WASHINGTON -- A top Republican campaign operative said Wednesday that Minnesota Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan are beatable this fall.
Nolan, of the 8th Congressional District, beat out an incumbent Republican in 2012 when President Obama swept the state. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1975 and 1981.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden said in a sit-down with reporters that Nolan has taken "unfavorable" votes on veterans issues that "won't play well" in northern Minnesota.
He also spoke highly of Stewart Mills, the millionaire businessman vying to unseat him.
"Mills has developed a strong following both online and off and will have the resources necessary to run a competitive race," said Walden, a Republican congressman from Oregon. "I think Stewart is going to give Nolan a real run for his money."
On Peterson, Walden said the veteran chair of the House Agricultural Committee "hasn't run an effective race since 1994."
Peterson is a Democratic outlier in the district, which has voted Republican in the last three presidential races. GOP state Sen. Torrey N. Westrom is running against him.
"This is a district that wants to vote Republican," Walden said. "They haven't had as viable choice to run for Congresss as they do this time with Torrey."
“Representatives Nolan and Peterson are strongly positioned in their races because they are on the side of middle class Minnesotans,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Stewart Mills’ suggestion that he is offended when millionaires like himself are asked to pay their fair share makes it clear he would side with Congressman Ryan’s budget that raise taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for millionaires like himself. Torrey Westrom has a long track record of irresponsibly selling out the middle class, especially when he voted to slash early childhood education when we need to invest in preparing our kids for the high-tech 21st century economy.”
WASHINGTON -- GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen, a member of the Congressional Soccer Caucus and coach of his daughter's soccer team, faces actual pros in a soccer match here tonight benefitting after-school programs.
Paulsen will suit up at RFK Stadium, the home field for D.C. United, with other members of the soccer caucus, including Democratic Reps. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Colleen Hannabusa of Hawaii.
The members will also play with representatives from several embassies (watch out for Brazil, Spain and Italy) as well as professional players from D.C. United and the U.S. women's national soccer team.
The pros include John Harkes, former U.S. national team captain, Brianna Scurry and Staci Wilson, both former players on the U.S. women's national soccer team, and Ben Olsen, the current head coach for D.C. United.
The Congressional Soccer Caucus is an uncustomary kumbaya-like group of people -- Democrats and Republicans who have joined together to promote soccer. The game is a benefit for the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which will donate the money to after-school programs, according to its website.
"Spending more time with my colleagues outside the Capitol helps build bipartisan relationships," Paulsen said, in a statement. "While I've competed in other Congressional competitions, soccer is the sport I grew up playing, and I'm excited to kick the ball around with some of the best players to ever wear the U.S. jersey."
Democratic Congressman Rep. Keith Ellison is urging the U.S. Labor Department to step up enforcement against wage theft.
Ellison and two Democratic colleagues wrote to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez this week, asking him to do more to address complaints of companies that hold federal contracts paying workers below the minimum wage, demanding off-the-clock work and denying time-and-a-half pay for overtime.
The lawmakers also asked Perez to make data on wage theft more accessible to federal agencies so they can make better decisions about which companies deserve contracts.
A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee study conducted last year found that companies that hold federal contracts accounted for nearly half of the total fines assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2012.
Ellison has emerged as one of Congress' most vocal advocates for federal workers.
President Obama signed an executive order in February that established a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour for employees on new government contracts after Ellison and other progressive leaders pressed Obama on the issue for most of 2013.
The White House is also developing new rules that would expand the number of employees eligible for overtime pay.
A new Minnesota poll, commissioned by a partisan group, finds that Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is "potentially vulnerable" as he mounts his bid for re-election.
It found that Franken has a 3 percentage lead over Republican Julianne Ortman and a 6 percentage point lead over Republican Mike McFadden.
The poll was conducted by Magellan Strategies for American Encore, a group connected to the Koch Brothers that is already running television ads bashing Franken. It included 1,081 likely Minnesota voters in late March.
The numbers in the poll will likely give American Encore and groups like it reason to keep pushing national money into Minnesota.
Minnesotans are nearly equally split on whether Franken is doing a good job as senator with 44 percent saying they approve of his job performance and 44 percent saying they do not, the poll found. Such splits have followed Franken's career -- he won his 2008 election by just 312 votes.
According to the poll, Franken is considerably less popular with Minnesotans than Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It found that 57 percent of voters approve of the job Klobuchar is doing Klobuchar won her 2012 re-election with 65 percent of the vote.
But it also found more Minnesotans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, compared to Franken. The poll found that 53 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance.
Although the poll was commissioned by a partisan organization, many of them are in line with recent non-partisan polling numbers. In February, a Star Tribune poll found that half of Minnesotans disapproved of Obama's job performance. Last month, a Survey USA/KSTP poll found that Franken had single digit leads over some of his Republican opponents.
The poll's sample included 31 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republicans and 40 percent independent or something else. The February Star Tribune poll found that more Minnesotans considered themselves Democrats and fewer independent or something else.
On Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal limits on how much an individual can give to campaigns in aggregate, which could allow high dollar donors to spread their largess to a wider swath of political hopefuls and parties.
Unlike the federal system, which essentially limited how many donations in total a donor could give, Minnesota law does not place restrictions on the number of campaigns to which a high-dollar donor can contribute.
Current state law allows donors to give massive amounts to parties or PACs and allows donors to spread their donations to as many candidates or party committees as they wish.
"We’ve never limited the amount that an individual donor can give to a whole group of candidates," said Gary Goldsmith, executive director of the Minnesota campaign finance board. "We don’t limit at all the amount of money that an individual can give to a party."
Minnesota does place limits on how much candidates can accept from certain types of donors but Goldsmith said those restrictions were not considered by the court.
Other states, including Wisconsin, do have laws to limit the aggregate donations a contributor can spend in an election cycle, according to the National Institute of Money in State Politics. Those nine states' laws may be directly impacted by the federal decision.
The Supreme Court did not overturn the concept of limiting what a campaign can accept from a donor. Currently, donors are limited to giving $5,200 per candidate per election cycle to federal candidates. Minnesota law puts similar restrictions on what an individual can give to a single candidate.
The court's decision will have a much more far reaching impact on federal campaigns and parties, including those from Minnesota.
DFL chair Ken Martin said the ruling allows parties to tap donors for funds, even if those donors had already given to multiple other parties or candidates.
"It has a big impact on state parties," said Martin.
Currently, donors are limited to giving $123,200 for 2013 and 2014 in total to all federal campaigns. That limit made federal cash difficult to raise, Martin said. The Minnesota parties were not limited to what they could raise from individuals in their state committees.
After the decision, Minnesota parties will be able to raise more federal money -- up to $10,000 per individual -- from donors whether or not those individuals had already given to many other federal committees.
"That is hugely helpful to state parties," Martin said. He said the lifting of the overall cap will mean that parties can be more involved in helping federal candidates "up and down the ballot here in Minnesota."
Minnesota Republican Party chair Keith Downey said the decision may mean candidates and parties will be able to raise more.
"It will serve to direct campaign spending toward those who are closest to the public and most publicly accountable for their campaign activities. It also underscores the importance of both transparency and the protection of political speech, which are so important in our political process," Downey said.
Several donors with Minnesota ties have contributed enough in 2013 that they could have bumped up against the limit the court struck down.
According to a Star Tribune analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics, John Grundhofer, former chairman of U.S. Bancorps, donated $142,200 through the end of last year and Patricia Grundhofer, whose is listed on federal documents as the director of the John F. Grundhofer Charitable Foundation, donated $125,600. They gave primarily to non-Minnesota Republican committees.
Stanley Hubbard, head of Hubbard Broadcasting and a a frequent donor to state as well as federal causes, gave nearly $100,000 to federal committees last year alone. He said that every election cycle he gets many calls soliciting donations and he has to refuse them because he is maxed out.
Hubbard has a simple prediction for what will happen now that the court rejected the overall limits: "They are going to start calling."
Star Tribune data editor Glenn Howatt contributed to this report.
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