Led by former Minnesota U.S. Sens. Rudy Boschwitz and Norm Coleman, 16 past and present Republican senators will host a Washington, D.C., fundraiser next month for Mike McFadden, one of Sen. Al Franken’s leading GOP challengers.
Set for March 5 at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the event is the clearest sign yet that McFadden, a former investment banker, has seized the support of the GOP establishment in D.C.
With Franken rated as one of the Congress’ most liberal lawmakers, his seat has long been a target for conservatives aiming to regain control of the Senate.
Along with Boschwitz and Coleman, the hosts are Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, John Thune of South Dakota and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
McFadden’s staff did not respond to questions about ticket prices for the event.
Franken defeated Coleman by the narrowest of margins in the 2008 election. By taking on a larger role to help Republicans recapture the seat, Coleman may be looking for political payback.
McFadden faces three other Republicans – state Sen. Julianne Ortman, state Rep. Jim Abeler and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dalberg -- for the party nomination.
While McFadden has the blessing of national Republicans, he still has to shore up his in-state support. He finished second to Ortman in the state straw polls this month and his GOP opponents and Democrats have hammered him for not participating in public debates.
Even if the McFadden doesn’t capture the party endorsement this spring, he’s widely expected to run in the August primary. His campaign staff has repeatedly said that he’s running against Franken, not the Republican field.
With $4.8 million banked thus far for his re-election run, Franken has a considerable fundraising lead on his would-be GOP opponents. McFadden, his closest competitor in the money race, had $1.7 million cash-on-hand at the end of January.
On a voice vote with no opposition, the U.S. Senate confirmed Minneapolis attorney Andrew Luger as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota.
Luger replaces B. Todd Jones, whom President Obama appointed to head the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) last year.
Luger served as assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 1992 in Brooklyn, N.Y., and an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota from 1992 to 1995, where he focused on white-collar crimes. He is currently a member of the Minneapolis-based Greene Espel law firm, where he specializes in civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.
The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared Luger’s nomination last month.
Noting that Minnesota has gone more than 880 days without a full-time U.S. attorney, Sen. Amy Klobuchar has pressed for weeks for a full chamber vote on Luger’s confirmation.
Jones served as both Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney and acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for two years until the Senate confirmed him as ATF director in July.
Sens. Klobuchar and Al Franken recommended Luger for the U.S. Attorney position last July. President Obama nominated him in November.
“We need to move ahead on this,” Klobuchar said during a speech on the Senate floor last week.
“Andy is well respected in the law enforcement community … He is committed to building and maintaining strong working relationships and partnerships between federal and local law enforcement.”
Newly available campaign finance reports highlight the fundraising disparity in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
According to documents on the Federal Election Commission's website on Monday, Republican candidate Julianne Ortman raised $234,000 so far for her bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Republican candidate Jim Abeler raised $87,000.
Franken has raised more than $12.4 million for his re-election campaign and had nearly $5 million cash on hand. Republican candidate Mike McFadden raised $2.2 million and had $1.7 million left in the bank at the start of the year. Republican candidate Chris Dahlberg raised far less.
Franken, McFadden and Dahlberg released the summary information from their reports by January 31, back when reports were due to be filed federally.
At that time, neither Ortman or Abeler released details of their fundraising reports. Because Senate candidates do not file their reports electronically, it takes a while for them to be uploaded to the FEC website. Ortman said last week that she had "nearly a quarter of a million dollars in 2013."
House candidates file their reports electronically so their fundraising information is available online when the reports are filed.
See all the fundraising information released by Minnesota's federal candidates for office below.
(scroll to see the numbers)
Both chambers of Congress will host hearings this month to probe passenger and freight rail safety in response to a spate of derailments involving tanks cars carrying crude oil.
Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, called for the hearings to examine the derailments, which rocked communities from New Mexico to New York.
For Klobuchar and Walz, the one that hit closest to home happened in December, when a train carrying crude oil ran off the tracks in Casselton, N.D., sparking a massive explosion that led authorities to evacuate the town.
A Senate subcommittee will meet Thursday to review "recent high-profile rail accidents, positive train control implementation and other key safety challenges," according to a release from Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat.
“The recent derailments in North Dakota and Canada underscore the need to find commonsense ways to strengthen our rail infrastructure and protect communities near rail routes,” said Klobuchar, a member of the committee.
The House Transportation Committee will host a subcommittee hearing Feb. 26.
Walz, a member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, called for a hearing on the potential pitfalls of hauling crude oil and hazardous materials. Concerns from residents in La Crescent, a town in his southern Minnesota district with a highly-trafficked freight rail route, sparked his push.
“We must do everything we can to protect the communities that these hazardous materials are shipped through,” Walz.
Witness lists for the hearings have not yet been released, but federal regulators are expected to attend both.
The Independence Party’s first candidate has entered the 2014 U.S.Senate race.
Hannah Nicollet, 39, of St. Paul will vie to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Al Franken. Six Republican candidates are also campaigning to take Franken's seat. Nicollet, who describes herself on her Twitter profile as a member of the “Mind Your Own Business Party, ideologically opposed to the Control Freak Party” is a married mother of two and vocal Ron Paul supporter.
Independence Party Chair Mark Jenkins lauded Nicollet for being the first to enter the race,
“I’m impressed with Hannah. She’s very smart and articulate and I’m glad to see we’ve got a good candidate stepping forward.”
A formal endorsement of the Independence Party’s Senate candidate won’t come until their May 17 convention in Mankato. Along with the U.S. Senate race, Independence Party candidates also announced their intention to run for governor and Minnesota State Auditor. Jenkins said he expects a full slate of candidates.
“I’m glad that some of the folks who are interested in running for Senate are stepping out and getting engaged in active campaigns,” Jenkins said. “I look forward to having two or three candidates for our delegates to choose from at our state convention.”
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