WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's senior Sen. Amy Klobuchar will chair the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach committee -- a role that gives her additional power in dealmaking with Republicans and special interests on Capitol Hill next year.
The steering commitee's primary purpose is outreach to special interest and outside groups when hammering together compromises.
"This is something I've been doing for years and I think it's a very necessary role right now," she said to a group of reporters at the Capitol Thursday following the announcement. "I take the Republicans at their word. They say they want to move on things."
Though Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken will be in the minority party starting in January, Klobuchar's appointment Thursday by Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid means she will still be in the mix trying to strike bargains with Republicans, she said.
Among problems she hopes to tackle in the next year: tax reform, immigration reform and negotiating a federal standard minimum wage.
"I think there is some opportunity here," she said. "We will know within probably three months if it's real, but I think there is some opportunity now."
Klobuchar is serving her second term and isn't up for re-election until 2018.
Candidates for governor, Senate and Congress have spent millions to get dozens of messages on television.
But, with Election Day nearly here, these are the words they really want you to remember.
Here are their final, closing argument television ads.
Republican Jeff Johnson
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner raised in Detroit Lakes, tailored his final ads to three different parts of the state. In all three ads, Johnson is standing in a sun-dappled, tree stand.
"He's just not up to the job any more," Johnson says of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. "It's time for new leadership in Minnesota."
In two other ads, he claims that he, unlike Dayton, will focus on Greater Minnesota.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton
Dayton's final ad is called "Rising" and highlights the way his campaign believes the state is better since Dayton took office and will be even better if he wins again.
"Mark Dayton knows we have much more to do, to help struggling families, make college more affordable, and help small businesses grow," the narrator says. "Moving forward together."
Republican Mike McFadden
McFadden's final ad shows a contrast -- the country as it is, with the country as it could be.
"Everything is at stake," a narrator reads, as various scenes of Minnesota life flit by. "Our hopes, our dreams, our future....We can make America great again."
Democratic U.S. Al Franken
Franken's final ad, called "Delivered," uses quotations from newspaper editorial endorsements to promote the candidate.
"Newspapers across Minnesota back Al Franken," the ad's narrator says. Video of Franken meeting with various people shows as different voices read selections from the pro-Franken endorsements.
Eighth Congressional District
Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan
Nolan, fighting to keep his northern Minnesota district, closed his campaign with an ad that shows him speaking to a crowd and going hunting. Against that backdrop, Nolan gives his enthusiastic stump speech.
"It's time to do what's right for the middle class," Nolan says in the ad.
Republican Stewart Mills
In Mills final ad, he speaks directly to the camera and makes the ask for viewers' votes.
"Minnesota is my home," he says in the ad, which includes childhood photos of Mills. "I'm Stewart Mills. I approved this message and I'd appreciate your vote."
GOP Senate challenger Mike McFadden's campaign said Sunday they were planning to file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Monday alleging Democratic Sen. Al Franken's campaign is illegally coordinating with a Super PAC.
At issue are two ads released roughly the same time that are similar in composition and message. One was launched and paid for by Franken's campaign, the other launched and paid for by Independence USA PAC, an outside group bankrolled by former New York City Mayor and billlionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, according to FEC reports, has invested $500,000 in television ads to support Franken.
It is against federal law for campaigns to coordinate with outside political groups.
"The similarities in these two ads go beyond coincidence," said McFadden's spokesman Tom Erickson. "On Monday we’ll be filing a complaint with FEC alleging coordination between the Franken campaign and this super PAC."
Franken's campaign called the alleged complaint "desperate."
"This is a silly complaint by a desperate campaign trying to change the dynamic of a race," said Marc Elias, the campaign's lawyer.
McFadden's campaign is among two dozen campaigns already being investigated for illegal coordination after a complaint was filed in October by the American Democracy Legal Fund. The complaint alleges McFadden's camp, along with dozens of others, were illegally working with Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Crossroads GPS and a number of other Republican outside groups.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report
Minnesota Democrats are continuing their onslaught of criticism for GOP mailers that attack DFL House members for votes on an expungement bill and a drunk driving bill, pointing out that a pair of the Republican party’s own candidates this election cycle backed the same legislation.
In a news release, the DFL said that State Sen. Torrey Westrom, a Republican facing off against Rep. Collin Peterson in the 7th Congressional District, voted to pass an expungement bill criticized in the mailers as “allowing felons to work with our school children.”
Meanwhile, State Sen. Scott Newman, the state’s GOP Attorney General candidate, voted for an ignition interlock bill that the Republican Party is using to go after DFL House members.
Newman, R-Hutchinson, recalled that the measure had side support from law enforcement organizations. The measure passed unanimously in the Minnesota Senate, meaning that all Republican senators voted for it as well as all DFL ones.
The Republican Party claimed in its mailers that the drunk driving measure, “weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers.”
Newman said he would not vote for a bill that weakened penalties for dangerous drivers. Instead, he said the interlock bill allowed people who had been caught driving drunk to keep their licenses but only if they had a device installed that required them to be sober to start their cars.
“It may actually help get people off the road,” he said. Newman said he had not seen the mailer in question and was comfortable with his vote for the bill.
The mail pieces drew swift criticism from the DFL, who alerted the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Minnesotans for Safe Driving about the mailers. In response the nonpartisan organizations wrote letters criticizing the mailers and praising the legislation.
On Thursday, Minnesota Republican Party chair Keith Downey struck back, saying the DFL is just as guilty of using sensational imagery in its advertisements. Downey decried the "misleading and sensational mail from the Democrat party."
"Minnesota Democrats have to use these tactics because their ideas don’t work," Downey said.
DFL Chairman Ken Martin called on Downey to explain why he stands by the ads if they call out members of his own party.
“If Keith Downey and the Republican Party (are) standing behind these attacks, then they are standing behind attacks against Torrey Westrom and Scott Newman.” Martin said in a statement. “If Downey is not prepared to make those charges against Westrom and Newman, then we expect he will cease to make those charges against Democrats that took those same votes.”
Downey and Westrom did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
In the last week, more than $780,000 has refueled Minnesota's political campaigns, much of it to influence the heated contest for control of the Minnesota House.
WIN Minnesota, a funding arm of the Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota, has received almost $142,000 since Oct. 21. Most of that money has come from unions.
The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, which has campaigned to win a Republican House, has brought in more than $110,000 in that same time period. The coalition's largest contributor was the Republican State Leadership Committee, which focused on legislative races. The RSLC gave the group $75,000.
Other outside groups, largely ones that support Democrats, are bringing late cash to bear in Minnesota.
A host of union-driven organizations has seen more than $300,000 flow into their coffers of late. Many of those donations came from the union's parent organizations. Among them:
Education Minnesota, which generally spends more on elections than any other Minnesota union, notified the state it brought in $100,000.
Public Safety Matters received more than $110,000, including $75,000 from WIN Minnesota.
The Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund brought in a $108,000 check from its related organization.
The two men who would be governor are also making late fundraising pushes.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton received $28,000 in large donations since last Tuesday. Republican Jeff Johnson received $22,500.
In a fundraising pitch sent on Tuesday, Johnson told Republicans in a video he needed $50,000 for Greater Minnesota radio ads and $75,000 to complete his digital campaign plans.
In the text of the appeal, Johnson told supporters: "Don't let the Democrat driven media fool you -- this election is going to come down to the wire."
Asked to delineate the specific complaints against the media and the media-controlling Democrats to which the appeal referred, Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken declined.
Instead he said, "This is a fundraising email to Republicans and our donors. Jeff's comments in the video and note speak for themselves."
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