Dayton’s millions

Elected in November 2000, Mark Dayton served as Minnesota’s United States Senator from 2001-2007. While in office he distinguished himself with erratic behavior including the closure of his Senate office in October 2004. Having been named by Time as one of the five worst Senators, Dayton did not seek reelection to the Senate when his term expired.
Dayton is now seeking the Democratic nomination to run for Minnesota governor, and he is leading a competitive Democratic field in the primary contest that will occur next month. Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the endorsed Democratic candidate; attorney and former state legislator Matt Entenza is the third candidate in the field.
Dayton is one of the beneficiaries of the Dayton’s (now Target) store fortune. He himself has never worked in the private sector and has spent most of his adult life in politics. His campaigns have always been hugely self-funded affairs.
Back in 2004 I wrote, somewhat uncharitably, that “Dayton is Minnesota’s contribution to the psychiatric profession.” This past December liberal Star Tribune editorial columnist Lori Sturdevant attempted to perform some public relations work for Dayton, devoting her column to his struggle with depression and an alcoholic relapse during his Senate term.
Sturdevant is a Democratic hack and her column treated Dayton with kid gloves. The Star Tribune followed up with a much more aggressive news story that explored Dayton’s mental health issues as well as the alcoholic relapse during Dayton’s Senate term.
At a charity auction in 1994 or so I won the opportunity to have Dayton take me and a friend to lunch at the Minneapolis Club. The lunch occurred toward the end of Dayton’s tenure as the Minnesota state auditor. At lunch we argued politics and found nothing on which to agree. The lunch was extremely unpleasant because Dayton seemed to be unable to disagree agreeably. Dayton nevertheless put me on his Christmas card list for roughly the next five years.
Over those five years Dayton used his Christmas cards to discuss the dissolution of his two marriages, his entry into rehabilitation for alcoholism and related therapy issues. His psychiatric challenges were no secret to the many people on Dayton’s Christmas card list, including virtual strangers like me.
The Star Tribune reported in its news story this past December: “People who have worked closely with Dayton or within the [Minnesota Democratic Party] said they have long known the former senator struggled with mental health issues.” Later the story adds: “Opponents — and even some supporters — have long whispered of his possible struggle with mental illness.”
Well, thanks. Where, one might ask, was the Star Tribune during Dayton’s Senate campaign? It wouldn’t have taken much digging to report this story during the 2000 Senate campaign.
It also wouldn’t have take much digging to report the story during Dayton’s six-year term in office, when Dayton provided the Star Tribune with many occasions that made the story relevant. The Star Tribune’s December story noted, for example: “Dayton said neither his depression nor his alcoholism affected his political decisions, including those to close his Senate office in 2004 when he — and no one else — perceived Washington to be at an immediate risk for terrorism.”
In other words, once Dayton himself sought to defuse the issues regarding his fitness for office by raising them with a friendly columnist, the Star Tribune jumped right on the case. The Star Tribune’s performance on these basic issues regarding Dayton’s fitness for office has been weak, along with that of the rest of the Minnesota media.
Now comes our fellow Northern Alliance blogger Mitch Berg — he of Shot in the Dark — to explore how Dayton is “buying Minnesota with daddy’s money” in the current gubernatorial campaign. Mitch shows how Dayton and Dayton’s family have seeded two front groups with millions of dollars over the past four years.
One of the front groups has been up on the air in Minnesota all summer with ads attacking the endorsed and largely unknown Republican candidate Tom Emmer. Mitch took apart one of these ads here. Mitch congratulated the local ABC affiliate for dissecting one of these ads here.
Mitch reports that the funders of the group are paying millions of dollars to advertise – and hiding it from casual view behind two layers of astroturf. He concludes: “Mark Dayton is trying to buy the election, but he’s taking great pains to make sure [we] don’t know about it.”
Mitch has an interesting and important story to tell. Unfortunately, it is one that I am not aware of having been pursued by the organs of the traditional media in Minnesota. it therefore remains something of a well-kept secret.

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