The Minnesota Capitol Dome | Steve Timmer photograph
by Steve Timmer
Nov 20, 2014, 5:00 PM

Mourning opportunities lost II

In the original Mourning opportunities lost, I described the failure of the DFL controlled Legislature to pass an “electioneering and disclosure” bill in 2013 or 2014, and the contribution of that failure to the loss of the House of Representatives to Republican control in the recent election.

I said I had another lost opportunity to discuss, and I do, but I a few words about the original story first.

In a nutshell, Republican independent expenditure groups pounded vulnerable incumbent DFL House members with negative advertising, virtually done anonymously through a couple of shadowy front groups, the Minnesota Action Network, and the Minnesota Jobs Coalition. Legislation could have at least brought the activity out into the sunshine and required disclosure of who was really behind the advertising.

One of the themes flogged in this negative advertising was the new Senate office building, approved in a bonding bill (that some Republicans agreed to, too, by the way) by the 2013. It was called a “Taj Mahal,” and it was intimated that it took money away from roads and bridges, an especial rural concern. Here’s a four page color hit lit mailing to voters in House District 12A. (It was pitched at a rural sense of grievance and resentment about transportation — among other things — which is funny, because it’s the Republican intransigence on transportation taxes that is the real problem.)

But it played very well, and the Republican “independent expenditure” hit lit groups amplified it at every opportunity. And it was just a campaign issue. Take soon-to-be Rep. Jim Knoblach, who even filed a grandstanding lawsuit to stop the building. Now that the election is over, Knoblach is “meh” on the Senate office building:

As a private citizen, Knoblach waged an unsuccessful legal challenge last year to try to block construction of the new Senate office building. The project was a big campaign issue for Republicans, who insisted it was an example of the free-spending ways of Democrats.

But with the building now taking shape, Knoblach said he will no longer fight that fight as a legislator.

See, I told you.

Looking at it in the cold light of day, it’s obvious that failure to pass the electioneering and disclosure legislation aided and abetting a clearly coordinated campaign of, frankly, disinformation, and to bloat the issue way out of proportion.

So, it came home to roost. Well, that and deciding to build the building in the first place.

But this is why it is a mistake to fail to pay attention to political systemic issues. While everyone was out counting coup on issues like gay marriage, the bullying bill, unionization of health care workers, etc. — all important things — neglecting the political system itself contributed to a loss of the House. If a few close races had gone the other way, it might not have happened.

I do have another political systemic issue, but I can see I won’t get to it here. Next time, I promise.

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