DFL Leader Thissen Op-Ed
Think back to a year ago. Your mailbox was starting to fill up with political mailings. The radio and TV airwaves were soon to be cluttered with political ads.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars of outside money was poured into this district to influence your vote - much of it from secretive groups that don't disclose their spending thanks to a loophole in Minnesota's campaign finance laws. Everyone was frustrated.
Ultimately, that deluge of negative advertising helped elect a Republican majority in the Minnesota House. That majority elected Rep. Kurt Daudt as Speaker of the House. Speaker Daudt recently announced that he would chair Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign in Minnesota.
Completing a perfect circle of special interest influence, this week Gov. Walker visited the Twin Cities to raise money for the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, one of those special interest groups that spends huge sums of so-called "dark money" in elections to help elect Republican candidates.
Many Minnesotans that I have heard from since last year's election are fed up with our political system and the influence that the rich special interests have on our elections - and for good reason. Super PACs and secretive outside groups are pouring millions of dollars into elections - from legislative races on up - and it's corrupting our democracy.
Those Minnesotans who are fed up with all the negative ads and the outside money would do well to understand who is behind it, who they're helping, and why.
In addition to the Jobs Coalition, organizations like Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, and the Minnesota Action Network, run by a powerful Washington D.C. lobbyist, deluged districts like this one with negative advertising last fall - all intended to help defeat DFL legislative candidates. They have pledged to spend even more - up to $1 billion in dark money - in next year's election. In fact, they've already started sending negative mail pieces against DFL legislative candidates across the state!
Each of these organizations are backed by corporate special interests and wealthy individuals who benefit the most from Republican policies.
For evidence, look no further than the 2015 legislative session, where Republicans in the House pushed for billions in budget-busting tax giveaways to the richest Minnesotans and owners of large corporate properties rather than investing in our communities.
And so, each election cycle, more money is spent by outside special interest groups to help elect Republicans to the legislature, and each legislative session Republicans in the legislature push an agenda that puts the special interests ahead of hardworking Minnesotans.
My DFL colleagues and I have proposed legislation to shine a light on these organizations and the special interests that back them. By closing the loophole that allows them to spend millions on negative advertising without disclosing who's paying for it, our proposal would bring a measure of accountability back to elections in our state.
Yet Republicans, including Rep. Dave Hancock, have repeatedly blocked all efforts to increase disclosure, choosing instead to side with the outside special interest groups that helped elect them.
And so that perfect circle of special interest influence continues unbroken.
We will continue to push for meaningful reform of our campaign system, because Minnesotans deserve to know who is bankrolling the campaigns of local candidates like Rep. Hancock.
Those Minnesotans who are fed up with the outside money, negative advertising and special interest influence should contact Rep. Hancock and demand that he support these reforms.
And if he refuses, and we see millions more spent on negative ads in next year's election with no disclosure and no accountability, folks in this area should remember who made that possible - and why.