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, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Corey Mitchell, Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

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Minnesota state House candidate sued after allegedly sawing his neighbor’s garage in half

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 22, 2014 - 6:15 PM

A state House candidate from northern Minnesota is being sued in civil court after cutting his neighbor’s garage in half.

Roger Weber, a Republican from Nashwauk, faces a lawsuit filed by Mark Beseman of Iron seeking $20,000 in damages to the garage and $20,000 in punitive damages, as well as a small portion of Weber’s land.

According to the civil suit, Weber's father owned 40 acres near Nashwauk and in 1978 gave 39 acres to his son. The father kept the house, garage and remaining acre of land until his death in 2012 when it was passed down to his daughter, Ann Anderson, who sold it to Besemann in spring 2013.

Weber said, he told his sister he was going to remove any structures that sat on his side of the property line. Weber's attorney, Brian Bengtson, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The suit is the result of a simmering property dispute that has stretched on for more than a year. Besemann filed the initial complaint in September 2013 after authorities in Itasca County declined to investigate the matter.

Weber faces incumbent DFLer Carly Melin in the Nov. 4 general election. It’s a rematch of the 2012 race where Melin coasted to victory, capturing 70 percent of the vote.

Judge Lois Lang is scheduled to hear the case Itasca County District Court on December 15, more than a month after Election Day.

The Republican Party of Minnesota did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dayton 'very alarmed' by audit findings on state-subsidized nonprofit

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: September 22, 2014 - 11:09 AM

Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday said that a Star Tribune report of a nonprofit using state funds to subsidize cruises, a director's car lease and spa treatments was very concerning and alarming.

"I was personally really appalled," Dayton said. "I take it very seriously." 

The DFL governor met with his Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and others about Community Action on Monday to further delve into its spending. As a result, two state agencies, Human Services and Commerce will immediately develop an action plan to deal with Community Action.

The Star Tribune reported on Sunday that Community Action, which drew board members from high-profile Democratic ranks, that a Human Services Department audit found " the organization’s longtime chief executive, Bill Davis, misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars from 2011 to 2013."

Jesson said her department saw red flags in the nonprofit's administrative spending and began looking into it months ago.

"I think we've been taking this very seriously. A step at a time," she said. Community Action was given an opportunity to respond by September 1. Those responses did not assuage the worry.

"What we have seen so far has not alleviated the serious concerns we had," she said.

Jesson said the department looks into state subsidized nonprofit spending and results and audits those that do not comply with best practices.

Jesson said that Dayton's budget two years ago included more funding for Human Services auditing.

Monday morning, Dayton did not say definitively whether Community Action would receive any more state funding.

"Give us an opportunity here to converse among ourselves," and the city of Minneapolis, he said. Dayton said he only became aware of the spending when the Star Tribune reported it on Sunday.

Community Action, which is supposed to help low-income city residents, included state Sen. Jeff Hayden, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson and City Council Member Robert Lilligren on its board. The Star Tribune reported that those elected officials sent others to board meetings in their stead.

Dayton said the party affiliation of the board members -- they are Democrats -- did not change his feelings about the nonprofit's spending.

"I would be very alarmed if there were Democrats involved, I would very alarmed if there were not Democrats involved," Dayton said. "The fact that there were people who were placed in positions of responsibility who allegedly...spent public funds inappropriately, particularly funds that were intended to help people get out of poverty, is very disturbing to me."

Dayton campaign debuts first television ad of re-election bid

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 22, 2014 - 7:27 AM

By Patrick Condon

Gov. Mark Dayton is out with his first television ad of the campaign, a hockey-themed piece entitled "Darn Good Coach" that talks up the Democratic incumbent's first-term accomplishments. 

Dayton's campaign released the ad to the press Sunday. Spokesman Jeremy Drucker said it would begin airing on broadcast television stations statewide on Tuesday. 

"A few years ago, things in Minnesota weren't going very well," the ad begins. On the screen, a hockey player tumbles on the ice and a goalie misses several pucks as several statistics flash on screen: "$6 billion deficit. 100,000 jobs lost." 

"So we got a new coach," says the narrator, one of the hockey players. That's when Dayton appears, standing amid a group of players just off the ice. Dayton himself does not talk in the ad, but the narrator goes on to enumerate several economic milestones: more than 150,000 new jobs created, one of the nation's best state-level economies. 

The state of Minnesota's economy has been a main point of discussion in the governor's race, as Dayton attempts to take credit for improvements of the last four years. His Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson argues that things could be even better if state government spending increases under Dayton could be reigned in. 

Johnson's campaign has not yet aired broadcast television commercials, which are expensive. Johnson's fundraising has lagged behind Dayton so far, but the Republican said on Friday that he would have ads on the air by the end of September. 

In response to the Dayton ad, Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken said: "Mark Dayton is trying to paint a record that doesn't match reality. Dayton raised taxes by $2 billion--the largest tax increase in Minnesota history--and his all-DFL dream budget has led to Minnesota having one of the worst job-creation records in the country this year. Minnesotans are hungry for change and will be voting for it on November 4."

Dayton's campaign has reserved nearly $1.3 million in TV airtime from late September to Election Day. Drucker said the "Coach" ad would not be the only one. 

Dayton does not currently coach hockey; Drucker said the players in the ad belong to a Twin Cities men's hockey league. The governor is a former high school and college goalie, and he also coached one of his sons in youth hockey for eight years. 

It's the third sports-themed ad this year by a candidate for statewide office. Mike McFadden, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, ran an ad that featured his experience coaching youth football, and also ran a hockey-themed ad earlier in the campaign. 

The ad can be viewed here

Updated with Johnson campaign response.

Franken, Klobuchar back Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 18, 2014 - 7:13 PM

With support from Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, the U.S. Senate approved President Obama’s plan to train and equip Syrian rebels Thursday, backing his strategy to confront the Islamic State militants.

The legislation, drafted as an amendment to a routine bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30, grants the president authority to train foreign forces to confront the Islamic State.

Opponents in both parties framed the vote as a precarious step toward a wider conflict in a region where American troops have been fighting for more than a decade.

Less than 24 hours before the vote, Franken told the Star Tribune he was unsure if he would support the measure.

“While I do have real concerns about this strategy, I believe that training and arming the Syrian rebels is our best available option,” Franken said in a statement after the vote.

The U.S. House approved the measure Wednesday.

The authorization expires in mid-December with the spending bill it is attached to, ensuring lawmakers will revisit the issue before the end of the year. The bill language specifies that the measure is not a broad authorization of force against the Islamic State.

“There needs to be a full debate in Congress on an authorization to use military force,” Franken said. “What I don’t want is for this to be a slippery slope that leads to another protracted ground war in the region.”

The debate over how to respond to the Islamic State has emerged a flashpoint in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race. Federal authorities suspect that at least a dozen men and women have left the state to join the terrorist group.

Seizing on the potential threat to Minnesotans as a key campaign issue, Republican nominee Mike McFadden has criticized Franken’s, accusing the senator of blindly supporting Obama’s foreign policy.

Party line splits on House approval to arm Syrian rebels

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 18, 2014 - 12:42 PM

WASHINGTON -- It's not often that Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann and Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan join together to support the same amendment.

On Thursday, an odd blend of bedfellows voted against a $5 billion measure to arm Syrian rebels in the fight to combat the terror group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which passed 273 to 156.

Bachmann, Nolan and Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum voted against the proposal. Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Keith Ellison joined Republican Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen in support.

Bachmann tweeted after the vote: "Many of the so-called "moderate" rebels have already joined the cause of Islamic jihad. Concerned U.S. weapons could fall into enemy hands."

Nolan uttered a similar sentiment on the House floor Tuesday. His impassioned speech earned him exposure on the CBS morning news.

"Remember, last year at this time we were ready to attack (Syrian President) al-Assad and Syria. Now we appear in a tacit alliance with Assad and his allies to defeat ISIL," he said. "Today we appear ready to send $5 billion to the FSA ... The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result."

Paulsen said, in a statement, he supported the measure with reservations.

"I remain concerned about the administration's ability to effectively and appropriately vet Syrian opposition forces to ensure we are training groups aligned with our interest in defeating ISIL," he said, noting he found it "necessary to provide the president with this limited and short-term authority."

McCollum, in a statement, called the debate "rushed."

"The CIA is already training and arming Syrian fighters in Jordan, without congressional approval. How well has that worked? We are not discussing that as a body," she said.

The Senate takes this up Thursday. Sen. Al Franken in an interview on Wednesday said he had concerns about arming Syria and was still undecided.

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