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, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

Posts about Minnesota campaigns

Republican consulting firm demands Minn. GOP repay overdue bills

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: March 2, 2015 - 7:10 PM

(This post has been updated.)

A Republican-allied national political consulting firm is demanding the Minnesota Republican Party pay back more than $200,000 in overdue bills related to last year's election. 

"We did work on behalf of the party," Peter Valcarce, founder and chairman of Salt Lake City-based Arena Communications, wrote in an email to state GOP Chairman Keith Downey. "That work was performed based upon the good faith belief that monies which had been deposited and budgeted for party mail in support of Mike McFadden and Stewart Mills would be promptly paid to us." 

Valcarce, who sent the email last Monday, confirmed its legitimacy in a phone call. Valcarce said Monday that Downey responded by promising to deliver a repayment plan by the end of the day this Monday. 

In an interview, Downey said the state GOP has paid up "about 80 percent of the vendor invoices" related to the 2014 campaign. "We're confident everyone is going to be paid everything they're owed," he said. 

In all, Downey said, the party has covered 90 percent of campaign 2014 costs. Of those vendors waiting to be paid, he said, about 20 percent of the total payment has yet to be made. 

A major focus of Downey's chairmanship of the state party has been to restore financial stability to a party that teetered near bankruptcy in recent years. He is running for a second two-year term as state party chairman at a party gathering on April 11. 

"We're on a sound financial footing," Downey said. 

Valcarce's email to Downey carries an angry tone at times. "Claims that 'financial obligations have been met' and the like speak volumes." He later wrote: "We will continue to explore all options regarding recovering the monies owed to us." 

In the phone interview, Valcarce called the situation unusual. 

"It's the first time I've taken a step like this with a state party in the almost 20 years I've been in business," he said. 

Downey downplayed the significance of the overdue bills, and the harsh tone by fellow Republican political operatives. "Vendor communications are typically in private rather than public," he said. 

Minnesota precinct caucuses scheduled for March 1, 2016

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: February 16, 2015 - 3:57 PM

Minnesota's precinct caucuses have been scheduled for March 1, 2016, a move that will bolster the state's relevance in the presidential nominating process, one party chair said.

In a letter to Secretary of State Steve Simon, DFL Party Chair Ken Martin and Republican Party Chair Keith Downey agreed to the date. In a statement, Downey said the March 1 date puts both in line with the nominating calendars of their national parties.

"This new date respects the traditional early-primary states' status, and positions Minnesota's caucuses to be part of a potential newly emerging March 1st group of states," Downey said. "We hope it will increase Minnesota's stature in the Presidential nominating process for both our parties next year, which all-around is good for Minnesota voters."

Minnesota's precinct caucuses generally take place in February. Read the letter here:


DFL outpaces GOP in known independent expenditure spending

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 3, 2015 - 3:10 PM

Groups spent at least $15 million last year trying to influence Minnesota state elections through so-called “independent expenditures,” which is in addition to money spent by individual candidates, according to the latest filing from the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. 

DFL-aligned groups outspent their Republican counterparts considerably, by $10 million to $6 million.

In addition to nearly $2.9 million by the state party and more than $900,000 by the DFL House caucus, Democrats were helped by familiar names: The Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund spent more than $4.5 million. Big labor unions PACs also pitched in, including Education Minnesota with more than $400,000 and big totals from AFSCME, SEIU and the nurses union.

On the Republican side, the party pitched in with $1.3 million. Minnesota Action Network, with which former Sen. Norm Coleman is affiliated, spent $657,000; Pro Jobs Majority spent more than $1 million, with several similar, business-backed groups chipping in six figure chunks. The House Republican caucus spent $440,000. 

What’s not known, however, is how much was spent by so-called “dark money” groups, nonprofit groups that can spend unlimited, concealed sums on elections and have sprouted up since the U.S. Supreme Court began deregulating campaign spending via the Citizens United decision. Republicans are believed to be the bigger beneficiary of this spending. 

Dayton outspent Johnson, but Johnson spent more at the end

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 3, 2015 - 9:11 AM

Via colleague Glenn Howatt: Gov. Mark Dayton outraised and outspent GOP nominee Jeff Johnson, but Johnson had a bigger push in the last days of the campaign, according to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. 

Here are the overview numbers for the governor's race: Dayton raised about $3.389 million and spent $3.471 million. He raised about $209,000 after Oct. 21 through the end of the year and spent about $513,000. 

Johnson raised nearly $2.5 million and spent about the same. He raised $263,000 in the stretch, after Oct. 21 and spent about $663,000.

Dayton raised $4,643 per day and spent $4,754. Johnson raised $4,096 and spent $4,075 per day. 

Morning Hot Dish: CamFi reports due today; Dems' fading prospects

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 3, 2015 - 8:42 AM

Bummer day for libertarians: The 16th Amendment to the Constitution, providing for a federal income tax, was ratified on this day in 1913. And for fans of early rock ‘n roll: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, on this day in 1959.

Gov. Mark Dayton will provide remarks at the 2015 Explore Minnesota Tourism Conference (Saint Paul RiverCentre, Ballroom, 175 West Kellogg Boulevard, Saint Paul.) Noon. Open press. He’ll meet with commissioners, legislators, and staff throughout the day and then host a reception at the Residence for legislators. (I asked a legislator about these early legislative receptions. The question was met with an eye roll to indicate how much Dayton enjoys doing them and/or how charming he is at these events.)

Number two

MinnPost with a profile of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. As if on cue, Smith will travel to Duluth to tour Ikonics Corp. today. In the afternoon, she will tour the Delta Airlines Iron Range Reservation Center in Chisholm. Both closed to the press. At 2:30, she will host a roundtable discussion on broadband Internet access in Chisholm (Delta Airlines Iron Range Reservation Center, Large Conference Room, 601 Oak Street, Chisholm.) That’s open press with an avail.

House HHS considers loan forgiveness for health workers in rural Minnesota.

Funny House Commerce agenda: “The committee will tour production facilities regulated under Chapter 340A.” Google “340A” and you’ll see it’s about various types of booze.

Full legislative schedule.

The price of politics

Major campaign finance data dump today; report will include final period of the 2014 campaign.

Expect the CamFi board to come back momentarily with a final advisory decision on Sen. David Tomassoni’s new job as executive director at RAMS, which has traditionally lobbied the Legislature, though he says he won’t be doing so. As he said to reporters Monday after the Senate session: “I don’t lobby in the Legislature. People lobby me. That’s how this job works.” He also said he hired lawyer/lobbyist Michael Ahern to be his lawyer because “Why wouldn’t I hire a lawyer who knows what he’s doing and that I know and that I trust?”

Legislature continues its assault on the State Lottery’s newer game delivery platforms, such as online, gas station pumps and ATMs. Story.

The Strib’s David Shaffer reports an administrative law judge blames Xcel for cost overruns of its major upgrade of the Monticello, Minn., nuke plant; ratepayers may still be on the hook.

Guilty verdict in police officer's killing.

Pretty sweet, for us.

Finally, the Senate had a nice tribute Monday to retiring Pioneer Press reporter Bill Salisbury and our own late Jim Ragsdale, who also had been a longtime Pioneer Press reporter.


The Strib’s Jim Spencer reports an Obama proposal for one-time tax on foreign profits, to be used for infrastructure, would hit some Minnesota companies. 

Times: Republican primary caught up in vaccination issue.

Times: Christie has fancy tastes.

John Judis co-wrote a book in 2002 called “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which was an explicit echo of Kevin Phillips’ 1969 book, “The Emerging Republican Majority.” Judis argued then that a growing non-white vote share plus college-educated whites would give Democrats a lasting edge. It was mostly correct, as Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. Now he thinks the tide has turned. Dems continue to lose working class whites, and 2014 showed they are now also slipping with college-educated workers who make between $50 and $100k. This would seem to be a national and not so much a Minnesota trend but worth a read.

Uh, what? In Politico Mag, a member of the Warren Commission worries they got it wrong.