Good morning!

In Minnesota

Democrats are going after the personal wealth of two Republican candidates. (MPR News)

Gov. Mark Dayton said that a report of a nonprofit using state funds to subsidize cruises, a director’s car lease and spa treatments was very concerning and alarming. (Star Tribune)

Dayton also announced steps to immediately ramp up review of the state’s child protection system and to develop longer-term recommendations for change. (MPR News)

In an election year where candidates are promising to make education more affordable, the Minnesota House DFL says it wants to freeze tuition at Minnesota’s public higher education institutions until 2017. (MPR News)

A Minnesota House candidate is being sued in civil court after cutting his neighbor’s garage in half in a property dispute. (AP via MPR News)

Enough with the hockey ads! (MPR News)

National Politics

U.S. forces attacked Sunni militants inside Syria. (New York Times)

The Treasury Department issued new rules to prevent the kinds of tax-lowering corporate mergers that Medtronic is currently attempting. (MPR News)

Democrats, who argue in favor of less money in politics, are relying on big donors to help keep their Senate majority this fall. (Politico)

Many Americans want more religion in politics, according to a new poll. (Pew Research Center)

What do Dancing with the Stars, Wheel of Fortune and Sunday Night Football all have in common? (Roll Call)

In an election year where candidates are promising to make education more affordable, the Minnesota House DFL says it wants to freeze tuition at Minnesota’s public higher education institutions until 2017.

The effort would build on an existing tuition freeze through 2015.

“All Minnesota students deserve the opportunity to go to college and receive a degree – without finding themselves under a mountain of debt,” DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said in a statement. “We made positive strides over the past two years, but there is more work to be done.”

Minnesota Republicans need only seven seats to take control of the Minnesota House. So DFL legislators have been talking up their party’s efforts during the last legislative session to help more students go to college without taking on massive debt.

DFL leaders said today they would work to provide more money for higher education and work closely with the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to ensure each system is becoming more efficient in order to better direct state dollars toward tuition stabilization and reduction.

On top of the tuition freeze, House DFL leaders said they would work to expand loan forgiveness for students who take high-demand jobs in rural areas and for students who participate in a program called ServeMinnesota, which gets young people to work in a variety of areas including helping young children learn math and reading.

UPDATE: University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler said he supports the DFL’s efforts.

“We look forward to renewing our partnership with the State of Minnesota to hold tuition flat for Minnesota students and families,” he said.

But Kaler also said that Legislature needs to give the university enough money to make sure students don’t pay more. The school’s most recent budget proposal includes a $22 million per year increase in funding, which administrators say would protect undergraduates from a 3 percent tuition raise and graduate students from a 3.5 percent tuition raise.

“If we do not get sufficient funding to support this freeze, the Board of Regents is prepared to raise tuition, as needed, to fill the gap,” Kaler said.

Flashy boats, fat lobster tails on the grill and sandy beaches are recurring themes in ads Democrats are running this month against Minnesota Republicans.

If those lifestyle of the rich and famous images seem unattainable and unfamiliar to you, then Democrats are getting their message across.

Both Sen. Al Franken and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee are among the Democrats who are painting Republicans like Senate hopeful Mike McFadden and 8th Congressional District candidate Stewart Mills as too wealthy and too corporate for the average person.

With the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the middle class growing every year, these are popular campaign themes around the country, said Michael Franz, a government professor at Bowdoin College and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political ads.

“Democrats and their allied groups are trying to tap into a populism among the American people in the financial situation we’re in to highlight the connections between Republican candidates and wealthy interests,” he said.

Take a new spot paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that targets Mills, who is running against DFL Rep. Rick Nolan. In it, a Mills look-alike is sailing off on his yacht at sunset.

“Stewart Mills III caught a big inheritance and a family job that pays half-a-million a year. But in Congress, Mills will leave you on the hook for higher taxes because Mills opposed tax cuts for the middle class.”

The DCCC ad is artfully done, says UCLA politics and communications professor Lynn Vavreck. Even the spot’s smallest details, including its typeface, conjure wealth, she said.

So does the ad’s repeated reference to “Stewart Mills III.”

“These are all signals to people to say, ‘Hey, who do you know who refers to themselves as a “third,”‘ said Vavreck. “Most people probably don’t have a friend or a colleague who is a third. So that’s another way to make him seem very different from you.”

Then there’s Mills’s hair. Two DCCC ads feature images of Mills smoothing back his chin-length locks, which Franz said signals to viewers that Mills is only interested in wealth and status.

Meanwhile, Franken is using similar tactics to target McFadden. Two ads charge that McFadden used off-shore tax havens to avoid paying taxes in the United States. It’s an attack that may sound familiar, because Democrats targeted former presidential candidate Mitt Romney for similar reasons in the 2012 election.

“These are these places in the world that most Americans know because they are places where people have secret bank accounts or hide their money,” said Vavreck. She said the ads prompt viewers to ask, “Who does that? Rich people do that. Why do they do that? Because they’re skirting the rules.”

The big question is whether these themes work. Franz said ads that go too far, particularly with a personal attack, can backfire.

But for now, “It’s not bad to be running against the wealthy in a world where wealthy have more wealth,” Franz said.

UPDATE: Mills spokeswoman Chloe Rockow wrote this in response to the DCCC ad:

“Rick Nolan and his friends in DC special interest groups continue to target Stewart for being a successful job creator in our part of Minnesota. By attacking his family’s record of employing thousands of our friends and neighbors, Washington Democrats have proven that they’ll stoop to any level to avoid talking about Rick Nolan’s embarrassing record. It’s become abundantly clear that they can’t win on the issues, so they’re resorting to personal attacks, lies, and fabrications, and Minnesotans deserve better.”