Dayton’s call for a ‘cease-fire’ in campaign attack ads gets immediate GOP response charging ‘hypocrisy’

Negative. Sewer. Ugly. Hypocrisy. Smear. Distortion. Those old familiar words were being tossed around this morning at dueling news conferences. Clearly, the real campaign for governor has begun.

First up was Mark Dayton, the DFL’s nominee for governor. In the wake of the Republican Party releasing what he called a distorted, personal attack television ad, he called on the candidates, the political parties and other organizations to declare “a cease-fire” on such advertising.

He did say, however, that the Republican Party’s ad, which says, in the darkest of tones, that Dayton’s Senate record makes him unfit to be governor, should be allowed to “run its course” to settle the score with an ad run by an organization called Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), which attacked Republican candidate Tom Emmer’s DWI past, linking that to a recent legislative vote that many believe would weaken DWI law in the state.

“The votes he took were on the public record,” Dayton said of the anti-Emmer ad, which has received huge play in part because of ABM funding by several Dayton family members. “But personal issues [the old DWIs] were beyond the line.

Michael Brodkorb, deputy chairman of the state’s Republican Party, sat at the back of the room where Dayton was holding his news conference. He was not impressed by the offer, telling reporters afterward that it was “the height of hypocrisy.”

Michael Brodkorb
Michael Brodkorb

“Here’s the deal: He or his family [should] give us a check for $851,000 and then we’ll talk about cease-fire,” Brodkorb said.

That is the amount, he said, that Dayton’s “son, cousin, aunt and ex-wife” have given to Alliance for Minnesota. At any time in the last two months, Brodkorb said, Dayton could have called those family members and asked them to stop funding Alliance for a Better Minnesota.

He didn’t.

What are the chances of this governor’s race being positive?

“None,” said Brodkorb.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner used the Republican ad to gain a little equal access into the negative ad dispute, which has become a rite of American politics.

Horner ripped the Republicans.

“Before the paint had even dried on the Democratic primary results,” Horner said in a statement, “the first message we see from the Republicans is negative. They used their platform not to share a positive vision for the future of Minnesota, but instead to launch a negative personal attack.”

Tom Horner
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Tom Horner

Not surprisingly, Brodkorb defended both the message and the tone of his party’s ad, frequently noting that it received an A-minus for accuracy by KSTP-TV.

Though there’s nothing new — in terms of information — in the ad, it did put Dayton again in a position of explaining why he closed his Senate office during a congressional recess in 2004. He said he had made the decision to close the office based on top secret but “very compelling information” that led him to believe that the U.S. Capitol was a terrorist target.

Dayton said he has tried to get that document declassified, without success.

But he was pressed on the subject. A reporter asked if there were documents showing Dayton had sought to declassify the information.

“You just have to believe me,” Dayton said. “If you don’t want to believe me, don’t.”

Dayton admitted there was nothing in the Republican ad that surprised him. In the process of deciding whether to enter the race, he knew old stories would become fodder used against him. Even primary opponent Margaret Anderson Kelliher hinted at Dayton’s Senate record, though in far different tones than the Republican ad.

One part of his record that he’s become adept at handling is the “F” grade he once gave himself as a senator.

“I gave myself an ‘A’ for effort,” Dayton said. “I worked constantly. But I won’t change what I said — I believe the whole Senate failed. The difference between myself and Gov. Pawlenty is when things go badly, he gives himself an ‘A’ and everyone else an ‘F.’ I hold myself accountable.”

Mark Dayton
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Mark Dayton

Dayton had other campaign news. He said he has invited President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to come to Minnesota to campaign on his behalf. If they do come, their appearances would have to include a fundraiser, Dayton said, “because we’d have to pay for Air Force One.”

Dayton made it clear that he will not self-finance in the way he did when he won his Senate race.

In that regard, he said, he won’t start running a new round of TV ads “until I can raise the money,” a task he always has hated.

But mostly the subject was the tone of advertising.

“The whole attack approach where you destroy someone personally to destroy them politically didn’t exist when I started out [in the early 1980s],” he said. “The antidote is for voters to say, ‘No.’ Even then you’re not going to stop some people from operating out of the sewer.”

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Dan Jurgens on 08/12/2010 - 12:25 pm.

    For weeks, Alliance For a Better Minnesota, funded almost entirely by Dayton family money, has been running an ad that features a woman speaking about how a drunk driver killed her son. She then goes on to identify Tom Emmer as having two DWIs. The clear implication they want viewers to walk away with is that Tom Emmer is the drunk driver who killed her son.

    Dayton never objected to that for the entire time it ran. So now that he successfully undercut the DFL establishment and endorsement process by buying the primary election, he wants to stop negative ads?

    He started this line of advertising. He should have known there are far more negatives that can be laid at his feet.

    Don’t start what you can’t finish, Mark. Margaret Anderson Keliher may not have used negative ads– after all, she didn’t have money for any ad budget to speak of– but Emmer won’t be so kind. You did an entire disservice to Minnesota by starting this level of advertising and now you have to face up to it.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/12/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    I love how the repubs act as though they wouldn’t have gone negative if only someone from the other side hadn’t done so first. ABM did them a favor by giving them cover for ads they would have run regardless. They would have been better off by saying we always run negative ads in every election….why are you even asking about them? Insincerity, GOP is thy name.

  3. Submitted by Lora Jones on 08/12/2010 - 12:56 pm.

    Hypocracy! How about the absolute hypocracy that comes from equating Dayton with Alliance for a Better Minnesota while screaming that MN Backwards does not equal Emmer! Have it one way or the other.

    Dayton did not “start this line of advertising.” What’s more, even the ABM PAC ads didn’t start until after that sickening MN Backwards pile.

    Emmer’s got NOTHING. The Repugnantcans got NOTHING when it comes to anything that works. Tax cuts for the rich = jobs? Where are these jobs? Lord knows we’ve had the tax cuts for 30 years. All its gotten us is repeated bubbles and the Great Recession. Cut spending? Show me where you’ll cut it that it’s not going to continue the rape of the poor/environment/educational system. They got NOTHING except hatred and personal attacks so that’s what they’ll run with.


  4. Submitted by Andrea Schaerf on 08/12/2010 - 12:58 pm.

    As a voter I was proud to be Minnesotan when I voted. The next day I say the ugly ads start. I am sure if we dig into most people pasts, we can come up with enough dirt to fill ads until the election. I would no longer be proud to be Minnesotan

    I want to know what and how each candidate will do to help Minnesota. We have a difficult situation facing who ever wins.How will each help us overcome challenges. We should treat others like we want to be treated….even while campaigning.It reflects how someone will act as Governor.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/12/2010 - 01:06 pm.

    “He started this line of advertising.”

    Now the actions of his family members are attributed to him? That’s interesting.

    If we’re going to go with that line of thinking, lets draw some logical conclusions from the ad attacking Dayton for being ‘erratic’. First, let us posit that by attacking former Sen Dayton for being erratic, the GOP is implicitly stating that their candidate, Rep Emmer, is not erratic. Instead, we should apparently assume, he is rock-stable, consistent and has never behaved erratically. Now lets talk about the DUIs. We know Rep Emmer had two arrests, long, long ago. Should voters assume that was erratic behavior that Rep Emmer no longer engages in, or should voters assume Rep Emmer is a rock of stability, doesn’t change, and continues to operate motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol?

  6. Submitted by Andrea Schaerf on 08/12/2010 - 01:42 pm.

    Rep Emmer did exhibit some unusual behavior. He talked about cutting the wages for servers as some make over 200,000 dollars a year in tips.Then he worked as a server and added tax free tips as part of his somewhat not well thought out plan. No one could find the high earning servers.Is this a model of stability?

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/12/2010 - 01:51 pm.

    It would have been nice if Dayton had not run those ads. He would be in a better moral position now.

  8. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 08/12/2010 - 02:16 pm.

    If Mark Dayton is accountable for contributions of his “son, cousin, aunt and ex-wife,” does that mean Tom Emmer is responsible for his uncle’s unpaid property taxes in Delano? Fair is fair, right Brodkorb?

  9. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/12/2010 - 02:22 pm.

    “It would have been nice if Dayton had not run those ads. He would be in a better moral position now.”

    What ads did Dayton run?

  10. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/12/2010 - 02:29 pm.

    Yes, if he paid for anti Dayton ads. I would hold Emmer responsible for the ads Target is running on his behalf.

  11. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 08/12/2010 - 02:48 pm.

    It is hypocrisy plain and simple. Fact is; and history clearly demonstrates (simply Google it) that the democrats are notorious for this. And; what goes around, comes around. The dems release an ad accusing the republican nominee of things including being a drunkard. This is slime politics at its core and will continue to get worse. The only reason the Dayton camp is asking for a cease fire is that he doesn’t yet have some new dirt on Emmer; real or imagined. So they are still developing attack ads. Both camps. Show me where it really changed!! I’ve lived here in MN since 1976 and it just is amazing how all this works and what people tolerate!

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/12/2010 - 02:51 pm.

    Yes, and meanwhile Emmer’s not even responsible for his wifes unpaid landscaping bill.

  13. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/12/2010 - 03:14 pm.

    “The dems release an ad accusing the republican nominee of things including being a drunkard”

    If I recall the ad correctly, it accurately pointed out that Emmer introduced legislation to reduce the penalty for an offense after he himself committed the offense twice. It also pointed out the tragic consequences that can occur when that offense is committed.

    But the accurate, albeit ‘negative’, ad was about Emmer’s policy proposal, not about Emmer the person.

  14. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/12/2010 - 03:18 pm.

    Of course the Republicans will not agree to a “cease fire.” Why would they?

    What else have they got, if the name-calling and character assasinations are left out? Do they want to defind their record in state government for the last eight years? Do they want to defend the few substantive proposals Tom Emmer has made, like nullification of federal laws? Do they want attention drawn to the fact that he has not offered any specifics for his secret plan to balance the budget? Do they care to explain his unsavory pals, like the “Christian” punk band he thinks are such wonderful people? Certainly not–they want to call Mark Dayton a nut! It’s so much easier and more comfortable for them to keep the spotlight off themselves.

  15. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 08/12/2010 - 03:36 pm.

    Someone needs to get Emmer’s landscaper to make an ad for Dayton.

  16. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 08/12/2010 - 03:37 pm.

    “The only reason the Dayton camp is asking for a cease fire is that he doesn’t yet have some new dirt on Emmer; real or imagined.”

    Are you kidding me? There’s enough material on Emmer to produce a one hour series that will run longer than Gunsmoke, much less a 30-second ad. Emmer should have agreed to that proposal before noon.

  17. Submitted by Erick Crail on 08/12/2010 - 04:14 pm.

    So Michael Brodkorb frequently noted that the Republican attack ad against Dayton received an A- from KSTP? He says this as though he thinks it lends the GOP ads an air of credibility!

    Does he think we are so stupid as to not realize that KSTP is owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, which donated $100,000 to Minnesota Forward for their pro-Emmer TV ads? Hardly what anyone with half a brain would consider an unbiased source of objectivity!

  18. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/12/2010 - 04:36 pm.

    Personally, I would love to to make an issue out of Emmer’s DUI’s. I think the Dayton family made a mistake in running those ads. The Democrats will run a negative campaign, but the negativity will be composed of an attack on Emmer’s record, and sometimes his non record.

  19. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/12/2010 - 04:44 pm.

    Stephan Flister writes
    “But the accurate, albeit ‘negative’, ad was about Emmer’s policy proposal, not about Emmer the person.”

    Stephan, that kind of argument is straight from the Tony Sutton playbook.

    From Doug’s piece yesteday:
    “Sutton said that the ad is an important message to Minnesotans.

    “Closing the office is a display of his character,” said Sutton. “. . . He cut and run.”

    Sutton made reference to Dayton’s “intestinal fortitude.”

    Are you saying he’s a coward, a reporter asked.

    “Draw your own conclusions,” Sutton said.”

  20. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/12/2010 - 05:05 pm.

    (to Brian’s #21)

    I don’t think that’s apples to apples. As I see it, Sutton directly attacked Dayton the person with a false statement using inflammatory language: “… he cut and run.”
    In fact, if I remember correctly, Dayton, along with the other 99 senators, wasn’t even in Washington. He made a risk assessment based on imperfect information and decided that at no cost or inconvenience to any constituent he could act to increase the probability that his staff would be safe. I don’t think there was any similar deliberately demeaning misleading character assassinating statement in the DUI ad.

  21. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/12/2010 - 05:13 pm.

    Isn’t this how Ventura got elected, when folks rejected the negative campaigns. If history is any measure, Tom Horner will be the candidate to benefit if the two major parties start and continue a cage match.

  22. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/12/2010 - 05:26 pm.

    I loathe and despise political advertising in general, and personal attack ads in particular, but they’ve been around in one form or another for, literally, centuries. There was personal attack election graffiti on the walls in Pompeii in 79 A.D., when the city was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. For about as long as there have been elections, there have been negative and hypocritical campaign ads. The only sure way to get away from them is to live in a police state where there’s no opposition.

    One distinction in the above discussion seems accurate. The “Anti-Emmer” ad did not, it seemed to me, suggest that Emmer had killed someone as a drunk driver. I thought its focus was very clearly on his policy proposal to reduce penalties for drunk driving. Making such a proposal when he had a couple of DUI convictions on his record doesn’t speak well of Emmer, but even if he had NO convictions for driving under the influence, my view is that the ad constituted emotion-laden, but nonetheless legitimate, criticism of his legislative record.

    In similar fashion, then, Dayton supporters will have to brace themselves not only for personal attacks, which do not seem justified to me, but also negative ads that focus on Dayton’s record in the U.S. Senate, and in any other areas where he’s played a public policy role. Criticisms of his actions and policy proposals in those contexts strike me as politically legitimate.

    As a newbie to Minnesota, I don’t know much of anything about Dayton’s record as a Senator – I wasn’t here then. I also don’t know much about Emmer’s record as a legislator for the same reason. I’m more interested in what they propose now, and over the course of the campaign, for dealing with the severe fiscal and governmental challenges looming on the horizon for Minnesota over the next several years.

    In THAT context, I’d be inclined to wait and see what proposals are made by each candidate. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Emmer has already disqualified himself from government service by taking the position that obeying the law of the land is optional. The whole “Tenth Amendment” movement that Emmer has publicly embraced is built around the notion that we should ignore laws that don’t have overwhelming public support in the state. That idea is patently unconstitutional, and no one taking that policy position ought to be seriously considered for ANY elected office.

    That many in Minnesota apparently consider Emmer fit for the Governor’s office anyway doesn’t reflect well on those Minnesotans. For me, Emmer is irrelevant. The race is between Dayton and Horner, who strikes me as an old-fashioned and genuine Republican.

  23. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/12/2010 - 07:16 pm.

    Hear, Hear it is all about voter suppression. There was a study in the mid 90’s where it was found that negative ads have a far greater effect on suppressing democratic vs. republican turnout. So no, most if not all republican operatives will continue to use negative attack ads. Its a wonderful world when you scratch below the surface.

  24. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/12/2010 - 08:09 pm.

    I find it hilarious that some of you think there is some sort of separation between the party’s and their allies. If the unions and the Dayton family aren’t the democratic party, who is? Same goes the republicans.

    #4 Lora- Oh do tell how the education system has been “raped” over the last 10 years. Are you using the pretzel logic that if an increase is less than the year before, it’s a cut?

  25. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/12/2010 - 08:45 pm.

    #25 Dan- Suppression is only one part of the equation. The other is getting people to vote their feelings so they, and the political class that panders to them, don’t have to deal with facts.

  26. Submitted by David Willard on 08/12/2010 - 08:48 pm.

    Dayton continues to be a comic… how can we count the ways??

  27. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/12/2010 - 09:35 pm.

    Dayton is a comic?

    So let’s see. Emmer doesn’t understand the constitution. He doesn’t understand the reasoning behind Rowe V. Wade. He believes that a pharmacist should have discretion about to whom (s)he will sell birth control. He doesn’t believe in paying his bills. Doesn’t believe in the minimum wage. I could go on.

    There’s a reason why the hard right GOPers would prefer to keep attention on what they perceive as Dayton’s shortcomings. By all means they’d prefer to rag on that, rather than bring Mr. Emmer out for scrutiny.

    Oh, and by the way- Have Mr. Emmer and his lieutenant governor patched things up lately? If you can’t get along with your own running mate… Mr. Emmer’s reputation for a hard head, big mouth, and terrible temper is well deserved. Very erratic behavior. Must be unstable?

  28. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/13/2010 - 08:02 am.

    //Are you using the pretzel logic that if an increase is less than the year before, it’s a cut?

    Tim, school districts aren’t being forced to borrow money to make up smaller increases in state aid, their aid has been cut, payment delayed etc. It’s pretty clear that the Republicans are perfectly willing to “delay” those payments indefinitely. By the way, you do realize the net effect of those cuts is a hike in your local taxes don’t you? Instead of paying five cents on the dollar for that financing you will no be on the hook for the whole dollar.

  29. Submitted by Lora Jones on 08/13/2010 - 08:22 am.

    The rape of our educational system began longer than 10 years ago, but it’s accelerated under TPaw. “Real” dollars = inflation adjusted dollars. The numbers you apologists keep quoting are NOT inflation adjusted. TPaw’s repeated “accounting shifts” have resulted in real pain, and the need for borrowing.

    Reagan got the ball rolling by eliminating much of our civics education. The Texas School Board has continued it. As have budget cuts, the reversal of Minnesota Miracle financing and NCLB. As someone who benefited from a high school education that included civics, social studies, labor history, art, psychology, religion, shop, small engine repair, physical education and comparative religion, I find the current state of Minnesota’s schools appalling. Not to mention the fact that our Land Grant University has been forced to increase tuition to the point that dear TPaw himself could never afford to go there today.

  30. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/13/2010 - 08:41 am.

    Bang on, Lora. The erosion of real support for education is obvious to any parent.

    But one quibble-

    “Not to mention the fact that our Land Grant University has been forced to increase tuition to the point that dear TPaw himself could never afford to go there today.”

    “forced?” That is debatable. But for another day…

    [tuition should cover the cost of EDUCATION – U budget goes for a lot more than just educational costs]

  31. Submitted by Laura Waterman Wittstock on 08/13/2010 - 11:53 am.

    KSTP’s judgments on accuracy are out for this race after it contributed to the new corporations-allowed campaign funding. KSTP put itself on the sidelines for the duration of this race — and maybe beyond. Stan Hubbard’s views are well known, and now the views of his corporation are well known as well.

    Unfortunately, many people get “news” about candidates from the ads of the opposition. Real positions, records, and quotes get lost in the fog of the advertising.

    The tactic of negative advertising is based on the willingness of some of the public to be affected by it. Some believe it. That’s enough for the handlers and spin experts to keep doing it.

    However we now have blogs, Fox, AM radio, and other venues to spread the negative message.

    Positive, honest ads will be a refreshing change. No weird music. No hushed baritones reading the scripts. Or alto voiced female voices. No use of the color red extensively.

    That would be just great.

  32. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/13/2010 - 12:03 pm.

    There is no defense for nasty negative ads: not, you do it too, or it’s accurate, or slamming the sources of the campaign funds. Nothing excuses the kind of ad I saw almost immediately against Dayton. I haven’t seen many Emmer ads (I watch very little TV) but there is no justification whatsoever for dark, ominous ads.
    And what was the immediate reaction to Dayton’s plea to lift the level of discourse? Hypocrisy. No suggestions about improving ads.

  33. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/13/2010 - 12:19 pm.

    Our Republican friends have a VERY clear vision for the future of Minnesota, but they’ll NEVER run on it because it is more of the same:

    …restructuring the economy to allow the banking and finance system to extract massive amounts of money from the poor and middle class through “easy credit,” subprime mortgages, “free” checking etc.;

    …lower wages and higher unemployment (to assist with lowering wages) for working people and even higher salaries for CEO’s,

    …wiping out all regulations which protect the public from harmful or defective products or practices while, at the same time, passing tort “reform” to wipe out the public’s ability to seek legal recourse when they are damaged by harmful or defective products or practices which are now allowed due to deregulation (profit is everything, people are nothing);

    …more crumbling infrastructure, further dismantling of the public education system (saving themselves tax money AND making for a less educated, less aware, more ignorant, more desperate and more compliant populace),

    …finally, based on whatever the newest B.S. reason why they’re deserving of them, further reductions in their own taxes until those with the most contribute almost nothing to support the state, while the poor and middle class pay for everything.

    That’s the vision of the Chamber of Commerce, the Club for Growth, and TeaParty types (the core of the Republican Party). It’s beautiful for them (as long as the rest of us don’t really find out about it)

    Since they can’t run on it because it stinks to high heaven in the nostrils of the average citizen of our state, ALL they can do is try to convince us that there’s something SO wrong with the opposing candidates that we’d be better off with Princeling Tommy, et al – in other words, King Timmy Pawlenty x 2.

    Watch the tone of their negative adds. They almost NEVER disagree with someone’s actual actions, philosophy or policy statements, but even when they do it’s only to try to get you to believe that there’s something SO wrong with the opponent(s) that you should be FRIGHTENED of voting for them (examples are, of course, far too numerous to mention).

    Are we, the voters of Minnesota, such ignorant wimps as to continue to fall for such tactics even while our state falls down around us and our elderly neighbors are being driven out of their homes due to property tax increases forced by King Timmy’s “no new taxes (on the rich)” policies?

  34. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 08/13/2010 - 07:39 pm.

    Hypocrisy? Is that a no?

  35. Submitted by Tim Larson on 08/13/2010 - 08:22 pm.

    #31 Lora- I find your continued use of the word “rape” both offensive and ignorant. Keep it up and it’ll mean as much as “racism” does these days.

    The condition of our schools is appalling. However it’s more about how we fund our schools, individual school districts, and the lack of involved parents. In no particular order.

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