WASHINGTON — Outside money is flooding into the race between Keith Ellison (a Democrat) and Jim Schultz, a Republican, in an effort to influence the outcome of the very close contest.
Although most of the money used to fund the attack ads comes from large corporations and wealthy individuals across the country, some of it was raised here in Minnesota.
According to filings to the Internal Revenue Service, 3M in St. Paul and a Wells Fargo subsidiary based near Minneapolis contributed to the Republican Attorneys General Association. According to filings with Federal Communications Commission, Minnesota for Freedom, the super PAC of the association, has received about $1.5million in ad time for two ads attacking Ellison.
3M contributed $80,000, and Wells Fargo’s subsidiary gave RAGA $252,285 this fiscal year.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association’s super PAC (DAGA), has spent approximately $1.7 million on ads that Schultz was targeted. The Democratic Attorneys General Association, like RAGA is a 527 group. This tax-exempt organization was created primarily for influence over the election or defeat candidates to local, state, or federal office.
Although a 527 must inform the IRS about all its contributors, the contributions can be unlimited and corporations as well as individuals.
Local supporters of the Democratic group include Minneapolis law firms Zimmerman Reed LLP which donated $15,000 to DAGA and Robins Kaplan LLP which donated $50,000 to DAGA. 3M has contributed more than just to the Republican Attorneys General Association. This year, it also donated $50,000 to DAGA.
Responding to questions regarding their donations, the company released a statement.
The 3M statement stated that political contributions were one way they connect with elected officials, political parties, and business groups to help inform decision making, support 3Mers and 3Mers, as well as promote science-based policy. “We will continue to work non-partisanally to further our mission to improve every life.”
Jennifer Ehrlich spokeswoman for 3M. She also described the money that the company gave to competing political groups as “corporate dues to attend the association’s conferences and events.”
Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs said that while companies may present their contributions to 527 organizations as dues they are actually “active participants” in harsh political ads.
Harshly political ads
The super PAC of the Republican Attorneys General Association is running two TV ads in Minnesota, which accuse Ellison and his family of helping criminals. One shows an imprisoned person calling a potential voter and telling him why Keith Ellison is so popular. Keith Ellison supports our cause.” The script ends with “Keith Ellison,” the criminal’s choice as attorney general.
Jacobs stated that the attack ads, which were sent by an independent expenditure group, are not allowed to coordinate any candidate campaigns. This allows Schultz, who is not allowed to work with any candidate campaigns, to separate himself from the mudslinging advertisement.
He said that super PACs were set up so that they are not near the candidate. This allows them to fire away.
DFL state party accused Republican super PAC, in violation of the restriction that it not collaborate with a candidate’s campaign, when it came to attacking Ellison. This type of coordination is difficult to prove. It may not be important in this instance because the GOP candidates, including Schultz, have taken a law-and-order stance in this midterm election. Republican super PACs are well aware of this.
According to Ellison, the ads cause division.
“Every Minnesotan deserves safety and protection of their freedoms and wallets. There are no exceptions. Jim Schultz, his wealthy backers, are using fear to try and divide us based on our appearances or whereabouts,” an Ellison campaign statement stated.
The ads funded by DAGA’s super PAC depict Ellison as a defender for abortion rights and accuse Schultz of going on an “offense” regarding abortion. Democrats see abortion as a major campaign issue and hope that voters will be angered by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe.
It doesn’t matter if Ellison is “soft-on crime”, it may not be the motivating factor for RAGA to enter the Minnesota attorney General’s race.
Governor. Governor Ellison asked him to prosecute Derek Chauvin, Minneapolis Police Officer for the murder George Floyd. However, his role as attorney general is primarily focused on protecting state laws and suing civil courts – both companies and individuals – who are accused of causing harm.
Many corporations and trade organizations support the Republican Attorneys General Association, as Ellison and other Democratic Attorney Generals have become more active in multistate lawsuits against specific companies. These include many oil and natural gas companies, PhRMA, the trade association for nation’s drug corporations – and NRA which fights attempts to weaken gun manufacturers’ protections.
RAGA is also supported and funded by the National Mining Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform and more than $1,000,000 in this year’s budget. Their top priority is “tort Reform”, which makes it harder to win large jury verdicts in lawsuits against corporations.
Jacobs stated that Ellison was aggressive in filing suits against companies that are accused of harming consumers.
He stated that the Chamber of Commerce did not want an attorney general who would likely sue its companies.
RAGA did NOT return a call requesting comments.
The Democratic Attorneys General Association gets a lot of its financial support through lawyers, who often sue corporations, and labor unions like the AFL-CIO.
The Trump administration has been sued more than 140 times by Democratic attorneys general individually and in concert. Republican attorneys general also form coalitions. Nineteen of them formed coalitions to fight the Affordable Care Act. More recently, GOP attorneys general sued the Biden administration in an attempt to stop a new program that forgives college loans.
The political stakes in this year’s elections for attorney generals are high. RAGA, DAGA, and others are spending millions on advertising in over a dozen states, including Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin and Texas.