Rep. Zacharay Dorholt (DFL) and Jim Knoblach (R) disagree sharply on taxes, health care, and the minimum wage. But they agree that they want outside groups to stop spending money on their 14B Minnesota legislative race.
“It really is irritating to have in some ways your campaign taken away from you by people sending all this stuff into your district that you would never send yourself,” said Knoblach during his final debate with Dorholt in their hotly contested race.
This year, the Minnesota Republican Party, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party and other interest groups have spent more than $620,000 on mailers, radio ads and TV ads in the 14B race. The reason? The party that wins the race could very well control the Minnesota House for the next two years.
“Two years ago this was the most expensive House race in Minnesota history. And when I saw that it kind of made me want to throw up”, said Dorholt during the debate. “House members are paid $30,000 a year. There are congressional that don’t cost $600,000. And that doesn’t include the money out of our campaigns.”
In addition to the outside money, Dorholt estimates his campaign has spent about $40,000 on the race and that Knoblach has spent about $80,000. Dorholt agreed to abide by state spending limits to get a subsidy from the state for his campaign. Knoblach did not sign that agreement.
“One Of The Worst” U.S. Supreme Court Decisions In Recent History
“I chose to abide by our campaign finance limits because I believe that money does not deserve the place it has in politics today”, said Dorholt. “Unfortunately we are faced with very two awful Supreme Court decisions, and I would say that the Citizens United decision might be one of the worst decisions made in recent history.”
The U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision essentially said outside groups can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns because money is equal to free speech. Dorholt says the decision has tied state lawmakers hands from enacting campaign finance reform because any law restricting outside spending would be ultimately ruled unconstitutional. He says the U.S. constitution must be changed to overturn the Citizens United decision.
Knoblach said he refused to sign the spending limit agreement because he knew there would be a lot of money from outside groups being spent on this race.
“Two years ago we saw $350,000 spent on behalf of Mr. Dorholt. And I think it was $250,000 something like that spent on behalf of Mr. (King) Banaian in that race which was the most expensive race in the state.
“I felt that I needed to be able to respond because I saw Mr. Banaian was not able to respond two years ago when he signed the subsidy limit and took the taxpayer money”, said Knoblach.
Knoblach didn’t advocate for a constitutional amendment to solve the problem. But he did suggest candidates and political parties could mitigate it.
“I’d just throw out one idea that I think we should pursue and that is to go back to the system we had until 1974 in this state where you ran for office without a party designation, without a political party, like people in city councils do. I think that would be a good thing for a number of reasons including the negative campaigning.”