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.

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Student debt debate revived on Capitol Hill

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: September 9, 2014 - 8:28 AM

Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken will join Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a Capitol Hill press conference today in an effort to drum up support for her bill that would allow an estimated 25 million people with older student loans to refinance that debt at current, lower interest rates.

The bill stalled in July, but Democrats have vowed to keep pressing Republicans on the issue. Franken, an original co-sponsor of Warren’s bill, visited the University of Minnesota last week to discuss college affordability.

GOP lawmakers have accused Democrats of trying to capitalize on the student debt issue for election year gains.

A version of this item appeared in Morning Hot Dish, the Star Tribune's daily political newsletter. To sign up, go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.

Mike McFadden: Both parties have let us down on immigration reform, Sen. Franken: It's up to the House

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 8, 2014 - 3:42 PM

WASHINGTON -- GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden pressed Congress returning Monday to address immigration reform, saying he wanted to secure the border first and then "move forward with a plan that would address those here illegally."

McFadden says he favors a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States illegally, as long they met certain requirements like proof of a job, paying back taxes or a fine, and a background check. He also said he wants proof of a secure border first.

When pressed on how he defined a secure border, a campaign spokesman said he supported the Cornyn-Cuellar bill that treats unaccompanied minors from Central America the same as those from Mexico. The proposal also expedites immigration hearings for children with asylum claims. 

"I think immigration is a classic example of how broken Washington is ... We have to solve it. I don't want to split apart families," he said, in an interview. "When someone gets through those hurdles, then they stand in line ... But I think they have to go through the hurdles first because they have broken the law."

In 2013, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a bipartisan 68-32 majority that included more money to secure the border, a path to citizenship for people living here illegally if they met certain requirements, and an overhaul to the visa system. The bill has lingered in the GOP-controlled House where leaders said they preferred to take up immigration reform in a piecemeal approach. Little has materialized in the last year from the chamber. 

McFadden declined to say whether he supported the Senate immigration reform bill.

President Obama has said he may take executive action to deal with the issue -- though White House officials over the weekend said they would wait until after the election. 

McFadden hopes to unseat Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who has said he didn't approve of the president taking executive action on immigration reform over the summer.

Franken, on Monday, said he was proud of the Senate bill and called "the end result greater than the sum of the parts." He said the House taking action is "much more sustainable" than Obama acting unilaterally.

"It's been with the House for more than a year," he said, in an interview. "This is something that's supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It's supported by the farm workers and the farm bureau. This is a bill that works."

Center for Responsive Politics: Minnesota media mogul gives $191k to federal politicos this cycle

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: September 2, 2014 - 4:46 PM

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota radio and television station owner Stanley Hubbard has given more than $191,000 to federal party committees and candidates this election season -- something he told the Washington Post makes him poorer.

In cooperation with the Center for Responsive Politics, the Washington Post's story looks at a handful of large donors nationally benefiting from a Supreme Court decision, which ditched limits an individual could give to a candidates or party committee.

“My phone rings, rings, rings,” Hubbard told the Post. “It’s made me poorer, I’ll tell you that, but it’s made it possible for me do a better job as a citizen. It used to be kind of nice to say, ‘I’m maxed out,’ but I really believe that people running for office need to have support.”

Back in April, Hubbard predicted that he would use the high court's McCutcheon decision to his advantage.

Hubbard was in the news last month after Eighth District GOP candidate Stewart Mills bragged to supporters that his campaign got a television ad against him "yanked" by at least two television stations owned by Hubbard, who is a Mills supporter.

Mills contended the ad, which is spliced together, took his words out of context. Other stations continued to run the ad, which was paid for by the House Majority PAC.

Hubbard told the Star Tribune he had nothing to do with the decision to pull it from air.

"Our legal department received the complaint, and they inspected the ad, and felt that there were things in it that were out of context and not true. Tell the truth and you’ll have no trouble with us," Hubbard said last month. "Our stations do not get involved in politics, period.”

The Hopefuls: Stewart Mills, GOP candidate Eighth Congressional District

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: August 30, 2014 - 11:48 AM

BRAINERD -- GOP Congressional candidate Stewart Mills believes in health care reform, sensible environmental regulation and would even seek out federal cash for appropriate district projects.

He just doesn't like the way the Democrats on Capitol Hill have been going about any of this work. 

In a sit-down with the Star Tribune between campaign events here at his headquarters, Mills answered a few questions:

--What did you think of recent comments made by GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden that he would use Chinese steel to build the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline, as long as it was cheaper?

"I'm not going to distance from myself from anybody's comments .. but I will tell you what I believe: Any pipeline that's going to be built, especially the Keystone, is going to be built with U.S. steel. We know the competing steel from countries are violating trade agreements by manipulating their currencies ... I don' t think we should be rewarding them for cheating."

--Rep. Rick Nolan openly seeks out federal money for local projects in the district. How would you approach seeking out federal cash to bring back home?

"I think that people in this part of Minnesota understand that that's gotta be paid for somewhere. If there's a project that's worthwhile, that makes sense for this district, I would advocate for it too. However, I would not try to use that as a leverage point to get reelected."

--How is the campaign going so far?

"There's no part of the 8th district we don't think we're going to do well. We think our message cuts across all geographic areas and people that have traditionally been pegged as Democrats I think will be looking at our campaign with open eyes." 

--You have said you don't support the Paul Ryan Budget plan, supported by the majority of House Republicans and approved in the spring of 2014. (Though not taken up by the Senate.) Tell me why.

"I agree with repealing Obamacare but I don't agree with the cuts to Medicare Advantage. I believe that money should be returned to Medicare and then we have to reform the system ... That's how it becomes sustainable."

By the numbers: Outside spending on federal races

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: August 28, 2014 - 1:41 PM

According to Federal Election Commission data, Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District race has attracted the most money from outside groups so far.

The contest between Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills has already seen nearly $1.4 million in PAC spending, with much of it coming from Nolan supporters, such as the House Majority Fund and the AFSCME union.

In contrast, the race for the Seventh Congressional District seat, which Republican Torrey Westrom hopes to snatch from longtime Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, has only seen $245,000 in independent expenditures. Interestingly, the last filing documenting outside spending in that race was from eight months ago.

Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, so far, has drawn relatively little interest from independent spenders. According to FEC filings, outside groups have spent about $140,000 to weigh in on the battle between Democratic Sen. Al Franken and Republican Mike McFadden.

The FEC calculations only include expenditures that represent, "spending by individual people, groups, political committees, corporations or unions expressly advocating the election or defeat of clearly identified federal candidates."

This post first appeared in our Morning Hot Dish political newsletter. If you're not already getting the political newsletter by email, it's easy and free to sign up.  Go to StarTribune.com/membercenter, check the Politics newsletter box and save the change.

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