At some Minnesota news sites, partisans write the checks

Shawn Towle once enjoyed the same access as other reporters covering Minnesota's Senate. Then Republicans called him out after discovering he was a paid consultant to Senate Democrats. "I'm effectively a one-man operation," Towle said of supporting his left-leaning website Checks & Balances with partisan consulting work. "To be able to survive in an online world you have to do more than just one thing." Lawmakers didn't see it that way. This year, the Senate changed its media rules so people p

Franken, McFadden complain about big money but still rake it in

When it comes to money in politics, U.S. Sen. Al Franken often complains that there is just too much of it. But when Franken called the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that opened the door for corporations, unions and individuals to spend unlimited amounts on candidates a "disaster" earlier this month, his impassioned Senate floor speech disguised a central fact of his campaign, and that of his Republican opponent, businessman Mike McFadden. Both are benefiting from a sophisticated ne

Eying Minnesota House, national GOP group targets candidates with corporate cash

When Republican Rep. Tama Theis of St. Cloud ran in a special election last year to fill a vacant state House seat, she got a boost from a group more than 1,000 miles away. Now, the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee has its eye on helping Republicans retake control of the Minnesota House, and it will use donations from major corporations, including Minnesota companies, to try to do it. It's not unusual for national political groups to spend money on behalf of Minneso

Stealth donor gives millions to GOP candidates, causes

As lawmakers, candidates and political action committees release required reports this week on their 2011 campaign fundraising and spending, a person most Minnesotans have never heard of will likely show up as a major Republican donor. Robert Cummins and his family have given millions to conservative Minnesota candidates over the past 15 years. And to Republican insiders they are very well known. Cummins, president of Plymouth-based Primera Technology, prefers to influence politics quietly and

Big money pours into battles for Minnesota House

The governor's race may be this year's highest profile contest, but the campaign for control of the Minnesota House is where Republicans and Democrats are putting their money. The two major parties have spent more than $6.7 million on radio, television and web ads and direct mail in those races compared to $4.7 million spent so far on the governor's race. The gap is the product of a late start to the governor's contest, a wider array of candidates to support and more sophisticated campaigning

DFL-backed organizations set sights on winning Legislature

In 2010, before Democrats had even settled on a candidate for governor, Minnesotans began seeing ads on TV that attacked Republican candidate Tom Emmer. "So when I heard that Tom Emmer sponsored a law to reduce penalties for drunk drivers, I was outraged," said a woman in the ad whose son had been killed by a drunk driver. She also pointed out that Emmer had been arrested twice for driving under the influence. The ad wasn't paid for by a candidate. A liberal organization called the Alliance fo