The Free Press, Mankato, MN

October 31, 2012

Campaign notebook: lies, damned lies and footnotes

By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer

— Remember that Sept. 9 story in The Free Press about “Allen Quist’s Extreme Agenda for Medicare: HE WANTS TO END IT FOR FOREVER?”

Neither did we.

But a flier with the above headline — mailed by the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party to residents of the 1st Congressional District — has a footnote that advises folks to “check the facts” in the Sept. 9 Free Press to learn about Quist’s support of “an extreme Washington plan to convert Medicare into a private voucher system.”

So we checked that edition of paper, looked in the A section, the B section, the lifestyle section, even the sports section. Nothing about Quist looking to voucherize Medicare. Nothing about Quist and Medicare at all. In fact, his name didn’t appear once in the entire edition.

A call to the DFL brought an explanation. They got the date wrong, spokeswoman Kate Monson explained. It was actually the Sept. 5 Free Press they were talking about.

That one didn’t ring a bell either, which was surprising since it would normally be memorable if a candidate said he wanted to put an end to Medicare — particularly if he said it in all-capital letters.

Turns out, there was a story about Quist Sept. 5, only it was about his opposition to the farm bill — not Medicare. Monson pointed to this sentence in the story: “Quist said he favors a plan by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan that would make food stamps a block grant program to the states ... .”

OK, but the DFL mailing doesn’t say Quist “WANTS TO END FOOD STAMPS FOREVER.”

Monson said Ryan’s budget would turn Medicare into a voucher system. Quist supports Ryan’s food stamps idea. Ergo: Quist probably supports every part of the Ryan budget and WANTS TO END MEDICARE FOREVER.

Monson later forwarded a Twitter message sent in April by New Ulm Journal reporter Josh Moniz that stated Quist said “he supports Ryan budget plan, except wants debt ended n 6 years.” Moniz has since said that Quist later specifically stated he would not cut Medicare, a pledge Quist has made repeatedly throughout the campaign.

Something afoot?

In a press conference Friday, Quist called the flier “a desperate last-minute smear attack.” And he said that “Tim Walz has launched an entirely false attack ... ”

But hold on a minute. Wasn’t it the DFL that sent the mailer? No, Quist said, it was Walz, hiding behind the DFL so he wouldn’t be criticized for negative and spurious campaigning.

Quist noted that Walz gave the DFL thousands of dollars earlier this month and that the money must have been intended to finance the mailing.

Any proof?

“All I’m doing is connecting the dots,” Quist said. “And the connection is quite obvious.”

It’s not entirely obvious because campaigns can contract with their party for a variety of services, including field work, voter lists, polling information and ... mailings.

Monson said she was unsure what the Walz campaign’s payment was for and doubted she’d have time to check. The Walz campaign, given an opportunity to deny Quist’s charge that the mailer was a Walz attack in DFL clothing, referred all questions to the DFL.

The other footnote drops

Just hours after Quist was expressing outrage about the flier claiming he would undermine Medicare, a TV ad was airing on KEYC comparing Walz to a color-changing lizard and stating that Walz “wants to make major cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”

There was no doubt about the sponsor of the ad, which ended with: “I’m Allen Quist. Martha and I approve this message.”

Friday afternoon, Quist complained about the sham footnote in the mailer attacking him. “The footnote simply gives the facade of documentation,” he said.

Quist used footnotes in the chameleon ad, including one attached to the allegation that Walz is looking to cut Social Security and Medicare. According to the footnote, proof of Walz’s intention to wreak havoc on the financial security of elderly Americans is in the Aug. 17 edition of National Journal in a analysis entitled “The Legend of Simpson-Bowles.”

The National Journal story quotes Republicans and Democrats and lots of numbers about the proposal by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — the super-committee assigned to come up with a deficit reduction plan. One thing that isn’t in the Aug. 17 National Journal article is any mention of Walz.

Walz has said that he might support a deficit-reduction approach “something like” the Simpson-Bowles plan, but Quist offers no evidence that Walz has ever supported “major cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”

The Walz campaign was willing to comment on this ad.

“The false and misleading ad by Mr. Quist is a last ditch effort by a desperate candidate who has ran nothing but a negative campaign,” said Walz campaign spokesman Tony Ufkin. “Southern Minnesotans know that Tim is the only candidate in this race that will work in a bipartisan manner to tackle the debt while protecting Social Security and Medicare, stand up for middle class families and fight to ensure our promise to our veterans is honored.”

So, the bottom line: Footnotes in political ads can be totally bogus.*

Footing the bill

In the final three weeks of an election, congressional candidates have to report large donations within 48 hours. Walz has received 17 donations of $1,000 or more since the end of the last reporting period on Oct. 17. The $23,950 is on top of the $1.9 million in receipts the Mankato Democrat had previously reported for the election cycle.

Quist’s contributions over that 12-day period, $38,500, topped those of Walz, thanks to the continued generosity of the St. Peter Republican’s biggest financial backer — himself. Of the $38,500, Quist contributed $30,000.

In total, Quist has contributed $235,000 to his campaign, loaned the campaign  $260,000 and raised $81,492 from individual supporters. Political action committees and parties have added $5,300.

As of Oct. 17, Walz had raised $1.07 million from individuals and $739,113 from PACs, according to Geographically, 85 percent of Walz’s donations came from Minnesotans with Minneapolis ZIP codes being the biggest source, followed by Rochester, Mankato, Wayzata and St. Paul.


*DFL flier, “Allen Quist’s Extreme Agenda,” mailed Oct. 2012; Quist TV ad, “Chameleon,” aired Oct. 2012.