger said six to eight full-time employees would be laid off. He said most are writers, researchers and web specialists. 

The organization is a 501c3 non-profit, and was funded in large part by donations from organized labor, foundations and private sources. "The funding just hasn't been there as it was in the past," said Alger, an attorney at Stinson Leonard Street in Minneapolis. 

Entenza did not immediately respond to an interview request. 

Entenza is a former state House minority leader from St. Paul. He founded Minnesota 2020 in June 2007, about a year after an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general. 

Entenza tried to revive his political career in 2010 with a run for governor, but finished third in the DFL primary. He re-surfaced this year with a surprise primary challenge to DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto, which he also lost. 

With that last race, Entenza incurred the wrath of many in the DFL establishment, most notably state party chairman Ken Martin. But Alger said he had received no indication that anger toward Entenza led to the drop in donor support. 

"We think Minnesota 2020 really provided a lot of good reliable content over seven years, and we're very proud of the work we've done," Alger said. 

More than $715K poured into political groups recently

Posted by: Updated: July 31, 2014 - 3:58 PM

In the last few weeks, more than $715,000 in political cash has changed hands in Minnesota politics.

According to reports filed in recent days, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Education Minnesota, Freedom Minnesota PAC and DFL auditor candidate Matt Entenza have gotten big cash infusions.

The Alliance, largely funded by unions and wealthy Minnesotans, received $275,000 on Monday from WIN Minnesota. The Alliance is the communications arm for Democratic causes, running ads and dealing with the media. WIN Minnesota is largely the funding arm.

The Education Minnesota teacher's union, one of the most politically active labor groups in the state, transferred $125,000 to its political PAC last week. The union derives money from member dues and the PAC spends money on politics.

The Laborers District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota also received a cash infusion from its parent union. According to a filing, the union's political arm received $64,000 from the union.

On Tuesday, the Freedom Minnesota PAC received a $25,000 donation from Daniel Loeb, a New York-based hedge fund manager.

Freedom Minnesota PAC was started to help state Rep. Jenifer Loon in her August primary fight. Loon is being challenged by a fellow Republican in large part because she voted to legalize same-sex marriage last year.

Loeb and his firm have been active supporters of same-sex marriage and gay rights.

Meanwhile, DFLer Entenza gave his campaign for auditor $227,000. Entenza is a state House member who ran for governor in 2010. He donated more than $5 million of his own money to that campaign.

This year, he is waging a primary campaign against DFL auditor Rebecca Otto.

State law requires candidates and campaigns to file reports within 24 hours of receiving big contributions since it is so close to the primary election day.

The cash on the recent filings is in addition to the fundraising the campaigns reported earlier this week.

Updated

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