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, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Corey Mitchell, Allison Sherry and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Political ads

Alliance up with another TV ad hitting Johnson over minimum wage in governor's race

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 30, 2014 - 2:54 PM

A new TV ad from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is critical of Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson over the minimum wage issue.

The Alliance, a third party group that supports DFL candidates, has aired a series of TV ads against Johnson. The group said the new ad would begin airing statewide on Tuesday. 

The ad features a Minnesota woman, Jessica English, who talks about raising her kids for a time on minimum wage. "It was nearly impossible to get by," said English, raising concerns that Johnson would "reduce the minumum wage." 

"Johnson opposes raising the minimum wage, but he supports tax breaks for big corporations," English says in the ad. The Alliance cited several votes that Johnson took as a state legislator in 2005 to back up those claims. 

English, a former activist for Occupy Homes MN movement, is now an economic organizer for the progressive group TakeAction MN. 

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill earlier this year raising Minnesota's minimum wage by $1.85, to $8 an hour for large employers. It will keep going up to $9.50 an hour in 2016, and start indexing to inflation in 2018.

Johnson has been critical of the minimum wage bill, and said he does not support automatic increases in the minimum wage.

"He agrees with the woman in the ad -- that it's impossible to raise a family on a minimum wage salary," spokesman Jeff Bakken said. Bakken said Johnson would not cut the current minimum wage, and noted recent economic measures showing Minnesota last in private sector job creation in the Midwest. 

"We need more good-paying jobs in our state, and the only way to get them is to get rid of Mark Dayton," Bakken said. 

It's the third Alliance ad targeting Johnson's record. The full ad can be viewed here

Political outside spending down in Minnesota so far

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: September 26, 2014 - 7:01 PM

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glenn Howatt

So far independent and party organizations groups have spent at least $3.7 million in this year's Minnesota governor's race with most of it coming from organizations that support DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's election.

It would take a significant acceleration for the groups, which are not controlled by candidates, to reach the spending levels set in 2010.

Four years ago, when the governor's race had no incumbent, outside groups spent at least $11 million by the end of the election, according to a Star Tribune analysis of campaign finance figures.

The outside groups include political action committees, parties and others that must register with the state. The cash figures do not include cash spent by political nonprofits, which do not need to report their spending to the Minnesota campaign finance agency.

Of the $3.7 million, at least $2.4 million has come from the DFL party, the Democrat-supporting Alliance for a Better Minnesota and union groups.

The lack of spending among outside groups appears similar in Minnesota House races, according to filings made public this week.

So far, those PACs and parties have spent just under $1 million to influence who controls the House next year. Nearly half of that has been ponied up by the DFL Party and the DFL House campaign arm.

In addition, the Freedom Club has run about $900,000 worth of television ads that trash both DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the DFL Legislature. The Star Tribune included that figure to the spending on the governor's race.

Back in 2012, when the House was last up for election, PACs and parties spent a little more than $4 million to influence that election. Additionally, they spent about $6.7 million to influence the control of the Minnesota Senate. Senate seats will not be on the ballot until 2016.

Independence Party debuts small TV ad buy, humorous ad

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: September 25, 2014 - 4:10 PM

Meet the New Girl, the Intellect, the Advocate, the Guardian and the Whistleblower -- otherwise known as the Independence Party's candidates for statewide office this year. 

Minnesota's longtime alternative to the DFL and GOP, the IP still enjoys major-party status in the state -- at least for now. This year's candidates, led by gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet, on Thursday debuted a television ad that mimics a movie preview as it introduces them as a series of characters. 

IP Chairman Mark Jenkins said the ad buy is only $7,000, meaning it won't be widely seen. 

Nicollet, a 40-year-old former software developer from Roseville, took on the "New Girl" identity because of a physical resemblance to actress Zooey Deschanel, who stars on the Fox Television show of the same name. The rest of the "cast" is rounded out by lieutenant governor candidate Tim Gieseke as the Intellect, attorney general Brandan Borgos is the Advocate, auditor candidate Pat Dean is the Whistleblower and secretary of state candidate Bob Helland is the Guardian. 

"Together they are the Independents -- coming Nov. 4 to a State Capitol near you," the ad's narrator intones. The four campaigns are paying for the ad jointly. 

The Independence Party has been a major party under Minnesota law since 1994, when U.S. Senate candidate Dean Barkley collected just over 5 percent of the vote. It later became the political party of former Gov. Jesse Ventura.

IP statewide candidates have collected more than 5 percent of the vote in every successive election, and have at times been a factor particularly in governors' race. In 2002 former DFL congressman Tim Penny won 16 percent of the vote as the IP candidate, while in 2010 former Republican operative Tom Horner got about 12 percent of the vote. 

But a Star Tribune poll earlier this month showed Nicollet had only 1 percent support, and her fundraising has also been meager. As of the most recent campaign finance filing, she had about $11,000 in the bank. 

"It can only go up from here," Nicollet said Thursday. 

Collin Peterson pushes back against attack ad

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 25, 2014 - 3:28 PM

Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is pushing back against a Republican ad that blasts him for his office’s car leases and the mileage reimbursements he receives for traveling around his district in his personal airplane.

The ad is part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s $300,000-plus campaign to highlight the costs Peterson has accumulated while traveling across his 38-county district.

“Since 1991, I’ve been out there doing my job, meeting with constituents, and covering more events and meetings than I could if I was using a car,” Peterson said in a statement. “Minnesota's Seventh District stretches from the Canadian border almost to the Iowa line. These Washington outsiders have no idea how large and diverse this district is, how much ground it covers, or how to get around within it. Their ignorance is frankly remarkable."

With the campaign arms of the national Democratic and Republican parties pumping millions of dollars in attack ads into Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District race, both Peterson and his Republican opponent, Torrey Westrom, will be fighting back against a bevy of negative advertising . The NRCC has made $2.8 million in requests for ad time to go after Peterson while Democrats have booked $1.5 million for anti-Westrom ads.

The barrage of attack ads illustrates how high the stakes are in the race, where Peterson is seeking a 13th term and Westrom is aggressively pursuing an upset in the Republican-leaning district. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the district by almost a 10-point margin in 2012,  but Peterson -- the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee -- has coasted to re-election for much of his tenure in Congress.

Peterson should expect criticism of his travel costs to continue, GOP aides said.

“The last two [ads] have obviously highlighted Collin Peterson’s use of taxpayer-funded perks and it’s definitely a major theme of this campaign,” said NRCC spokesman Tyler Houlton.

After the NRCC aired its first Peterson ad, Democrats struck back with an ad criticizing Westrom for taking his legislative pay during Minnesota’s 2011 government shutdown. Westrom was among more than 100 state lawmakers who continued collecting his check.

“This is what desperate Democrats do when they know they are on the verge of losing,” Minnesota Republican Party Chair Keith Downey said in a statement this month.

Gun group tells Nolan: You need firearms training

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 24, 2014 - 2:18 PM

The Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee has offered to pay for firearms training for Democratic congressman Rick Nolan at the chain of retail stores owned by the family of his Republican opponent, Stewart Mills.

The offer came in response to a picture posted to Twitter on Wednesday showing the congressman holding an AR-15 rile with his finger on the trigger while surrounded by supporters.

Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners PAC, said Nolan’s actions were “unsafe and dangerous.”

Gun rights have emerged as a key issue in the Eighth Congressional District race. Mills released a campaign ad this summer that claimed Nolan is among the politicians who “have no respect for the Second Amendment.”

Nolan earned a ‘F’ rating The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund, but dismissed Mills’ ad as a “big lie, smear tactic.” Nolan aides said the congressman declined comment on Strawser’s offer.

“The basic rules of firearms safety, taught to students as young as 12 in [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] hunter safety classes, state clearly that one’s finger should be kept off the trigger until ready to shoot,” Strawser said.

“It’s nothing short of hypocritical for Mr. Nolan to be photographed at what appears to be a campaign event while holding an AR-15 rifle,” Strawser said. “Mr. Nolan has specifically called for a ban on the very rifle he is holding in this photograph.”

The Minnesota Gun Owners PAC offered to buy firearms training for Nolan at Mills Fleet Farm Indoor Shooting location in Baxter.

It’s the same shooting range where Mills, a company vice president, recorded an “open video letter” to Nolan and other Democrats in Congress, advocating for armed security in every school. He also argued against the push to pass gun control legislation in Congress, saying it “isn’t about controlling guns, it’s about controlling people and limiting your freedom.”

The video, which has racked up more than 307,000 views on YouTube, features a live-fire demonstration at the shooting range and may have unintentionally served as the soft launch for Mills’ congressional campaign. He officially entered the race five months later.

In the video, Mills notes that hunters can find an exclusive line of AR-15 sporting rifles at the location. But the political point was to challenge a Nolan assertion. During an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” said that “I don’t need an assault rifle to shoot a duck.”

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