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

GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen cautiously backs a plan to overhaul the nation’s tax laws

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: February 27, 2014 - 10:04 AM

Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is cautiously backing a sweeping House Republican plan to overhaul the nation’s tax laws.

Rolled out Wednesday, the proposal would end a number of popular tax breaks to help pay for lower overall tax rates.

Paulsen is Minnesota’s lone member of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee, the Republican-led House of Representatives’ tax-writing panel.

“No plan is perfect.  But, it’s time to end the status quo and fix a broken tax code … that is too costly, too complex, and takes too much time to comply with,” Paulsen said in a statement. “We need a tax code that promotes savings, investment, achievement, innovation, and hard work.  This draft proposal provides real solutions to create a healthy economy.”

Ways and Means Committee chair Dave Camp’s plan would drop the top income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and would reduce the number of income tax brackets from seven to two.

The plan would eliminate or reduce popular tax breaks for medical expenses, moving expenses, child care and energy-efficient homes, along with slashing the mortgage interest deduction for homes worth a half-million dollars or more.

In exchange, the plan would increase the child tax credit would and consolidate a number of tax breaks for education expenses.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison panned the plan, arguing that it does little to address the nation’s income inequality.

Ellison said tax reform should “stop government spending that only benefits the wealthy and increase spending that supports working families, the poor and seniors.”

The proposal “hurts working people and their families, and expands loopholes that big companies already use to avoid paying taxes. It puts a greater burden on individual taxpayers and helps profitable corporations pay even less back to the country that made their profits possible,” Ellison said in a statement.

The issue is likely to stall in Congress in this midterm election year.
 

Ahead of St. Paul visit, Obama faces GOP plea to repeal medical device tax

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: February 24, 2014 - 3:37 PM

Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen is urging President Obama to visit a medical technology company during his trip to the Twin Cities on Wednesday.

Paulsen wrote to the president over the weekend, asking for help to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s tax on medical devices.

Money raised from the 2.3 percent excise tax is intended to fund expanded health care coverage for upwards of 30 million Americans under President Obama's health care law.

But Paulsen has called the tax, which began in January 2013, a "tax on innovation."

Minnesota is home to hundreds of medical device companies that employ more than 30,000 people.

Last week, the medical device industry’s major trade group, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, released a survey that says the tax cost the industry tens of thousands of job in 2013.

“This industry is an American success story, but it is being hit especially hard by the Medical Device Tax that passed as part of the Affordable Care Act,” a portion of Paulsen’s letter to the president reads. “With your support, we can repeal this onerous tax and protect jobs, expand high-tech manufacturing here at home, and create and provide more life-saving and life-changing technology to American patients.”

In 2012, the Obama administration threatened to veto Paulsen’s legislation, but congressional support for a repeal is growing.

Paulsen’s bill has more than enough support to pass the Republican-led House, but Senate Democrats have thus far been unwilling to deal a blow to one of the president's signature legislative accomplishments.

Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Democrats, have urged their colleagues to repeal the tax. The state’s entire House delegation also opposes the tax.

Here’s a copy of Paulsen’s letter:

Device Tax Letter to President Obama

GOP U.S. Senate candidate fundraising numbers arrive

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: February 10, 2014 - 5:01 PM

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)

Federal fundraising figures, finally

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: January 31, 2014 - 9:52 AM

Friday is Federal Election Commission deadline day when federal candidates and groups must file their fundraising figures for 2013.

Follow along as we update our chart below with the cash hauls reported the the campaign finance agency.

Note: You may need to scroll a bit to see all the numbers.

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