WASHINGTON – The first TV ad of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race will hit the air tomorrow with Republican challenger Mike McFadden taking metaphorical shots with a hockey puck at DFL Sen. Al Franken.

The ad criticizes Franken for his votes that increased government spending and taxes as well as his support for the Affordable Care Act. But the ad misses the mark with a charge that Franken voted to “exempt Congress from it.” In fact, members of Congress and their staffs can only buy employer-subsidized health insurance from the exchanges that are central to the law. The fact-checking website Politifact and the Washington Post’s fact-checker have rated similar claims as mostly false.

The ad buy is small, $9,800 on Twin Cities cable, though the campaign says it plans to make additional buys soon. McFadden is the best-funded of a large pool of Republicans hoping to take on Franken this fall. He says he hopes to receive the GOP’s endorsement next month but will seek the nomination via the primary if necessary. The ad campaign comes a day after McFadden announced a $600,000 first quarter fundraising haul — $2.1 million less than Franken’s total.

WASHINGTON – Most Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation saw their fundraising jump considerably in the first three months of the year even as Democrats’ fears that they will lose seats in the U.S. House and Senate in this year’s midterm elections mounted.   DFL Sen. Al Franken and four of the state’s five House Democrats had their best fundraising quarter since the new Congress convened in January 2013.

Meanwhile, several highly-touted GOP challengers in the state saw their fundraising fall or remain flat even as many in the national party grow more confident about Republicans’ prospects over the next six months.

Franken’s fundraising jumped nearly $600,000 to $2.7 million while his best-funded GOP challenger, businessman Mike McFadden had his worst quarter, raising approximately $600,000, a more than 20 percent drop from previous quarters (McFadden’s campaign did not release the final number nor are the records available yet because Senate candidates do not file their reports electronically). Another GOP Senate contender, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, did not release her numbers, announcing only that she had 6,000 new donors. Franken now sits on a formidable $5.9 million war chest.

The same story was repeated throughout the state. In what’s likely to be the most closely watched U.S. House contest in the state, DFL Rep. Rick Nolan nearly doubled his quarterly fundraising haul to $265,000. Republican candidate Stewart Mills had outraised Nolan the previous two quarters, but this time saw his total remain nearly flat at $211,000. Nolan’s campaign holds $478,000 in cash, about $120,000 more than Mills.

In the other Minnesota House race that’s likely to draw some national attention, 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson’s fundraising jumped more than 30 percent from the previous quarter, raising almost $218,000. Republicans had pointed to Peterson’s previously modest fundraising efforts as a sign that Peterson was likely to retire (which didn’t happen) and that the long-serving DFLer was potentially vulnerable in a Republican-friendly district. His opponent Sen. Torrey Westrom, R- Elbow Lake,  did see his fundraising increase nearly $40,000 but his $120,000 total was far short of Peterson’s.

Even Democrats who don’t likely face competitive races saw their fundraising soar. 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison’s totals rose more than 50 percent to $288,000 while neighboring 4th District Rep. Betty McCollum’s rose 55 percent to $144,000.

The best-funded Republican in the race to replace Rep. Michele Bachmann in the 6th District, Tom Emmer, saw his fundraising fall 16 percent to nearly $207,000. In the 2nd District, Republican Rep. John Kline’s fundraising fell 40 percent to $270,000 while Kline turned his attention to an endorsement battle within his party. The brightest spot for the GOP remains 3rd District Rep. Erik Paulsen, who brought in $447,000, a 52 percent increase over the previous quarter. Paulsen holds a nearly 70 to 1 cash advantage over DFL challenger Sharon Sund.

While DFL incumbents fared well, the party’s challengers in GOP districts did less well. Kline’s best-funded DFL opponent, Mike Obermueller, saw his fundraising drop nearly 40 percent to $81,000 in the most recent quarter. Jim Read in the 6th District raised $26,000, an eighth of Tom Emmer’s fundraising.

Republicans can take consolation that Kline and Paulsen hold enormous amounts of cash on hand ($1.6 million and $1.9 million, respectively); enough to scare off most deep-pocketed potential challengers in districts that were narrowly won by President Obama in 2012. And after a quarter of relative fundraising success, Democrats are surely aware that any financial edge they secure could be quickly eroded by big-spending outside groups.

Here’s my spreadsheet breakdown of the fundraising totals:

View spreadsheet in new page

poligraph-falseRepublicans have zeroed in on a new election-year talking point about MNsure. They say that House Democrats authorized a multi-million dollar bailout for the program.

Take GOP gubernatorial hopeful Scott Honour who made the following statement in a recent press release:

“Fixing [MNsure’s] problems will be expensive, and Minnesotans are unjustly being asked to pay the bill for Governor Dayton’s failed Obamacare exchange. Just days ago, the House passed a $442 million bailout of Obamacare-MNSure in the omnibus supplemental spending bill.”

A bailout for MNsure? That’s hardly the case.

The Evidence

Honour and other Republicans, including Marty Seifert’s running mate Rep. Pam Myhra, have trumpeted this claim, and it appears they are talking about a complicated budget maneuver in the House supplemental spending bill passed in the first week of April.

It concerns the Health Care Access fund, money that comes from a 2 percent tax on health care providers including doctors, dentists, and hospitals. The fund was created in the mid-1990s to pay for MinnesotaCare, the state’s subsidized health insurance program for the working poor.

Last year, the Legislature decided to use some of that money to help pay for Medicaid because the state was expanding eligibility for the program. At the time, the state’s number crunchers were expecting a big influx of cash into the Health Access Fund from the federal government. As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration promised to help the state cover more of the cost of MinnesotaCare. Those reimbursement rates are tied to the monthly premiums of plans sold on the state’s new health insurance exchange, MNsure.

But as it turns out, the Health Care Access Fund is now projected to run a shortfall of $647 million at the end of 2017. The deficit is largely due to the fact that MNsure’s premiums were much lower than expected, so the federal government’s reimbursement for MinnesotaCare is lower, too.

Now, the House has proposed shifting about $403 million in Health Care Access Fund costs to the general fund in. The shift doesn’t come with an additional appropriation.

That’s not to say MNsure isn’t in some financial trouble due to the fact that it has sold fewer plans than expected. At the moment, the agency is facing a $5 million shortfall next year, but is hoping to use federal dollars to stay solvent.

The Verdict

Republicans are using questionable logic to link the House supplemental spending bill to a MNsure bailout. The legislation includes no additional money for the agency.

And to say that shifting the projected Health Care Access Fund shortfall costs to the general fund is a “bailout” is a stretch.

PoliGraph rate’s this claim false.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES

Doug Berg, Analyst, House Research

Memo, Department of Human Services, “Change in Health Care Access Fund balance from 2013 End of Session to 2014 February Forecast”

Valentina Weis, spokeswoman, Scott Honour

Mike Howard, spokesman, Minnesota House DFL Caucus

 

Gathering donations from as far away as Singapore, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Honour is leading the fundraising race among the five candidates vying to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton this fall. Campaign finance reports filed yesterday by Honour, Jeff Johnson, Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville, Rep. Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove and Marty Seifert offer the Read more