A special fundraising committee set up by the state’s DFL party and Sen. Al Franken has netted nearly $50,000 in the first quarter of the year.

The Franken Senate Victory 2014 fund is a joint-fundraising committee. It’s not unusual for a candidate and a party to pool fundraising efforts and split donations.

That’s on top of the money Franken will raise on his own.

All told, the fund has raised about $110,000 for the entire election cycle, with donations coming from Hollywood celebrities like Family Guy creator Seth Macfarlane and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.

During her re-election bid, the DFL and Sen. Amy Klobuchar established a similar account.

It’s still unclear whether Franken will have a competitive race this year. At this point, the state GOP party hasn’t endorsed Franken’s opponent, although several candidates are running.

poligraph-misleadingGov. Mark Dayton is touting a package of tax cuts he signed into law recently as evidence that his administration is out to help middle class Minnesotans.

Democrats say the cuts were possible because the state has a surplus. Republicans say Democrats are trying to make themselves look good during an election year.

“This session, the Governor signed into law $508 million in tax relief for middle class families and Minnesota businesses,” says a primer on Dayton’s tax cuts. “These new tax cuts benefit middle class Minnesotans, including seniors, farmers, teachers, working families, and small businesses.”

It’s true that Dayton signed a bill that lowered taxes by about $508 million, but he also raised taxes by $2.1 Billion in the previous session. And to say these cuts are all “new” is a stretch.

  1. Listen Reporter Catharine Richert talks with MPR News’ Steven John

The Evidence

Last session, Dayton and the DFL-controlled Legislature raised taxes by $2.1 billion in part by increasing taxes for Minnesota’s wealthiest and by increasing taxes on cigarette sales. At the time, the state had a deficit of $627 million.

This year, he’s touting a roughly $508 million package of tax cuts that was made possible by a surplus. Here’s how that number breaks down:

About $230 million stems from provisions that are meant to match the federal tax code. Last year, Congress made tax breaks for things like adoptions and student loan interest permanent, but the Legislature didn’t pass legislation that squared Minnesota’s tax breaks with the federal tax code.

At the time, House Tax Chair Ann Lenczewski told MPR News that she met with resistance from Dayton and from Senate Democrats, who worried issuing the tax breaks would cost too much.

This session, the Legislature reversed course, and passed legislation that conformed to federal tax code.

By and large, the bill ensures that there’s no lapse in tax benefits people were already taking advantage of.

“If we hadn’t made these changes, people would have paid $57 million more in taxes,” explained Minnesota Department of Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.

An exception is a rule that ensures that the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly is higher than single filers, which won’t kick-in until the 2014 tax year. The state hasn’t abided by the “marriage penalty” fix since 2010.

Another $232 million in tax relief comes from repealing three sales taxes the Legislature passed and Dayton signed just a year ago. Two of those sales taxes went into effect last year, while the third would have kicked-in in March.

A tax on large financial gifts that was signed into law last year was also eliminated.

That said, there are some features of the law that will provide additional tax benefits.

For instance, the law expands the working family credit by $30 million a year. It also lifts the estate tax threshold from $1 million to $2 million, and it includes an additional $3 million in angel investor tax credits for new businesses.

The Verdict

It’s true that the legislature passed and Dayton signed $508 million in tax relief this session, and that the bill will benefit a wide swath of Minnesotans.

However, to say that these tax cuts are new is a bit of a stretch. Nearly half come from making sure Minnesota’s tax rules match federal tax rules. And in part, there won’t be a lapse in those tax benefits.

Another large part of the bill comes from repealing sales taxes that were put into law only a year ago, one of which hadn’t even kicked in yet.

Finally, it’s important to note that Dayton and the DFL legislature raised taxes last year, too, to the tune of $2.1 billion. That means Minnesotans will still be paying more than they used to, though some will be paying less.

Dayton’s claim leans toward misleading.


Linden Zakula, spokesman, Gov. Mark Dayton

Nina Manzi, Legislative Analyst, Minnesota House of Representatives

Pat Dalton, Staff Coordinator – Reserach Department, Minnesota House of Representatives

Beth Kadoun, Director Tax and Fiscal Policy, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce


WASHINGTON – So far, Minnesota’s airwaves have mostly been devoid of campaign ads. But a Democratic super PAC is making big plans for the state this fall, reserving nearly $700,000 worth of TV advertising to prop up 8th District DFL Rep. Rick Nolan and attack 2nd District Republican Rep. John Kline.

It’s part of $6.5 million nationwide reservation made by the House Majority PAC, a group that has close ties to Democratic leaders in the U.S. House.

“We are making wise investments in those districts where we expect we will need to counter negative attacks in the final weeks of the campaign,” said the group’s executive director, Alixandria Lapp, in a statement.

One big caveat about ad reservations: groups such as House Majority PAC use them to lock in lower ad rates months out, but also to send public signals to party committees about how to allocate resources because super PACs and political parties aren’t supposed to coordinate their actions. And the money may never get spent on a race if polling shows the group’s favored candidate far ahead or behind closer to the fall.

The super PAC’s $354,000 reservation in Nolan’s 8th District comes as little surprise. It’s expected to be the most competitive House race in Minnesota this fall as Nolan defends the seat against Republican political newcomer Stewart Mills. Until this week’s most recent fundraising numbers, Nolan’s fundraising had lagged Mills and the two remain closely matched financially. The House Majority PAC is already on very familiar territory in the 8th District. The group spent nearly $1.5 million on ads that helped Nolan defeat one-term Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in 2012. Political oddsmakers rate the race as leaning in Nolan’s favor.

The group also reserved $329,000 worth of ads in the 2nd District. Ever since redistricting moved DFL-friendly territory into the district represented by Kline, who’s seeking a seventh term, Democrats have sought to make the 2nd more competitive. But the front-runner for the DFL endorsement, 2012 candidate Mike Obermueller, has a steep financial disadvantage with $238,000 on hand compared to Kline’s $1.66 million. The group also spent $74,000 on ads against Kline in 2012. The Rothenberg Political Report recently downgraded Democrats’ prospects in the 2nd and said is likely Kline safe this election cycle.

Welcome to the Daily Digest. Minnesota: State Sen. Torrey Westrom, who is running against 7th Congressional  District Rep. Collin Peterson, has been named a ‘contender’ in the NRCC’s Young Guns program. (MPR News) State Sen. Julianne Ortman, who is seeking the GOP endorsement to challenge Sen. Al Franken, says she raised $375,000 in the first Read more

State Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, says her U.S. Senate campaign raised $375,000 during the first three months of 2014. Campaign officials say that’s a more than 300 percent increase over Ortman’s 4th quarter 2013 fundraising. Her fundraising total now stands at $610,000.  That’s well below businessman and political newcomer Mike McFadden’s $2.8 million total, but it Read more

Elbow Lake Republican state Sen. Torrey Westrom will be getting additional assistance from Washington in his campaign to wrest the 7th Congressional District seat from long-time Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson. Westrom, who was already part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s ‘Young Guns’ program for promising congressional hopefuls, has been elevated to a ‘Contender.’ Read more