Dayton’s millions: Kersten’s look

Minnesota’s gubernatorial campaign will be set when Democrats select their candidate in the competitive primary that will be held this coming Tuesday. The campaign so far has proved highly illuminating, not so much with respect to the issues but rather with respect to the shape of liberal politics in 2010.
Big money and big unions rule the roost on the Democratic side. Millionaire Democratic candidate Mark Dayton is both funding his own campaign, as he has traditionally done for lo, these many years, and hidden behind a PAC called Alliance for a Better Minnesota to throw mud at the Republican candidate until he secures the Democratic endorsement.
Democrats have also deployed their GLBT front to scare big business off from funding a PAC that supports Emmer. It took a week or two, but the GLBT front worked its magic like a charm.
Because of the small scale In Minnesota, one can see the politics clearly. If you are wiling to look. Unfortunately, the Minnesota media are even lamer than the big sisters they seek to emulate.
In today’s Star Tribune, however, Katherine Kersten draws back the curtain in a highly illuminating column. Kersten generally describes the scaring off of corporate support for Emmer before she homes in on Dayton:

In the 2010 governor’s race, it’s Republican Tom Emmer — an Ordinary Joe with seven kids to feed — who’s pounding the pavement for every $1,000 check he brings in. He and his team spend lots of time focusing on small donors — the source, despite the myth, of a disproportionate amount of the Republican Party’s cash.
But isn’t Big Business pulling the strings for Emmer behind the scenes? Hardly. We saw that recently, when Target Corp. gave $150,000 to MN Forward — a business-friendly PAC that supports Emmer against his three Democratic rivals, who have all vowed to raise taxes. Liberals and the media went berserk. As they tarred and feathered Target, their message was clear: Companies that support Republican efforts risk paying a big public-relations price.
Meanwhile, the three DFL candidates for governor have raised a cool $9 million for their campaigns — a sum that dwarfs Emmer’s $910,000. Two of those candidates, gazillionaires Matt Entenza and Mark Dayton, are financing their races from their own capacious pockets. Unlike Emmer, they don’t have to eat rubber-chicken dinners at rinky-dink fundraisers. They just write gold-plated checks to themselves.
Entenza has loaned his campaign $4.7 million heading into Tuesday’s DFL primary. The money comes courtesy of his wife’s fortune, made in the health care industry.
But the 800-pound gorilla in the governor’s race is Mark Dayton, department store heir and current front-runner. Dayton’s wealth has enabled him to make running for public office a hobby for 30 years.
In 1982 he dropped $6.7 million on a failed U.S. Senate campaign. In 1998, the figure was $2.1 million for an unsuccessful governor’s bid. In 2000, he spent a whopping $12 million to become a U.S. senator. In the current campaign, so far, the sum is $3.3 million. All told, that’s a jaw-dropping $24 million of Dayton dough.
Dayton’s own resources are augmented by donations to DFL interests from his megarich family. In this election cycle, the family — his son, aunt, cousin and ex-wife– have poured $851,000 into two DFL political action committees: Win Minnesota and the 2010 Fund. That’s almost as much as Emmer has raised in his entire campaign.
The biggest family donor is Alida Messinger, Dayton’s ex-wife. (Must have been a friendly breakup!) She’s contributed an eye-popping $550,000 to the two PACS.
The source of Messinger’s money? She’s the great-granddaughter of John D. Rockefeller — founder of Standard Oil — who nearly monopolized the American oil business in the late 1800s and died with a fortune valued at $670 billion in current dollars.
Wait. Isn’t it Republicans who are supposed to be in the pocket of Big Oil?
The DFL’s bottomless well of cash has another source: Big Labor. Since 2009, Minnesota’s three largest public-employee labor unions have spent $750,000 on the DFL agenda — five times as much as the Target gift to MN Forward that so incensed liberals.
What does this flood of money make possible? Among other things, an endless barrage of anti-Emmer TV ads. They’re being underwritten — to the tune of $685,000 so far — by a PAC called Alliance for a Better Minnesota. Where does its money come from? Win Minnesota and the 2010 Fund — the Dayton family piggybanks — are major sources, having funneled it $1.6 million in this election cycle.

Dayton is a profoundly flawed candidate. His platform calls for higher taxes and more government spending. He demands that “the rich” pay their “fair share.” Who are “the rich,” and what is their “fair share”? We may soon find out.
We already know that Dayton is Minnesota’s gift to the psychiatric profession. During his service as United States Senator for Minnesota, he vividly demonstrated that he does not belong in the governor’s mansion or, for that matter, any other executive position.
Dayton could still perform a great service to the state. He could make himself of use advising Senator Al Franken where to get help for his anger management issues.

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