Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt and Senate Minority Leader David Hann were in the loop about the new ad campaign being run by the Republican Party of Minnesota urging lawmakers to return the entirety of the state’s $1.9 billion budget surplus to taxpayers.
“We were very transparent,” about the ad, said Party Chair Keith Downey. “We’ve been talking to legislative leadership. They understand the party has a job and role different than theirs.”
Yet that hasn’t prevented some disgruntlement among some legislators — many of whom have their own spending priorities — over the campaign.
“I’ve heard a little,” said former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. “You’re definitely going to get the ‘Don’t tell me what to do’ response,” she said. “Individual legislators are going to be worried about their district concerns or about using some of the surplus for transportation, specifically.”
Koch should know. In 2011, she was on the receiving end of a message from then-party chair Tony Sutton — a letter to legislators urging Republicans to “resist any revenue enhancement proposals … that not only violate our principles but are bad politics and bad public policy.”
Is the Republican Party ad similar to the Sutton letter? “I don’t know that it does differ,” said Koch.
Certainly, the reaction of DFL Party Chair Ken Martin hasn’t changed. When asked about the Sutton letter in March 2011, Martin told MinnPost: “It’s not up to the chair of the party to control what happens at the Legislature.”
“The fact is that Chairman Downey should do his job of building the party to win elections and focus less on taking positions such as this which are squarely at odds with the highest ranking elected Republican in the State of Minnesota,” Martin said yesterday in response to the GOP’s “Give It Back” campaign.
The more things change, the more they remain the same. The DFL maintains its juggling act of accommodating its liberal and conservative wings, while the Republicans try to balance legislators’ different interests while maintaining allegiance to core principles, especially lowering government spending.
According to Koch, Republican Party leaders tend to be activists, and “Keith has definitely thrown himself into the activist role by putting himself in the ad,” referring to Downey’s role as the ad’s narrator.
But the GOP ad differs in one significant aspect from the Sutton letter. The latter was an ad hominem warning that came in the spring of 2011, just a few months after the Republican Party had banished a group of moderates for not supporting gubernatorial candidate (now U.S. Rep.) Tom Emmer.
“Our message is directly to the people, not to the legislators,” Downey said, pointing out that the party didn’t need to spend $150,000 to reach Republican legislators directly.
Downey said the ad is simply making the case that taxpayers deserve a break when a $2 billion tax increase in 2013 resulted in a nearly $2 billion surplus in 2015.
Still, legislators watch TV and go online too. Will this ad pressure them indirectly?
Downey acknowledges it could.
“The House leadership comes out with their budget targets on March 23 and that will be the outline of their budget proposal, “ he said. “Our hope is that shining a light on this issue broadly to the public will have an impact on the debate that occurs from there.”