Koch group targets lawmakers on Vikings stadium vote

Americans for Prosperity Minnesota, the local arm of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, is targeting three state Senate incumbents for supporting the new Vikings stadium.

In an unusual twist, two of those targets are Republicans: Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont who is running in SD 23 and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria who is running in SD 8. The third, Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, is a Democrat running in SD 44.

“We simply don’t agree with publicly funded stadiums,” said John Cooney who is state director of Minnesota’s branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

It’s a message made clear in these fliers sent out in Rosen’s, Ingebrigtsen’s and Bonoff’s districts.

“A nearly half a billion dollar boondoggle taxpayers can’t afford. Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen sided with corporate special interests and his policies are costing taxpayers,” an example of the flier reads. It calls the Vikings stadium deal a “give away” to corporate special interests.

The Vikings stadium will cost the state $348 million paid for with new, expanded electronic pull tabs and bingo. The City of Minneapolis will kick in $150 million paid for with existing sales and hospitality taxes.

All three senators were instrumental in writing and passing the Vikings stadium deal.

Bonoff is running against former Republican Sen. David Gaither, and the race is considered competitive by both parties.

The fliers also highlight the senators’ other votes, including one against allowing voters to decide on the so-called right-to-work constitutional amendment.

AFP supports small government and low taxes. It was founded by David Koch, a well-known name among conservative donors and co-owner of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that operates oil refineries and owns several household goods brands.

Koch serves as chairman of the organization’s tax-exempt educational arm, according to recent tax filings. A separate arm of AFP is allowed to pay for political advertisements, such as the fliers showing up in Minnesota.

The AFP-Minnesota mailers may raise some eyebrows; it’s unusual for a right-leaning organization to oppose the records of right-leaning lawmakers.

But Cooney said that political affiliation doesn’t always mean much to AFP.

“The votes that they took certainly weren’t conservative in nature,” he said. “We believe that you don’t just fight for conservative issues, but you hold our public representatives accountable for the votes they take.”

AFP has chapters in more than 30 states, including Minnesota, but the group here has kept a relatively low profile since it opened up shop in 2011. It weighed in on the right-to-work debate, it hosted a rally for tax cuts featuring former GOP contender Herman Cain, and it commissioned a poll about the Vikings stadium.

Cooney estimates that the group has roughly 17,000 members. And its funding currently comes from donors in the state.

Cooney isn’t sure which legislative races or which issues AFP-MN will be weighing in on next, but added that the group will be focusing on the legislative performance of any number of state lawmakers.

“Our hope is that we won’t be seeing bills like [the Vikings stadium bill] come up again in the near future” he said. “We want to be part of the dialogue in the state on how we spend our taxpayer dollars.”

  • Jeff Z

    Classic eat your own mentality. Where were Americans for Prosperity when there were Hundreds of Union workers and Season Ticket holders rallying at the capitol. Oh wait, democracy is much more convenient if you react vs being actively engaged in the process.

  • Ralph Crammedin

    What Rosen, Ingebrigtsen and Bonoff have in common is that they’re among the few legislators willing to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota. Apparently, the Koch Brothers and their hired minions would prefer a state of constant, fruitless political warfare at the Capitol.

  • Slipjack Ponesaw

    It is hilarious that a group funded by the Koch Brothers is going after politicians because they voted for corporate welfare for another rich person. It happens all of the time and I am sure that the Kochs’ have received lots of government handouts themselves. These Teabaggers are sure a lot of fun to observe – it is almost like going to the zoo to watch the monkeys swing around and toss poop at one another.

    I think the right thing to do was guarantee that the Vikings stayed in Minnesota for the long term by building a new stadium. IMO, any politician who voted in favor of the stadium deserves a thank you from the people of this state and donations to their reelection campaigns to make sure we keep level headed people in these jobs – not extremists like Tea Party candidates. Could you imagine what our state would be like if they were in charge? Sheesh!

  • Chad Q

    Yep, all you crazy libs in favor of giving money to another rich guy so you can sit on your fat arses and watch a bunch of grown men play a kids game. Yet you’ll complain that the so called rich guy living next to you isn’t “paying his fair share” so you can do nothing with your life except suck off the government. You guys will also be the first to say we can’t saddle our children and grand children with debt for road projects but you’re just fine with blowing $500 mil on a sport for 8 Sundays a year.

    To answer slapjack, the state would look pretty good if fiscal minded people were running this state instead of the handout queens that currently run it. Just think how many less government dependent people we would have and how much money those of us who actually work for a living would have in our pockets or bank accounts.

  • chris c

    A possible answer to Jeff Z’s question: Those not in favor of so much public funding for the stadium may have been at work. The union workers needing jobs could get them from funding projects that are better for more of the public than the Vikings and those of us entertained by them.

    If history is any indicator (the chant “Norm Sucks” is ringing in the back of my mind) we fans would hold the Vikings organization accountable if they moved the team. As a huge Vikings fan I would be crushed if the Vikings moved. But I also recognize that there are more important issues in the state than entertainment. And I still hold hope that state legislators and executives can make better deals than they did in this (historically huge) case.

    Please note how I said “so much” public funding earlier. I work for a group that has as significant a social and financial impact as the Vikings AND receives funds from the state. There are at least two key differences (Besides the number of zeros and commas involved) between the stadium deal and ours though:

    1) We have to come up with two dollars for every state dollar received (The Vikings have to come up with less than one).

    2) Our public funds are capped (Any stadium cost overruns are the state’s problem).

    Despite how happy I am knowing the team will be here for a long time, The Vikings stadium was not one of the better deals that the state government has made.

    Americans for Prosperity called out members from both major parties. So perhaps rather than suggesting they are “eating their own” or “flinging poop” within their political party, this could be seen as recognizing a bad deal for the state, naming those most responsible without concern for political affiliation, and participating in the process by lobbying for votes among the public rather than among the legislators.

  • Ralph Crammedin

    chris c, you say you’re happy “knowing the team will be here for a long time,” but the Vikings agreement was “not one of the better deals that the state government has made.”

    Please specify the terms of the “better deal” you would have negotiated, as well as the names of the legislators (yes, all of ‘em) you would have persuaded to vote for it, and the reasons you believe both the Vikings and the NFL would have accepted your deal. Without these specifications, your comments rank as nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking.

    With its implicit threat of moving the team, the NFL has powerful negotiating leverage. My guess is your ‘important-as-the-Vikings’ group does not. Unable to make an apples-to-apples comparison, it appears your concern for the stadium deal is just sour grapes.

  • Mary Tambornino

    The stadium is a done deal good or bad. – and thank heavens. But at least we knew the players – in the case of Americans for Prosperity we do not. And not only that, the Organization is tax exempt – a costly boon doggle if there ever was one. In fact, I wonder how much this costs the state because the organization pays no taxes and those contributing to it take a tax deduction. But the worst thing is the outside and secret influence being brought to bear on what is and should be a “local” race in all three instances of candidates being targeted. I think some identification is in order and am appalled that no one but me is calling for it. The foolishness of this organization is truly interfering with the elec toral process.

  • eddy wobegon

    So now Mark Dayton is in favor of subsidizing millionaire players and billionaire owners. Funny how liberals were recently complaining that these millionaires and billionaires weren’t contributing enough, yet now we’re throwing money at them.

    No, wait, I guess it is the money being thrown at the construction unions that has turned liberals into corporate subsidizers. You’ve made the Koch brothers look principled while Dayton and the political whores are wasting money.