MN part of Coleman group’s $10 million ‘orphan state’ effort

The center-right American Action Network is pouring $10 million into multiple states, including Minnesota, that are facing competitive Republican House races but have struggling local parties.

AAN is an issue advocacy group co-founded by former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman. Spokesman Dan Conston said that the so-called “orphan state” effort is part of the group’s long-term plan to build a national grassroots network that focuses on encouraging lawmakers to support or oppose specific legislative issues.

“Minnesota is one of the key states we were interested in from the outset,” Conston said.

The Republican Party of Minnesota announced late last year that it was $2 million in debt, and it is still paying off what it owes.

Conston would not confirm which Minnesota districts AAN is focusing on, but said the group already has staff on the ground in Minnesota.

That said, Minnesota has two competitive races this year. The 8th Congressional District race featuring Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack and a yet-to-be-determined DFL opponent has been rated as a “pure toss-up” by the Rothenberg Political report. And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has pledged to help Mike Obermueller defeat 2nd Congressional District Republican Rep. John Kline.

AAN will invest in office space and phone banks, and help organize volunteers and events. In each state, AAN plans to work with local organizations.

Meanwhile, in a separate but overlapping effort, AAN announced this morning that it will spend money on direct mail, print advertising and robocalls in Cravaack’s district, encouraging him to continue supporting efforts to repeal the health care law. The buy is part of a $1.2 million national initiative in 35 House districts.

Founded in 2010, Coleman’s group has become a powerful force in politics, spending and raising millions in part to defeat lawmakers who voted for the health care law and to promote right-of-center policies. AAN’s tax status doesn’t require it to disclose its donors, so individuals and corporations can give freely to the group without having their gifts made public.

UPDATE: The Taxpayers League of Minnesota is among the organizations that AAN has been coordinating with in the state.

The relationship started last winter when AAN connected the League with the Northern Liberty Alliance, a tea party organization in Duluth, said Taxpayers League of Minnesota director Torin Kelly.

Together, the three groups hosted a State of the Union watch party in January. The relationship worked so well that the League and the Liberty Alliance hosted more Tax Day events across the state in April.

Though Kelly stressed that the League and AAN have no formal strategic plan going forward, she said that she expects similar coordination in the future: AAN will provide the infrastructure and connect disparate groups across the state, and organizations like the League and the Liberty Alliance will organize events and rally voters.

Kelly said AAN has provided much needed networking and message coordination among disparate organizations across the state.

“Their efforts are greatly focused on carrying message, and getting that message together and streamlined, because it’s already in place,” Kelly said. “We have those conservative messages, conservative voices throughout the state, but because they are siloed we are kind of viewed sometimes as a fly-over state. We don’t get as much national attention as conservatives here.”

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