The Republican Party of Minnesota’s new “Give It Back” campaign, focused on encouraging Governor Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature to return all of the projected $1.9 billion budget surplus to taxpayers, continues to create turbulence for Republicans.
As previously reported, the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Executive Committee had a conference call on the evening of March 3 to discuss the party launching a “Give It Back” campaign.
But the lack of information provided to members of the committee about the campaign before the vote has members of the committee asking if the party actually spent money to boost Downey’s gubernatorial ambitions.
During the conference call last week, the committee was not given specific details by Downey on how the campaign would be implemented, nor did Downey disclose he would be featured in the campaign.
The committee authorized Downey to spend “at least six-figures” on the campaign. The vote to authorize the spending was not unanimous, as some members of the committee voted against the motion advocated by Downey because of the current debt obligations of the party.
Former Deputy Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota Kelly Fenton, who now serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives, echoed similar concerns in her comments to the media. The Star Tribune reported Fenton said she was “puzzled” as to why money was being spent on the campaign and not on paying vendors who were owed money for work done on the 2014 elections.
Members of the committee I spoke with said they were not shown the television advertisement before it was publicly released by Downey at a press conference on Tuesday morning. In fact, many members of the committee first saw the television advertisement by reviewing Twitter before Downey’s press conference and from media reports later in the day.
Two members of the committee who requested anonymity said they believed Downey knew more about the details of the campaign then he disclosed on the conference call. They were shocked to learn Downey was featured in the “Give It Back” television commercial paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota.
“Looking back, it was clear Downey wanted a blank check to spend money to promote himself,” said one member of the committee. They added, “he should have been honest and just wore a ‘Downey for Governor’ T-shirt.”
During his press conference on Tuesday, Downey gave a non-answer answer in response to a question from the media if he would be a candidate in 2018. During his losing campaign for the Minnesota Senate in 2012, Downey did not rule out running for governor in 2014.
“I regret voting to allow Downey to spend the money,” said another member of the committee. “The ‘Give It Back’ message is not universally supported by Republicans in St. Paul and the TV ads have created a PR mess.” “I have heard more complaints than compliments and most of the complaints are about Keith [Downey] being in the ad,” they added.
Downey said during his press conference the “Give It Back” campaign had already generated enough contributions to completely fund the effort. Bron Scherer, Treasurer of the Republican Party of Minnesota, confirmed the party had received donations to “enable the campaign to proceed.”
Staff at the Republican Party of Minnesota nor Downey responded to a request for comment.
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