The fight to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken has entered the airwaves.
American Encore, a conservative group that appears to be associated with the better known Americans for Job Security, has posted an ad online and is launching a television campaign to air claims that Franken has attacked "free speech."
The founder of the group, which is closely aligned with big Republican funders Charles and David Koch, said it will spend a quarter of a million dollars to air the ad.
Founder Sean Noble told the Wall Street Journal that it "plan spend about $10 million influencing congressional races this year."
While most political handicappers believe that Republicans will have a tough time ousting Franken his this, his whisper thin victory in his first election and his high profile status makes him a ripe target.
The spending follows long warnings from the Franken campaign that the Kochs would come after him. More than a dozen times this year, his campaign has used fear of Kochs attacks to solicit donations.On Wednesday morning, Democratic operative Paul Begala told supporters about a new anti-Franken Super PAC, adding "this is a whole different challenge than any of the Super PACs you already know about -- the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, etc."
Alexandra Fetissoff, Franken campaign spokeswoman, said the ad was "ridiculous."
"Sen. Franken is one of the most vigorous defenders of free speech in the Senate. These attacks have been repeatedly proven false," Fetissoff said. "We’ve always known that Sen. Franken was going to be a target of special interest groups. It’s no surprise that they’re here, but it’s not going to stop him from doing his job."
At issue: regulations on what political non-profits need to disclose about their spending. These regulations currently require less disclosure from groups like American Encore, Americans for Job Security as well as nonprofits from the left than they do other big spenders.
In 2012, well before the Internal Revenue Service was under attack for targeting nonprofits from the right, Franken asked federal officials to make sure that nonprofits were not using their status to evade campaign finance disclosure. His request was neutral about the political viewpoints of the groups doing the politicking.
In 2013, once the IRS scandal broke, Franken joined the chorus of voices to say that the tax agency's work should be "done in a completely nonpartisan way."
Here's the ad at issue:
Days after Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson made it official that he’s running for Congress again, the National Republican Congressional Committee is welcoming him to the race with an Affordable Care Act attack ad.
The spot features Willmar hardware store owner Randy Czarnetzki, who says President Obama’s health care law “threatens the future of my business.” Willmar is in the state’s Seventh Congressional District, which Peterson represents.
“It’s hard enough to succeed in small business but with all the taxes and regulations that we have to deal with on a regular basis it even makes it more difficult," Czarnetzki says. “The fact that Collin Peterson recently voted to keep Obamacare threatens the future of my business.”
Peterson has not been a wholesale opponent or supporter of the law. The conservative Democrat voted against the Affordable Care Act when it passed the House in 2010.
In the years since, he has voted against Republican legislation designed to repeal or defund the law. But he has supported GOP-backed bills that would delay the tax penalty Americans will pay under the healthcare law if they decline to sign up for coverage this year.
In a statement issued by his campaign, Peterson said: "I voted against Obamacare and would again if it was the same bill. Outside money, the NRCC, and super PACs are trying to hijack the election from the local people, and as one of my constituents said last week, 'don't worry about it, the people of the 7th district are smarter than that'."
The NRCC’s $50,000 ad buy and will run in the Fargo-Moorhead and Twin Cities media markets over the next three weeks. In a statement, group spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said that “After 23 years in Washington, Collin Peterson has lost touch with the needs of Minnesota small businesses and families.”
The campaign arm of House Republicans, the NRCC has been running anti-Peterson ads for the better part of a year.
The National Republican Congressional Committee is plunking down about $17,000 on a radio ad to go after Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson. The spot, which will start airing today, opens with the sounds of the Twins winning the 1991 World Series. The ad says: “Nineteen ninety one. Twins win, Collin Peterson goes to Congress. A lot’s changed since then… The national debt’s exploded -- more than four times what it was when the Twins won and Peterson went to Washington. After 22 years, Minnesota could use some relief from Collin Peterson’s spending.” Peterson, who has long won western Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District by hefty margins, has also been known as a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat. Republicans have yet to dent that reputation, but the ad shows they plan to try hard to do so in the 2014 cycle.
Spokeswoman for the NRCC Alleigh Marré said, "This most recent ad is proof that we are targeting Peterson more heavily than in previous cycles." The Republican group has also run paid web ads and billboards going after Peterson.
Last week, state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, announced he planned to challenge Peterson next year.
The news of the radio ad first appeared in our Morning Hot Dish political newsletter. If you're not already getting the political newsletter by email, it's easy and free to sign up. Go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.
Minnesota, a state known for clean politics, ranks among the worst for financial disclosure from the judiciary, according to the Center for Public Integrity.
"Minnesota is at the back of the pack for financial disclosure requirements, ranking 45th in the country along with Iowa," the Center found in a nationwide study of disclosure required of supreme court justices. "It has a self-policing system for enforcing the disclosure rules, in which Supreme Court justices would be asked to rule on a complaint about themselves. And the state currently does not require judges to report gifts, investments such as stocks or any financial debts on the one-page form."
The Center gave Minnesota an "F," for its judicial disclosure requirements. Minnesota's low ranking on this score is not unusual -- the state often gets below average grades from good government groups that measure transparency and disclosure required of public officials.
Earlier this year the state's campaign finance agency and some lawmakers pushed for more financial disclosure from lawmakers and other public officials. While that proposal largely fell by the wayside, Minnesota did increase the disclosure required of the judiciary.
From the Center: "Minnesota is toughening its requirements starting next year, meaning its lousy grade will undoubtedly improve. Legislation passed this year will require judges to file an additional form that other state officials already file. The form will ask judges to report investments, locally owned real estate and even involvement in horse racing starting in January 2014."
And now Minneapolis has a half-naked candidate for mayor emerging from a swim to proclaim: "I will not take money from the developers. I will not take money from the political angle. I will not even go to the strip clubs anymore. Wake the f*** up!"
Jeffery Alan Wagner, one of nearly three dozen candidates for the highest office in Minnesota's biggest city, then walks back into the water.
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