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.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has joined with Republican colleague Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa to push federal investigations of alleged restrictions on the sales of ethanol by the nation's major oil companies.
The senators cited a recent report by the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group representing the ethanol industry, that claims name-brand oil companies unfairly limit sales of ethanol at service stations selling their products.
Klobuchar and Grassley have written to U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez asking them to investigate a number of charges for possible legal and regulatory violations. The senators have asked for "a substantive evaluation of your conclusions regarding possible anticompetitive behavior by certain oil companies and any proposed solutions or actions the DOJ and FTC will take to resolve this issue."
Among charges leveled by the renewable fuels group at Big Oil:
Brand name service stations can only sell products provided by the oil company.
Sales quotas of branded products discourage the sale of ethanol.
Requirements to store multiple grades of branded gas eliminate the ability to store and sell ethanol.
Oil company demands that ethanol pumps be labeled with "intimidating" warnings about how the fuel can hurt engines.
Forcing dealers to isolate E85 pumps that deliver fuel that is 85 percent ethanol.
WASHINGTON -- Citing the national mood and Minnesota's "generally competitive nature," political analyst Stu Rothenberg altered his projection of the state's November Senate race, making it slightly more competitive, from "Safe Democrat" to "Democrat Favored" Monday.
Rothenberg, who handicaps House, Senate and gubernatorial races nationally and authors the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said in a post Monday that the "change reflects the broad national environment" more than any advantage or disadvantage among the candidates.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Al Franken is vying for the seat against GOP businessman Mike McFadden and GOP House Rep. Jim Abeler. (Abeler and McFadden face a primary in August.)
"McFadden continues to run cutesy videos ... that focus on his coaching to introduce himself to voters, while Franken raises money and generally acts as if he has no opponent," Rothenberg writes.
Franken raised $3.3 million in the second quarter while McFadden raised $1.1 million.
The money is flowing in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
On Thursday, in advance of Tuesday's federal campaign finance deadline, both Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken and his chief Republican rival Mike McFadden released their most recent fundraising numbers.
In the last three months, Franken, long a prodigious cash gatherer, raised 'over $3.3 million,' according to his campaign. McFadden, who has promised he will have to resources to compete, raised 'over $1.1 million,' his campaign said.
For the cycle, Franken has brought in $18.4 million. But most of it has been spent.Franken, who has been running an aggressive cycle of television advertisements, had $5 million cash on hand as of the start of this month.
Since starting to run last year, McFadden has raised $4 million. He had about half of it left at the start of July. McFadden, who won the Republican party's endorsement in May, only began a broadcast advertising campaign last week.
McFadden will face an August primary against several other Republicans, none of whom have raised significant cash, before he could vie against Franken in November.
So far, national outside groups have largely stayed out of the state's Senate race, with just a few exceptions. If the race tightens in the coming months, they may dump millions on Minnesota to influence the outcome.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are co-sponsoring a bill that would override the Supreme Court's decision last week in the Hobby Lobby case.
The bill would ban employers from refusing to provide any health coverage, including contraceptives, guaranteed under the federal Affordable Care Act.
In a split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations did not have to provide coverage under the new federal health care laws if doing so would violate the owner's religious beliefs. The case was filed by Hobby Lobby, whose owners specifically objected to the requirement that companies provide coverage for emergency contraceptives.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is the lead author on the legislation, which is still being drafted. If the Senate passes the bill, it would face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House.
Women's rights are shaping up as a pivotal issue in U.S. Senate races across the country.
Franken has been critical of the Supreme Court’s decision since it was issued.
“The Supreme Court made a terrible decision when it decided that a woman’s boss can make health care decisions for her,” Franken said in a statement. “Those choices should be between a woman and her doctor, plain and simple. The Court’s ruling will deny women access to the health care services they need, and that’s why we have to pass this important legislative fix.”
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a group backing Democratic candidates, is pressuring one of Franken’s Republican rivals, businessman Mike McFadden, to discuss his stance on the case. The Minnesota DFL has also targeted McFadden on the issue.