It is fall in an election year, and that means Minnesotans will find their mailboxes overflowing with fliers trumping up the accomplishments - or failures - of one lawmaker or another.
Such a flier from the Republican Party of Minnesota simultaneously praises the record of Rep. Diane Anderson, R-Eagan, and criticizes the record of former DFL Rep. Sandra Masin, who is challenging Anderson.
"Anderson worked successfully to turn the state's $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus," one side of the flier reads. Flip it over, and it points out that Masin voted for "wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit..."
Both of these claims contain some truth, but leave out key facts and context that might lead voters to draw different conclusions.
"Anderson worked successfully to turn the state's $6.2 billion deficit into a $1.3 billion surplus,"
In November of 2010, Minnesota Management and Budget projected a $6.2 billion deficit, but that was later revised down to $5 billion in February of 2011.
Fast forward to November 2011, several months after the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton agreed on a balanced budget deal that cut spending, one that Anderson supported, and the state announced a $876 million surplus.
In February of 2012, the state announced that it had an additional $323 million on hand.
Tally that up, and it's roughly $1.3 billion.
But here's the rub: the money was already spoken for. According to state law, the money must be used to restore the state's cash-flow account, pad its budget reserves and then start paying back money the state borrowed from schools to balance the budget.
In fact, the state is projected to have a $1.1 billion deficit for the coming biennium, according to the budget agency's most recent projection. That forecast doesn't include the $2.4 billion the state still owes schools or inflation.
Both Republicans and Democrats were quick to take credit for the brighter forecasts. Republicans, for instance, said they held the line on spending and taxes, while the Dayton administration said they did a better job of managing programs for the elderly, among other things.
In fact, much of the extra cash was from a combination of higher revenue, lower than expected enrollment in the state's subsidized health insurance program, and federal dollars.
Masin voted for "wasteful government spending, including a big brass band sheet music museum that drove up the deficit..."
That year, the Legislature included $400,000 in its more than $900 million bonding bill for the library. Along with 90 other members of the state House, Masin voted for the vast bill that included money for many, many projects.
Ultimately, Pawlenty used his line-item veto authority to ax the Chatfield library cash, along with 54 other projects, so the project never contributed to the deficit as the flier states.
It's true that the state budget has recently shown a positive bottom line- about $1.3 billion to be exact. But the money is already spoken for, so Minnesota doesn't have a pot of unused money as the flier makes it sound. Further, the state is on track to have a $1.1 billion deficit next year.
The extra money was the result of lower state insurance spending, higher revenue and federal dollars.
As a result, this claim is misleading.
Meanwhile, Masin voted for a bonding bill that included money for the music library as well as numerous other bonding projects. Further, the library's cash was vetoed by Pawlenty.
The second claim on the GOP's flier is misleading because it lacks this important context.
This installment of PoliGraph was done with the help of MPR's On Message feature. To learn more about how you can send us your campaign fliers, robocalls, and emails, click here.
Minnesota Public Radio, Minn. budget forecast shows $323 million surplus, by Tim Pugmire, Feb. 29, 2012
Minnesota Management and Budget, February 2012 forecast
Minnesota Management and Budget, November 2011 forecast
Minnesota Public Radio, Dayton, state lawmakers want credit for budget surplus, by Tom Scheck, Dec. 12, 2011
MinnPost, Pawlenty's veto of unique music library hits sour note in Chatfield, by Joe Kimball, May 1, 2008
Minnesota House, roll call vote on HF 380, conference committee report, April 2, 2008
Minnesota House Journal, April 10, 2008, p. 9876
The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pawlenty slashes $200 million from bonding bill, by Mark Brunswick, April 8, 2008
Interview, Tom Hanson, Associate at Winthrop and Weinstein, former Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Interview, John Pollard, spokesman, Minnesota Management and Budget, Sept. 13, 2012
Email exchange, Heather Rubash, Sept. 13, 2012(1 Comments)
The DFL Party and their endorsed candidate Erik Simonson are asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to remove state Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth from the November ballot and put Simonson on instead. Gauthier said last month that he was no longer running after he admitted to police that he had a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy at a public rest stop near Duluth. Gauthier announced his intentions after the filing period was closed, so he couldn't remove his name from the ballot.
Democrats endorsed Simonson last weekend. They're hoping the Supreme Court will agree with their claim and put Simonson's name on the ballot. The court has posted an accelerated timeline on the case and is asking for all materials to be submitted by Monday.
State law allows candidates for constitutional offices to remove their names from the ballot (see Jon Grunseth) but the law is silent when it comes to legislative candidates. The party would have to launch a write-in campaign if it is unsuccessful in the court challenge.
State DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued a statement about the petition:
"Our primary concern in filing this petition is ensuring a fair election for the people of District 7B. In every other district in the state this fall, voters will have a chance to choose among candidates who are actively campaigning and who carry the endorsement of a major political party, and it should be no different in Duluth.
"Minnesota statute clearly outlines the process by which a candidate can withdraw from an election, and for an endorsed candidate to appear on the ballot. We have followed that process and are hopeful that the Court will see fit to provide voters in District 7B with a fair election that allows them to choose among those endorsed candidates who are actually seeking their vote and prepared to serve if elected."
MNGOP Party Chair Pat Shortridge issued a statement saying they oppose the DFL petition:
"The attempt by Ken Martin and the DFL to remove Kerry Gauthier's name from the ballot should ultimately fail. There is no provision in state law that allows legislative candidates to withdraw from the ballot after the primary. The DFL is once again attempting to rewrite the rules to serve their partisan political ends, an act that even Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has already rejected. The Court should uphold the law and reject it as well."
Here's the DFL Party's petition:
The National Republican Congressional Committee started running an ad today that calls Democrat Rick Nolan "liberal and radical." The group, which is backing GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack, characterizes Nolan as being out of touch with the district.
"Rick Nolan once actually said that being in Washington made him more liberal and radical," the ad said. "But even after 30 years it hasn't worn off."
The ad then rips Nolan for saying the federal health care law enacted under President Obama "doesn't go far enough."
NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said the NRCC has reserved $1.2 million in ad time in the Twin Cities market to focus on the congressional race in northeastern Minnesota.
"Minnesotans deserve to know that if Watergate baby Rick Nolan is sent back to Congress, he will continue his radical and liberal ways of the past. Rick Nolan in Washington means higher taxes, devastating cuts to Medicare and more of Nancy Pelosi's extremely radical job-destroying policies for Minnesota families." Prill said.
The NRCC's ad comes just a day after a political fund aimed at helping Democrats win the U.S. House started running ads criticizing Cravaack.
Minnesota's 8th Congressional District is expected to be the most competitive race in Minnesota this year. Cravaack upset long-time Congressman Jim Oberstar in 2010 and Democrats are hoping they can win back the seat in a district that has historically backed DFL candidates.
Update: Michael Misterek, spokesman for Nolan, released this statement on the ad:
"It is amusing that Chip Cravaack is trying so hard to run from his record of staunch support for the Tea Party agenda and the Paul Ryan budget, which will end Medicare as we know it by handing it over to private, for-profit insurance companies. Cravaack repeatedly voted in support of a plan that will saddle seniors with an additional $6,400 per year in out-of-pocket expenses. All the while, he continuously votes to protect tax break for Big Oil companies and the super-rich.
Rick will always stand up to protect Medicare and would never supports cuts to the earned benefits of seniors. Beyond that, he has a proven track record as a job-creator and as a champion for the middle class. These are the values that Rick shares with the people of the 8th District, where he was born and raised.
It's obvious that the Republicans and outside special interest groups are becoming desperate as they realize Chip Cravaack's day in Congress are numbered."
WASHINGTON - A day after congressional Republicans and two days after a Democratic-aligned outside group announced plans to start airing TV ads in what's likely to be Minnesota's most contested congressional race, House Democrats also launched their first TV ad in the 8th District against first-term Republican Chip Cravaack.
The ad blitz marks the beginning of what could be a heavy season of negative ads for residents of northeastern Minnesota. Former Congressman Rick Nolan hopes to recapture the seat for the DFL after long-time U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar was defeated by Cravaack in a surprise upset in 2010.
The Associated Press reported last week that Democratic and Republican-aligned groups had reserved at least $2 million worth of ad time in the Twin Cities, although some of those ads might be directed at congressional races across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's ad ties Cravaack to the House Republican budget roadmap authored by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who's now also the party's vice-presidential candidate.
The ad begins by saying Minnesotans value education but that Cravaack voted to "cut Pell Grants for 23,000 Minnesota college students" and also voted for $115 billion worth of education cuts. The ad ends by calling Cravaack, "wrong for Minnesota."