Jim Niland, who has worked on politics from all angles, will manage the DFL Party's coordinated campaign for the 2014 elections.
Niland has been the the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 political and legislative director since 2005. AFSCME Council 5 was an early supporter of Gov. Mark Dayton's 2010 campaign and has already endorsed his re-election bid.
The public employees union has also been a l
arge spender on political campaigns. According to campaign finance records, AFSCME-related groups have spent nearly $4 million on Minnesota campaigns in the last six years.
Now, Niland, a former Minneapolis City Council member who has worked in many campaigns, will take a leave from the union to work at the party.
“The coordinated campaign will help make sure DFLers vote in 2014,” Niland said in a statement. “We have to protect the gains we won in the 2012 election by keeping the majority in the State House, reelecting Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken and making sure Democrats up and down the ticket win their races.”
The DFL House may be able to dump the debt.
On Monday, the Federal Election Commission released new guidance about how federal committees, like the DFL House's federal campaign, can shed unpayable debt, like the DFL House's $56,000 long held IOU to a dead man.
In an item titled Resolving Unpayable Debts, the FEC said:
"A committee with unpayable debts (e.g., debts owed to defunct entities) that wants to discontinue reporting them should call their campaign finance analyst in the Reports Analysis Division for assistance. .. RAD typically advises committees to file a statement on Form 99 (Miscellaneous Text Statement) that includes a request to discontinue reporting the debt and an explanation of why the debt is unpayable and what efforts the committee has made to contact the vendor, including the timeline and any supporting details...Committees are advised to continue reporting the debt until they have verified with RAD that a debt may be taken off future reports."
What all that seems to mean is that the DFL House, which has reported a debt to the Benjamin Group for nearly a decade, can offer an explanation about the problem to federal regulators who may then allow the party's fundraising arm to close the books on the Benjamin Group debt.
The owner of the Benjamin Group is long deceased and the Group has no successor organization, said Rep.Steve Simon, the DFL House's federal treasurer until recently.
Simon said last month that they had been advised previously that they simply had to keep reporting the debt even though it was unpayable. And so, on report after report, the DFL House's federal campaign arm reported the debt year after year after year.
But, it turns out, the FEC is not that unreasonable and with the new guidance in mind, the repeated reporting may end.
"The DFL House Caucus will pursue whatever new process or procedure is in place to get rid of the unpayable debt to the Benjamin Group," Simon said in an email.
Republican David Gerson on Monday said his bid to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline is not a Tea Party whim.
Gerson, who ran against Kline last year, said his quest for the endorsement is serious, viable has the goal of redefining the Republican party.
"My campaign is less about challenging a Republican incumbent and more of an effort to define Republicanism consistent with the conservative principles of the people of the Second Congressional District," Gerson said.
Gerson said Kline, who was first elected in 2002, has a "moderate, bordering on progressive voting record" at a time when spending, debt and government needs to be reigned in. Gerson said he plans on dropping out if he does not get the GOP endorsement from activists last year.
Troy Young, spokesman for Kline, said Gerson is not to be trusted.
“As a Marine and Minnesotan, Kline has built a lifelong reputation on character, integrity, and honesty while Mr. Gerson bases his campaign on falsehoods and half-truths. Why should Gerson be trusted?" Young said in a statement. Young did not answer a press inquiry about whether Kline would abide by the endorsement, meaning he would end his bid for re-election if activists pick Gerson before a primary.
Last year, Gerson got 15 percent of the vote in a primary against Kline's 85 percent of the vote. Kline went on to win the district, which Democratic president Barack Obama narrowly won, with 54 percent of the vote to Democratic challenger Mike Obermueller's 46 percent. Obermueller is running again.
On Monday, Gerson said he would look at all legislation through the prism of limited government, free markets, individual rights and constitutional limits.
"I would look at the constitution and determine what powers ..were given to the federal government by the constitution. Those powers that exist and those rules of the federal government that aren't constitutional, I would be looking to cut," he said. Marianne Stebbins, who coordinated Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's Minnesota campaign in 2012, is working with Gerson's campaign.
Asked about his views about legalizing marijuana, Gerson initially avoided answering and then said "it is not a federal issue. I believe drugs are bad...I think drugs are terrible. I don't want to see anyone using them but it is not a federal issue."
Kline has bulked up his war chest in advance of the 2014 election and currently sits on $1.3 million in the bank. Gerson, who said he is just ramping up his fundraising, Gerson has a $91,000 debt in his campaign, from his loan of personal funds, and $2,000 cash on hand.
By Baird Helgeson
The Minnesota Senate is about to spend another $77,500 in legal fees to conclude the wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former staffer Michael Brodkorb.
The Senate received a nine-page bill from their lawyers for September through December, ending after Brodkorb agreed to drop the suit for $30,000.
Both sides agreed to pay their own legal fees, as part of the settlement. The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to approve the bill Monday.
Taxpayers have already spent about $320,000 defending the Senate against the lawsuit.
Brodkorb was fired in December 2011 after it was revealed he had an affair with then Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, a Republican from Buffalo. Koch resigned her leadership position and did not seek re-election.
Brodkorb had served as the Senate GOP’s communications chief and, with Koch, was instrumental in helping Republicans win control of the state Senate in 2010. Democrats won back control in the next election.
Next week, Republican David Gerson will kick off his 2014 campaign against Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline.
"We know the number one people are leaving our party is the lessor of two evils argument," Gerson said. "We want to give people a choice."
He said Kline, first elected in 2002, espouses the Republican values of "limited government, individual liberty and free markets" but has not voted those values.
Gerson ran against Kline in a primary in the south suburban and rural Second Congressional District last year and got 15 percent of the vote.
"Last year, we really were just trying to send a message to John Kline," Gerson said. "We didn’t run a serious campaign last time."
This year Gerson is starting earlier and has already spoken at local Republican groups, made thousands of calls to activists and primary voters, he said. He also has Marianne Stebbins, who coordinated presidential candidate Ron Paul's well organized Minnesota campaign last year, as his campaign co-chair.
"We are very confident that we are going to be taking the endorsement," he said. "We are the Republican Party."
Gerson says on his campaign website that he will abide by the endorsement, which means he will not run in an August primary if local Republicans do not give him the nod in the Spring.
Asked about Gerson's plans, Troy Young, Kline's spokesman said: "Congressman Kline will continue fighting for all Minnesotans as their premiums skyrocket or they are losing their health insurance altogether due to the ObamaCare train wreck that is wreaking havoc on our economy."
On Monday morning, Gerson will hold a media event at the Minnesota Capitol's state office building to announce his plans to seek the Republican endorsement.