A renewed wave of political ads are adding heat to Minnesota's sultry summer television viewing.
With one of the nation's most expensive U.S. Senate races on the air, gubernatorial candidates making their cases and outside groups adding volume, paid political pitches are redoubling their assault.
The candidates and their friends have already spent at least $3 million to air their messages across the state and groups are reserving even more time for later in the year.
In recent weeks, the paid advertising messages came into sharper focus.
On Monday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden announced he would broadcast an ad called "Stitches," in which he and his son brag that McFadden took his sons sutures out himself rather than paying medical professions to do it. The ad, which had a limited cable run earlier this year, came on the heels of an ad in which McFadden was hit below the belt by a kid he was coaching in football.
While those ads have begun to get significant notice, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken's ad budget far surpasses what McFadden has spent. Franken has ponied up more than $1.5 million to spread a message that he cares more about regular Minnesotans than partisan Washington fights.
Franken has more money to spend. He is one of the Senate's most prodigious fundraisers and raised more than all but one incumbent in the last quarter of the year, according to recent reports.
While that premiere race has yet to attract much outside cash in recent months, races lower on the ballot are attracting notice.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson supporters banded together to produce an advertisement designed to support the party-endorsed candidate. Group volunteer Chris Tiedeman, an RNC committeeman, told Politics.MN it would air on television in the coming weeks.
Johnson's campaign said on Monday it would start running its own ads on cable in advance of the primary. Like McFadden's "Stitches" ad, the Johnson ad has been online for months and, like the McFadden ad, it take a lighthearted approach to a serious issue.
Republican Rep. Kurt Zellers, who will vie against Johnson, former Rep. Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour, started his own paid advertising program last week. Honour’s consultant Pat Shortridge said Honour has spent almost $100,000 on cable ad time and another $42,000 on radio ads. A group largely funded by Honour's former employer, the Gores Group, has also spent more than $200,000 to support Honour.
Meanwhile, the man the Republicans hope to unseat, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has yet to storm the airwaves -- but his friends have started the assault.
The big spending Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota put significant cash behind a pro-Dayton ad that began airing recently.
The Alliance, which invested considerable cash back in 2010 to bash Dayton's Republican opponent, used the ad to make a pitch for the idea that Minnesota is better off now than it was four years ago before Dayton was elected.
Television viewers this year had already seen ads trashing Dayton. Early this month, the big spending conservative Freedom Club began airing an anti-Dayton ad on broadcast television.
The conservative, Minnesota-based Freedom Club has started running a broadcast ad going after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton “and the Democrats.”
The ad, which targets government spending, repeatedly mentions a “luxury office building” in reference to the new Senate office building going up this year.
“Minnesota, we deserve better,” is the ad’s tagline.
According to public documents, the group has spent significant cash to run the ad. It spent nearly $160,000 to run it on KARE11 through August. That would indicate more than $500,000 in spending if it equalized its ad time across all four statewide stations.
With millions of dollars in campaign spending in recent years, the Freedom Club, supported by wealthy Minnesota conservatives, is one of the largest political action committees in the state.
Both Dayton's campaign and the pro-Democrat Alliance for a Better Minnesota sent reporters fact checks, claiming the ad takes the record out of context and gets basic things wrong.
Freedom Club officials did not return a message inquiring about the ad.
WASHINGTON -- The National Republican Congressional Committee will spend $3.2 million in Twin Cities television this fall on behalf of Stewart Mills and Torrey Westrom, both of whom are trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Reps. Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson.
Republican officials announced the ad reservations Tuesday. The Minnesota buys are a part of a $30 million national effort in outside independent expenditures ahead of the mid-term elections. Independent spending means the NRCC can't, by law, coordinate with Mills or Westrom's campaigns.
The move is strictly offensive; the NRCC doesn't plan on spending any money for its incumbent Republicans.
“These initial ad reservations should strike fear in the campaign offices of both Rick Nolan and Collin Peterson," said Tyler Q. Houlton, NRCC spokesman, in an e-mail. "With Republican candidates as strong as Stewart Mills and Torrey Westrom, we are going on offense and are in a great position to win in November.”
A leading group opposing Minnesota Democrats has launched its first television advertisement attacking DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the state’s health insurance exchange.
The 30-second ad ties President Obama’s health insurance overhaul with the troubled launch of the state’s health insurance exchange, MNsure.
"Barack Obama and Mark Dayton promised Minnesotans that Obamacare would help make things better,” said Ben Golnik, chairman of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition. “MNsure remains a mess defined by missed goals, lost policies and bonuses for executives who failed in their jobs. Dayton is so out of touch with Minnesotans he even claimed Obamacare was working 'phenomenally well.'"
Dayton’s campaign dismissed the ad as misleading.
"The reality is that today more Minnesotans than ever have access to quality healthcare at the lowest rates in the nation – with MNsure reducing the number of uninsured Minnesotans by 40 percent in its first year,” said Dayton campaign manager Katharine Tinucci, citing a new University of Minnesota study.
The ad is part of a larger strategy in which Republicans nationally are blasting Democrats over the health insurance overhaul. Democrats are starting to punch back hard with stories of Americans who have been helped by the program. They are also highlighting that Republicans have not unveiled an alternative.
“This is a reminder of the Republican approach that would bring Minnesotans back to the days of out of control healthcare costs, discrimination against preexisting conditions, and lack of coverage for basic services like mammograms," Tinucci said.
Golnik said they will spend somewhere around $50,000 to run the ad statewide on cable and digital broadcast. That is generally not enough money to give the ad significant statewide reach.
The head of Alliance for a Better Minnesota, the main outside group attacking Republicans, would not say when they will launch their first ad.
"When it's strategically smart" said Carrie Lucking, executive director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota.
She also jabbed Golnik's group, however, saying that the group would not run "an ad attacking Obamacare the day after we learn that it's reduced our uninsured rate by 40 percent."
Here's the ad:
Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement Friday that will sharply limit his ability to personally bankroll his re-election campaign.
Dayton agreed not to spend more than $20,000 of his own money in exchange for about $447,000 in public subsidy. The agreement also limits Dayton’s campaign to about $3.6 million.
That's a sharp contrast to 2010, when Dayton poured $3.7 million of his own money into the campaign and narrowly beat GOP rival Tom Emmer.
Now an incumbent with a list of accomplishments, the governor said the agreement will allow him to spend less time raising money and more time traveling the state meeting with Minnesotans.
The agreement has no bearing on what outside groups can spend defending Dayton or attacking his rivals.
Dayton, a department store heir, has already embarked on an active fundraising schedule, taking in more than $1.1 million.
Dayton and his running mate, Tina Smith, came to the Secretary of State’s office Friday to file the paperwork to make their campaign official.
The governor said the theme of his first campaign was to make Minnesota better.
“I think we’ve indisputably made Minnesota a better state,” said Dayton, noting new education investments, a balanced budget and progressive legislation, such as legalization of same-sex marriage. “That’s why I am running, not only to make Minnesota better, but to make it the best.”
Dayton and Smith will travel to Duluth this weekend to accept the DFL’s endorsement for governor and lieutenant governor.
Ample signs are already emerging that Dayton will have a heated and divisive race.
A GOP group that has criticized Dayton and Democrats for months parked a rented truck in front of the Secretary of State’s office displaying a huge banner criticizing the governor for the troubled rollout of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.
The group, Minnesota Jobs Coalition, plans to park the truck outside the DFL State Convention in Duluth.