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Kline blasts Obama's war policies, worries about health of Minn. GOP

Rep. John Kline, Republican in the Second District serving his final year in Congress after 14 years, criticized the Obama Administration's handling of foreign military crises, elaborated on his recent presidential endorsement of Sen. Marco Rubio and visibly worried over the state of the Minnesota Republican Party in a wide ranging interview with local political reporters Monday. 

Kline, who was recently in Afghanistan and Kuwait, said President Obama has used a political calculation in capping the number of troops in Afghanistan, leaving commanders without the necessary flexibility to get Afghans the training and assistance they need to defeat the enemy Taliban. Kline said that impression came through in conversations with military officers there, and that he and Republicans in Congress would deliver that message to the White House, with potential legislative efforts to that effect.

"If you're going to be engaged, engage to win," he said. 

The seven-term incumbent and retired Marine Corps helicopter pilot was very open about why he endorsed Rubio: Because Rubio can win in Novemver. 

"If Marco Rubio is our nominee, we'll win" he said.   

Kline expressed some anxiety about the race to replace him in the Second District, which is considered a swing district in the St. Paul suburbs and reaching into rural Minnesota. He showed no particular favor of any Republican and said each would need to show the ability to raise money. Republican candidates will debate Monday night. 

He openly criticized the Republican Party of Minnesota as lacking the money or organization to be effective. 

Kline offered no specifics about what he'll do in retirement, other than fishing more, training a hunting dog and doing something for money, though he's not sure exactly what, he said. 

House DFL proposes constitutional amendment for campaign money disclosure

House DFLers proposed a state constitutional amendment Thursday that would make it easier to see who is giving money to efforts aiding candidates, the latest twist in an ongoing feud over the disclosure of campaign contributions.

Current law shields certain groups from having to disclose money they raise and spend as long as it is spent on so-called issue-based advertising that does not expressly say “vote for” or “vote against” a candidate.

The DFL says that’s a loophole and the proposed amendment would close it, requiring the groups to disclose where they receive the money and how they spend it.

A constitutional amendment would need to pass both houses of the Legislature to appear on the ballot and then be approved by the voters in November.

“It’s time for politicians to … give Minnesota voters the opportunity to decide for themselves if they have a right to know who is spending money to influence their vote,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Republicans said the proposal is designed to discourage GOP donors from giving to the groups, fearing their names would be made public.

“This proposal seeks to limit free speech for those who disagree with the DFL and their big-spending special interest friends,” said Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, chairman of the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. “Furthermore, it is unclear how amending the state Constitution would override federal protections of free speech.”

Thissen said he thinks now is the right time to bring the issue to the voters.

He said many Democrats were shocked by the volume of money spent in 2014, its true origins sometimes untraceable.

Mailboxes in many districts were flooded with dozens of mail pieces in the weeks leading up to that election, he said.

Both sides are now using newly relaxed campaign finance rules — the result of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions from the past decade or so — to raise more money than ever before and sometimes shield their donors from being revealed.

The proposal faces steep obstacles. It’s not clear it would even receive a House or Senate vote when the Legislature convenes March 8. The Republican House majority determines what measures are brought to the House floor, so Sanders’ opposition is significant.

 

J. Patrick Coolican • 651-925-5042

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