The best legislature money can buy

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Much of today’s hubbub is connected to the release of 2010’s year end campaign finance reports, specifically those connected to the Gubernatorial race. Tom Emmer, Matt Entenza, Mark Dayton, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, MN Forward, and other organizations spent millions of dollars on that race, and their reports definitely deserve scrutiny in a post-Citizens United political world.

But what hasn’t gotten much scrutiny yet is the ruthless efficiency with which the Freedom Club State PAC spent over a million dollars to target and defeat many of the DFLers necessary for the Republican Party to take over the Minnesota Legislature.

The Freedom Club has been around for a long time, taking large-dollar donations from the richest of the rich and emphatically supporting Republican candidates. But their expenditures this year, and the scale of those expenditures, should garner more than a passing glance from the state’s political world.

Consider:

  1. FCSPAC took in under $600,000 but spent over $1,000,000 during 2010. That disparity suggests that the Deciders saw an opportunity to bring about a sea change at the state level, and went all in to make the most of it. Otherwise, taking a $400,000 hit on the bottom line seems a steep price to pay for what would otherwise be marginal progress in electing friendly candidates.
  2. FCSPAC made an in-kind donation to the House Republican Campaign Committee entitled “Polling” on September 14th. This contribution was valued at $107,125. On the same day, the report indicates the receipt of an in-kind donation from the HRCC for the same amount. I’m looking into the legalities behind this type of mutual in-kind donation, but does it pass the sniff test? The committees cannot coordinate their direct-mail and targeting operations directly, but if they both look at exactly the same poll data — shared via in-kind — it’s easy enough to figure out who should do what and where.

    The PAC also made smaller (under $30,000; walking-around money for these folks) in-kind polling contributions to the Republican Party of Minnesota and the HRCC.

  3. FCSPAC contributed to the campaigns of 33 Republican candidates, including statewide candidates and those running for the Legislature. On the Independent Expenditure side, FCSPAC targeted a ton of DFLers with negative poll-tested mailings: David Bly. Tim Faust. Gail Kulick Jackson. Sandy Masin. Will Morgan. Mike Obermueller. Paul Rosenthal. Maria Ruud (to the tune of more than $35,000 and yes, you read that right; they really hate Maria Ruud that badly).

    The list goes on, and almost every single one of the targeted DFLers was defeated in November with the Freedom Club’s help.

  4. Much of the $222,000 went to FLS Connect, a one-stop-shop political consultancy known for its connection to Jeff Larson (the L in FLS), Norm Coleman’s D.C. landlord and political advisor.

You have to hand it to the Freedom Club: they know a good investment when they see one, and they’re willing to spend a dollar today if it means getting two next week. Of course, what they’re investing in is leaders and policies that are of questionable value to the other 99% of Minnesotans and the services we rely on to make our state move forward.

Nevertheless, it’s not a stretch to say that we now have the best legislature money can buy, and in 2010, it was on the Freedom Club’s tab.

Ladies and gentlemen, democracy in action.