This Strib article left the impression that Republicans outspent Democrats this cycle. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Republicans and their campaign allies, often financially outmatched in recent years by a cash-rich DFL machine, focused their resources on a relatively small number of key and expensive state House races and the gamble paid off, according to campaign finance reports made public Tuesday.

First, the slant to that paragraph sounds like Republicans finally overtook the DFL in campaign spending. Here’s what I would’ve written had I written the article:

Republicans and their campaign allies, financially outmatched in each election for the last two decades by a cash-rich DFL machine, focused their resources on a relatively small number of key and expensive state House races. The perfectly predictable political strategy, which the DFL also followed, paid off, according to campaign finance reports made public Tuesday.

The next paragraph is equally misleading. It read:

The reports show that of the 10 most expensive statehouse races in 2014, Republicans won seven, the exact number they needed to take the majority, plus four others for good measure. The price tag on a couple of those races topped $750,000 in independent expenditures alone, not counting what the candidates themselves spent.

Here’s what I would’ve written:

The reports show that, of the 10 most expensive (i.e., “targeted” by both parties) state legislative races in 2014, Republicans won seven, the exact number they needed to take the majority, even though the GOP coalition was outspent plus four others for good measure (That makes the entire “most expensive” races narrative irrelevant). The price tag on a couple of those races topped $750,000 in independent expenditures, not counting what the candidates themselves spent. In both races where that was true, the DFL candidate benefitted from significantly more spending than the GOP candidate, including an $83,000 advantage in the state’s most expensive race. In that race, the DFL candidate benefitted from tens of thousands of dollars from outside Minnesota.

It isn’t until the third paragraph that Mssrs. Coolican and Howatt admit that the DFL outspent Republicans:

The DFL retained its overall fundraising advantage, with Democratic-aligned groups spending $10 million to the approximate $6 million of their Republican counterparts, but the data does not show so-called dark money spending by groups that do not have to report expenses, which is where Republicans may be catching up or surpassing Democrats.

This is what I would’ve written:

The DFL retained its overall fundraising advantage (in direct contrast to the headline of this article), with Democratic-aligned groups spending $10 million to the approximate $6 million of their Republican counterparts (meaning $6 of every $10 dollars in Minnesota races were spent to benefit DFL candidates), but the data does not show so-called dark money spending by groups that do not have to report expenses, which is where Republicans may be catching up or surpassing Democrats. Then again, Republicans might not be catching up since it’s impossible to track so-called dark money.

Here’s the next paragraph:

All told, the parties, candidates and political action committees spent an estimated $66 million on the 2014 contests.

Does this include state house races, constitutional officers and congressional races? Does this include the “dark money” that Democrats reflexively decry…when it isn’t being used to elect Democrats?

Republican-aligned groups spent $1.26 million to help GOP gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson, who trailed in the polls from the day he won his primary, while DFL groups spent $4.5 million to help re-elect Gov. Mark Dayton, swamping Johnson with negative ads before he could get his campaign off the ground.

Here’s where the DFL spending advantage is best highlighted:

Republican-aligned groups spent $1.26 million to help GOP gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson, who trailed in the polls from the day he won his primary, while DFL groups spent almost 4 times as much as the GOP, or about $4.5 million, to help re-elect Gov. Mark Dayton, swamping Johnson with negative ads before he could get his campaign off the ground.

That’s quite a contrast.

In the House races, however, Republicans and their allies approached parity, spending $4.3 million to the DFL aligned groups’ $5.4 million. The Republican-leaning Minnesota Jobs Coalition, for instance, funneled at least $325,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee into targeted races that helped put House Republicans over the top. Ben Golnik was hired away from the Jobs Coalition after November’s election to the House Republicans’ top staff job.

Here’s the more accurate version:

In the House races, however, Republicans and their allies were ‘only’ outspent by the DFL by $1.1 million. The Republican-leaning Minnesota Jobs Coalition funneled at least $325,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based RSLC into targeted races that helped put House Republicans over the top. The Washington, D.C. Based DLCC Victory Fund spent $300,000 on an identical effort through the House DFL Caucus. After November’s election, Ben Golnik was hired away from the Jobs Coalition to the House Republicans’ top staff job.

This paragraph is rich:

Although $66 million was reported spent in 2014, what’s not known is precisely how much was spent by so-called dark money groups — nonprofit organizations that can spend unlimited sums on elections without disclosing their donors. They have become much more active in politics since the U.S. Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United decision gutted campaign finance rules. Minnesota House Democrats complain bitterly about this spending and have offered legislation this year attempting to close loopholes.

Democrats won’t stop whining about Citizens United. That paragraph is completely misleading and false. These groups can’t spend a dime on elections. They can educate voters about issues. Often, these ads are confused with election ads. They’ve become much more active in politics since the U.S. Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United decision gutted campaign finance rules that violated the First Amendment. If anything, the “issue ads” are less prevalent since Citizens United (at least in Minnesota) precisely because corporate and labor spending can now be used for express advocacy. Minnesota House Democrats complain bitterly about this spending and have offered legislation this year attempting to “close loopholes”, which is code for saying eliminating some First Amendment protections. What’s interesting is that many of the DFL’s allies, including the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, labor unions such as SEIU and AFSCME and Planned Parenthood, take advantage of the same “loopholes” to educate Minnesotans on issues important to them, which is their constitutional right.

Minnesota DFLers were helped by reliable allies: The Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund spent more than $4.5 million. Big labor union PACs also pitched in, including Education Minnesota with more than $400,000 and big totals from AFSCME, SEIU and the nurses union also came to the DFL’s aid. This was in addition to nearly $2.9 million by the state party and more than $900,000 by the DFL House caucus.

Here’s more details that the Strib didn’t include in their article:

Minnesota DFLers were helped by reliable allies. The Alliance for a Better Minnesota Action Fund spent more than $4.5 million, over $1.2M of which was contributed by “Win Minnesota,” a 501(c)(4) which is not required to disclose its donors. Big labor union PACs also pitched in, including Education Minnesota with more than $400,000 and big totals from AFSCME, SEIU and the nurses union also came to the DFL’s aid. This was in addition to nearly $2.9 million by the state party and more than $900,000 by the DFL House caucus.

Finally, there’s this:

On the Republican side, the party spent $1.3 million. Minnesota Action Network, with which former Sen. Norm Coleman is affiliated, spent $657,000; Pro Jobs Majority spent more than $1 million, with several similar, business-backed groups chipping in six-figure chunks. The House Republican caucus spent $440,000.

On the Republican side, the party spent $1.3 million. Minnesota Action Network, which former Sen. Norm Coleman is affiliated with, spent $657,000 (which didn’t have to disclose all of its individual donors); Pro Jobs Majority spent more than $1 million, with several similar, business-backed groups chipping in six-figure chunks. The House Republican caucus spent $440,000.

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