Another series of mailers targeting DFL House members up for re-election has again drawn the ire of the party after saying Democrats are responsible for “putting convicted drunk drivers back on the roads” for passing legislation requiring people with multiple DWI convictions to use an ignition-interlock device. The mailers also triggered a response from the national president for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and, locally, Minnesotans for Safe Driving.
The mailers, which again target at least half-dozen DFL House members, give various accusations that they voted to make it easier for convicted drunken drivers to get back behind the wheel. One calls St. Cloud Rep. Zach Dorholt a "bar owner" who “weakened penalties for horrific drunk driving crashes,” while another says Eagan Rep. Sandra Masin “Weakened penalties for dangerous drunk drivers. Putting our families in harm’s way?” imposed over a background of a shattered windshield. The mailers are each marked as paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
DFL House caucus spokesman Michael Howard said the mail pieces refer to HF 2255, legislation that requires people with multiple drunken-driving convictions to use an ignition-interlock device, which requires a breath test by the driver before the vehicle can be started. The bill passed 71-57 in the House and unanimously in the Minnesota Senate.
“These last-minute attacks are designed to leave candidates with no time to respond and set the record straight, and they are shameful,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said in a statement.
The mailers are the second in a row that drew ire from the DFL, after others accused lawmakers of making it easier for felons to work in schools. The mailer was in reference to a bill reforming the state’s expungement laws. The DFL alerted representatives of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, who in a letter called the mailers “misleading.”
The Republican Party of Minnesota did not respond to a request for comment.
The mailers also triggered a response from MADD National President Jan Withers, who said the organization backed the legislation because she said requiring an interlock device is more effective than license revocation alone.
“MADD supported these measures because simply hoping that convicted DWI offenders will not drive on a revoked license is bad public policy,” Withers wrote in the letter to Thissen. “License revocation without an interlock requirement is like using cancer treatments that were best practices 25 years ago. If this ‘treatment’ were effective, there would not be over 63,000 Minnesota residents with three or more DWI convictions on their driving records.”
The letter does not appear to address the mailers, but instead thanks lawmakers “for working to reform the state’s drunken-driving law.”
Nancy Johnson, legislative liaison for Minnesotans for Safe Driving and a victim of drunken driving, expressed similar support for the law in a letter to Thissen, while condemning the mailers.
"The idea that the Legislature was being soft on drunk drivers when they passed a bill in 2014 which allowed those arrested and/or convicted of (criminal vehicular operation) to have Ignition Interlock available to them is ridiculous." Johnson wrote.
Read the MADD letter below:
A throng of business owners stood in support of U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden Monday to counterattack an advertisement by his Democratic opponent Sen. Al Franken that alleges McFadden’s company was involved in a job-killing business deal.
While McFadden traveled the state, his colleagues took to his defense, including Paul Grangaard, CEO of Allen Edmonds Shoe Company and Robin Engelson, former Managing Director at Lazard Middle Market who is now managing partner of Sapphire Financial. Engelson called the ad "intentional manipulation to stir up emotion."
“I want to make a few things perfectly clear. One: Mike McFadden has never shipped a single job overseas. Two: He has never inverted a company to help avoid paying U.S. taxes,” Engelson said. “Three: his company, Lazard Middle Market, is based in the United States and pays United States taxes. And Four: Mike McFadden has never closed a single plant or laid off a single worker.”
McFadden and his campaign have repeatedly disputed Franken’s latest ad, which features workers laid off after the 2009 shuttering of a Montana mill following the restructuring of Smurfit Stone Container Corp. The ad links the closing to McFadden’s company, Lazard Middle Market. McFadden has taken a leave of absence from his role as CEO of the company during his U.S. Senate bid. He also launched a counterattack Monday in his own ad that said the attacks were evidence that "typical politicians don’t have a clue about jobs."
McFadden maintains that not only was his Lazard Middle Market not involved in the transaction, but that both his firm and its parent company have no control over operational decisions. A campaign spokesman said McFadden ran Lazard Middle Market, while the company responsible for the Smurfit layoffs was Lazard Middle Market's parent company, Lazard Frères. The issue was also raised during Sunday’s heated debate.
The Franken campaign pointed out that the Smurfit Stone deal was mentioned on Lazard Middle Market’s website until the advertisement’s debut, and then was scrubbed. McFadden’s campaign has maintained they don’t know why the business deal was mentioned there, or why it was removed. The deal is still mentioned on the parent company's website.
“Investment Banker Mike McFadden is trying to distract from the fact that his company worked on a deal that resulted in more than 400 workers losing their jobs. We know this because his company, Lazard Middle Market, took credit for it on its website while Mike McFadden was still CEO.” Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said in a statement. “The fact that his company tried to scrub the deal from its website after the ad started airing on TV just shows that Mike McFadden is trying to hide his profits-over-people mentality from Minnesotans,”
Engleson said the company’s mention may have been on Lazard Middle Market’s website to show it as an area of expertise, “but again, that expertise is with the restructuring of debt, not with restructuring operations.”
No Lazard Middle Market representatives were present at Monday’s news conference. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the record.
“The company itself is going to have to speak for itself,” McFadden campaign manager Carl Kuhl said.
On Lazard Middle Market’s website, a disclaimer reads that “References to ‘Lazard’ include Lazard Frères & Co. LLC, Lazard Middle Market LLC, and other subsidiaries of Lazard Ltd.”
The ad is among others that has drawn McFadden’s ire, including an 18-month-old web ad by the Alliance for a Better Minnesota that features video of McFadden’s daughter Molly -- taken from a McFadden ad -- and paints him as “Just another rich guy who likes to fire people.” The ad was not commissioned by the Franken campaign.
Kuhl said McFadden has run a positive campaign, and that advertismeents lambasting Franken for voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time are “factually based on Sen. Franken’s record. Period.”
“We’re not running any negative personal advertising. We’re not going after Sen. Franken’s character,” he said. “We’re talking about Sen. Franken’s record.”
More than $12 million has already been spent to sway the outcome of Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District election.
The vast majority, almost $9 million, has come from outside groups.
The parties, the PACs the interest groups have poured on the cash to re-elect Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan or replace him with Republican challenger Stewart Mills.
The result is that viewers of Eighth District television could see more than 100 ads in the district during the final week -- as well as dozens from supporters and the candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and down ticket races. There are so many ads flooding the northern Minnesota district that television stations are increasing the cost of ads.
Only some of those ads will be directly from U.S. House candidates. Both Nolan and Mills have raised significant cash but neither can compete with the horde of interest groups making their wishes known.
The outside money has largely gone to tear down Nolan and Mills. According to public data, groups have spent $4 million to oppose Mills and almost $3.5 million to oppose Nolan.
With expenditures of $3 million and $2.4 million, respectively, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are the biggest investors in the district's outcome.
The Rothenberg Political Report recently changed its rating of the race to "Toss-up/Tilt Democrat".
Here's a look at the candidates' fundraising:
With questions about the state's health exchange and Republican campaign ads swirling, Gov. Mark Dayton dashed from a Thursday afternoon event about housing without taking questions from the waiting press.
Dayton's decision to leave the event through a side door with his staff was unexpected. His staff had indicated he would answer questions from reporters.
It was also unusual. The DFL governor generally makes himself available to the media.
Dayton, who is up for re-election in 12 days, made remarks at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency Housing Awards announcement in St. Paul, listened to comments from two lawmakers and then, about 25 minutes in to the event got up to leave.
His spokesman, Matt Swenson, said the governor said as he left that he would not take questions from the press. Reporters who followed him out of the side door he exited saw his state vehicle exit the building's rear parking lot.
On Thursday, the Star Tribune reported that the Dayton administration had sought lower rates from an insurer that signed up to provide health insurance through MNsure, the state's health exchange. That insurer, PreferredOne, dropped out of the exchange this year.
Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson said Dayton should have stayed to answer questions about that.
"That’s part of the job of the governor whether it is him, me or someone else," Johnson said. He suggested the Dayton administration is panicking over the recent MNsure news.
He pledged that if he were governor, he would not avoid reporters.
"I will never unexpectedly run away from you," he said.
Also Thursday, the Minnesota Republican Party decided to delete the photo of a young boy who died from abuse in a television commercial trashing Dayton. That decision came after pressure from the boy's grandmother.
Thursday afternoon Dayton appeared at a campaign event with former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton. He was also slated to appear at a fundraiser with the former first lady in the evening.
Photo: The governor's caravan driving away from Thursday's housing event. Source: David Joles, Star Tribune.
(Updated 4 p.m.)
The grandmother of 4-year-old Eric Dean, whose death by abuse in 2013 exposed gaps in Minnesota's child protection services, said Thursday that the state Republican Party agreed with her request to remove the child's photo from a TV ad critical of Gov. Mark Dayton.
"Our family's trying to heal, and with this now, it's bringing everything up again and it's just so hard to move on," Yvonne Dean told the Star Tribune. "This type of ad campaign needs to stop."
Yvonne Dean said she got several calls Thursday morning from Republican Party chairman Keith Downey about the ad, after she called the party seeking to get the ad taken down. Dean said Downey initally told her the party felt within legal rights to reference the case and include an image of Eric Dean. A short while later, she said Downey called back to say the image of Eric would be removed from the ad.
Downey did not respond to an interview request. The party released a statement shortly after noon apologizing for not notifying the Dean family prior to the ad, and saying it would remove Eric Dean's picture from the ad.
"The ad is currently being revised and an edited version will begin airing as soon as possible," the party statement said. Yvonne Dean said Thursday afternoon that after some misunderstandings, she was willing to accept an ad that showed a headline about the case, but did not include the picture of Eric or a specific mention of his case.
Yvonne Dean, who lives in Starbuck, is the mother of Eric's father, David Dean. Amanda Peltier, who was married to David Dean and was Eric's step-mother, was convicted of the boy's murder and is now serving a life sentence.
Yvonne Dean's concerns about the ad were first reported Wednesday night by Michael Brodkorb, a former Republican political operative who now blogs for the Star Tribune.
Eric Dean's death in 2013 was preceded by 15 reports of maltreatment. Last May, before the details of Eric Dean's death were widely known, the Legislature passed and Dayton signed a law that forbid county agencies from considering past abuse reports that were rejected when deciding whether to investigate a new report.
The ad, titled "Incompetence" and paid for by the state GOP, began airing this week. It criticizes Dayton for his handling of several controversial issues, including the Dean case. Over dual images of a Star Tribune front page with a picture of Eric Dean on the front, and a picture of Dayton, the narrator says it was "downright horrifying when he signed a law making it more difficult to investigate maltreatment cases."
The bill at issue got votes from both DFL and Republican lawmakers when it passed last May. After details of Dean's death became publicly known, Dayton and the bill's backers said they had not foreseen that the provisions in the bill could make it more difficult for authorities to respond to multiple reports of child abuse.
Dayton, who also said he believes Pope County officials bear the brunt of responsibility for not responding properly to the abuse reports, has since convened a task force on child abuse and charged it with proposing law changes to address gaps in the child protection system.
Dayton's Republican opponent, Jeff Johnson, has been critical of Dayton's role in the legislation, though his campaign was not involved in preparing the ad in question. Yvonne Dean, who described herself as a Republican, said she hoped Johnson's campaign would condemn the use of the case in the ad.
The Johnson campaign released a statement saying it was the right call to remove the image from the ad, and expressing condolences to the Dean family.
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