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Posts about Minnesota U.S. senators

U.S. Senate candidate says he'll let voters know his philosophy, but he avoided giving specifics

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: April 10, 2014 - 2:11 PM

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden on Thursday avoided giving specific 'yes or no' answers to a variety of issues confronting the U.S. Senate, saying instead that voters would know his philosophy.

During the half-hour news conference, McFadden was asked whether Minnesota should have created its own health care exchange, as it did, or used the federal exchange, as some states chose. McFadden declined to answer specifically, but highlighted the Minnesota health exchange as a source of government waste.

Asked whether he would have voted with Republican U.S. Senators on Wednesday in blocking the Pay Equity Act, McFadden did not give a “yes or no” answer, but  he wanted his daughter, Molly, to have the same opportunities as his sons.

The best way to accomplish that, he said, “is to get this economy working. Asked again whether he would have voted for or against the measure, McFadden said, “I believe it is the wrong question… These are election-year tricks. It’s politics as usual.”

McFadden also declined to give a specific answer about “personhood” legislation, which would ban abortion by giving the fetus personhood rights upon conception. As senator, he said, “My focus is not going to be on polarizing issues."

He described himself as “pro-life,” but said he believed in “reasonable exceptions,” that included “sexual assault, incest and the life of the mother.”

Asked about raising the minimum wage, which has been opposed by most Republicans at the state and federal levels, McFadden again said it was “the wrong question.” He called the minimum wage “a very important safeguard,” and said he found it “problematic that you would have one single wage across the country.” He said his focus would be on getting “this economy going.”

Asked whether voters needed to know more specifics on his views, McFadden said: "I think they need to know my philosophy, how I think about things."

McFadden had called the news conference to declare that if elected he would take up the mantle of retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's annual Wastebook, to highlight waste in government.

He said during his campaign for Senate he would "highlight wasteful spending on a weekly basis through a new 'Waste of the Week' series on social media. His first examples of waste were the health exchanges in Minnesota, Oregon and Maryland.

Listen to the full audio of the news conference below:

Photo: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden/source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Sen. Al Franken says it's only "dignified" to raise minimum wage

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: April 3, 2014 - 5:41 PM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Al Franken made a case to boost the federal minimum wage to $10.10 Thursday saying minimum wage earners would be good consumers and boost the economy if they had more cash.

"Businesses do need more customers and folks making the minimum wage are customers," Franken said, at a rally on Capitol HIll. "I go to businesses and ask them, why aren't you expanding and they say we don't have enough demand ... not enough customers."

Then he deadpanned: "Goldman Sachs is right on this one. As they are on so many things."

Franken added: "Parents shouldn't have to work two or three jobs to clothe and feed and put a roof over the head of their children and not be able to go to their kids' game," he said. "It's just wrong. That's not our country. That's not the richest country in the world."

 

Partisan poll finds Franken has only slim leads on GOP rivals, "potentially vulnerable"

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: April 2, 2014 - 6:06 PM

A new Minnesota poll, commissioned by a partisan group, finds that Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken is "potentially vulnerable" as he mounts his bid for re-election.

It found that Franken has a 3 percentage lead over Republican Julianne Ortman and a 6 percentage point lead over Republican Mike McFadden.

The poll was conducted by Magellan Strategies for American Encore, a group connected to the Koch Brothers that is already running television ads bashing Franken. It included 1,081 likely Minnesota voters in late March.

The numbers in the poll will likely give American Encore and groups like it reason to keep pushing national money into Minnesota.

Minnesotans are nearly equally split on whether Franken is doing a good job as senator with 44 percent saying they approve of his job performance and 44 percent saying they do not, the poll found. Such splits have followed Franken's career -- he won his 2008 election by just 312 votes.

According to the poll, Franken is considerably less popular with Minnesotans than Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. It found that 57 percent of voters approve of the job Klobuchar is doing  Klobuchar won her 2012 re-election with 65 percent of the vote.

But it also found more Minnesotans disapprove of the job President Obama is doing, compared to Franken. The poll found that 53 percent of voters disapprove of Obama's job performance.

Although the poll was commissioned by a partisan organization, many of them are in line with recent non-partisan polling numbers. In February, a Star Tribune poll found that half of Minnesotans disapproved of Obama's job performance.  Last month, a Survey USA/KSTP poll found that Franken had single digit leads over some of his Republican opponents.

The poll's sample included 31 percent Democrats, 28 percent Republicans and 40 percent independent or something else. The February Star Tribune poll found that more Minnesotans considered themselves Democrats and fewer independent or something else.

Franken slams Supreme Court decision on campaign contribution limits

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: April 2, 2014 - 1:22 PM

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken slammed a Supreme Court decision that could give wealthy donors more influence over federal elections.

The justices ruled Wednesday that limits on the total amount of money donors can give to all candidates, committees and political parties are unconstitutional. The decision leaves in place the base limits on what can be given to each individual campaign.

In a statement issued by his office, Franken called the decision "terrible."

The decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission marks the latest round in the bitter national debate over the role of money in American politics.

“Ordinary people in Minnesota and around the country don’t have the luxury of pouring millions into political campaigns, and our democracy can’t function the way it’s supposed to when their voices are drowned out by a flood of corporate money,” Franken said. “Many of us believe that the measure of a democracy’s strength is in votes cast, not dollars spent – and for us, there’s nothing to celebrate today.”

The McCutcheon ruling could be the most important campaign-finance decision since the Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts independently to influence elections.

Franken has backed a constitutional amendment overturn Citizens United.

“Ever since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Citizens United in 2010, we’ve seen hundreds of millions of often completely anonymous dollars flood into our electoral process,” Franken said. “These rulings give wealthy, well-funded corporate interests undue influence, access and power.”

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

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