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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

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U.S. Supreme Court decision strikes down aggregate limits on giving; may not have immediate impact on Minnesota law

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: April 2, 2014 - 6:16 PM

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."

Updated

Star Tribune data editor Glenn Howatt contributed to this report.

12-536_e1pf by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Rep. Tim Walz leads men in Mankato 5K Saturday

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: March 31, 2014 - 3:51 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tim Walz, who has peeled off 85 pounds in the last year, bested all other men in a YMCA 5k over the weekend in Mankato.

Running roughly 6 minute, 30 second miles, the 49-year-old Walz, a Democrat, took second place in the LiveStrong YMCA 5k. He finished in 20 minutes, 24 seconds.

He was beaten only by Jill Nolta, a 27-year-old runner who came in at 18 minutes, 44 seconds. According to a Google search, Nolta often takes first place in these types of events.

Walz's spokesman says the congressman is training for a marathon and often goes jogging before work on the National Mall when Congress is in session.

Minnesota Democrats press Obama to sign order protecting LGBT workers from discrimination

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: March 19, 2014 - 8:15 AM

Six of the seven Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation are among the House and Senate members pressuring President Obama to sign an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans from workplace discrimination.

All told, 195 members of Congress signed the letter, including U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum, Rick Nolan and Tim Walz signed the letter; Democratic congressman Collin Peterson did not.

Obama has the ability to ban employment discrimination by government contractors.

“Issuing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT workers in federal contracts would build on the significant progress for LGBT rights made during your time as President and would further your legacy as a champion for LGBT equality. We urge you to act now to prevent irrational, taxpayer-funded workplace discrimination against LGBT Americans,” the letter reads.

Congressional legislation would apply to all employers. The proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, but the legislation has stalled in the Republican-led House.

No Republicans signed on to the letter asking Obama to issue an executive order.

White House officials would prefer to see Congress pass ENDA, since executive action wouldn't protect all LGBT workers.

Ellison, a member of the U.S. House LGBT Equality Caucus, will moderate a panel discussion on transgender concerns, issues of inequality and LGBT youth experiences at 5 p.m. central standard time today at the Fridley Community Center.

Congressional letter to President Obama requesting an executive order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual an...

Minn. congressmen Nolan, Walz back Obama’s transit plans

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: February 28, 2014 - 6:51 AM

Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, Minnesota’s members of Congress on the House Transportation Committee, back President Obama’s proposal to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.

Obama released his plan this week at St. Paul’s refurbished Union Depot, saying that boosting infrastructure spending was one of the best ways to put people to work.

“I’m certainly on board with the president and his goals here,” said Nolan, a member of the panel’s subcommittee on highways and transit. “It’s essential for jobs, business and our future prosperity and safety.”

In a largely gridlocked Washington, both parties agree that spending on highways and other transportation infrastructure is necessary.

Obama and U.S. Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, want tax code revisions to fund the infrastructure improvements.

But how to pay for the upgrades is where they diverge.

The president's plan calls for spending $302 billion over four years. Camp’s plan would raise less than half that total through a one-time tax on corporate overseas profits.

“We’re certainly not going to agree on everything, but let’s make progress where we can, like on a bipartisan, robust transportation bill that creates jobs and makes our communities safer,” Walz said.

Both parties are looking for new funding because current financing for highways is falling short. The 18.4-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax and 24.4-cent-a-gallon tax on diesel fuel haven't been raised in 20 years.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said while traveling with the president that the Highway Trust Fund, which finances the federal highway system, could run dry by August.

With the current transportation bill expiring at the end of September, Obama urged Congress to pass new legislation this summer.

U.S. Rep. Walz hosts rail safety roundtable

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: February 24, 2014 - 1:06 PM

Ahead of a Wednesday congressional hearing on rail safety, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz will host a roundtable discussion with community leaders and first responders today in Winona.

Walz, a member of the House Transportation Committee, called for the Wednesday hearing on the dangers of hauling crude oil and hazardous materials in response to concerns from residents in La Crescent, a town in his southern Minnesota district with a heavily trafficked freight rail route.

The mayors and fire chiefs from La Crescent and Winona are among those expected to attend today’s meeting.

Representatives from the state Department of Transportation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Gov. Mark Dayton’s office also plan to attend.

One of the Republicans vying to run against Walz in November criticized the congressman’s approach on the issue.

“Moving oil via pipeline, rather than railcar, is about 70 percent cheaper and far safer. Yet Rep. Walz and his liberal buddies block the safe and efficient transport of U.S. energy and then carp about the danger of moving it by other means,” Jim Hagedorn said.

“Mark my words, their next move will be issuance of even more regulations against the railroad industry.”

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