MINNEAPOLIS, M.N. — The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is raising eyebrows this election cycle with its choice of Chamber endorsed and funded candidates. The Chamber has had a lucrative history of endorsing Republican candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota State Senate.
However, this election cycle, it appears that the Chamber has decided to throw its hat into the political ring and actively work against some Republican-endorsed candidates.
It seems the Chamber has been working against Republican candidates through the Pro Jobs Majority PAC.
Pro Jobs Majority financial history shows the PAC spent nearly $500,000 against DFL candidates across the State. A closer look shows that the PAC specifically helped two candidates who challenged Republican-endorsed candidates.
The PAC gave $4,198.00 in mass mailers in support of Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-31B). Alpha News reported earlier this year that Rep. Hackbarth lost his endorsement bid to Calvin Bahr. Hackbarth went on to challenge Bahr in the primary. According to Campaign Finance records, the PAC sent out mailers supporting Hackbarth on two separate occasions in July 2016.
Hackbarth later lost the primary to Calvin Bahr by 14 points.
The Bahr campaign, which received the endorsement of the North Metro Chamber of Commerce, told Alpha News that the State Chamber sent him a letter stating they would endorse his opponent. On the overall decision to not endorse his campaign, Bahr said this:
“Local or regional branches of the Chamber of Commerce, being made up of local business owners, work to open new markets and eliminate government restrictions. State and National Chambers, too often, use the force of government to restrict new entrants into the market, ask for and accept government subsidies or bailouts, lobby for tax breaks that favor only their membership.
I support the free market and when the Chamber works to those ends they will find me to be one of their most staunch supporters, however, when the Chamber attempts to use government to circumvent or stifle free markets, they will find me adversarial.”
The Pro Jobs Majority also gave money to former candidate Kris Newcomer who lost the Republican endorsement to Mary Shapiro in Minnesota House District 48A. As Alpha News reported, Newcomer helped and supported DFL candidates in the past. Also, Newcomer was in favor of Southwest Light Rail – a plan that the MN Chamber was against.
The PAC donated $11,717.00 for online and print advertising for Kris Newcomer’s primary match up against GOP-endorsed candidate Mary Shapiro in July 2016.
Newcomer lost the primary to Shapiro by 61 points.
Alpha News has reached out to Mary Shapiro for comment. It was not returned.
Another PAC tied to the Chamber called the MN Chamber of Commerce Leadership Fund has donated to Republican candidates for office. However well known Republicans such as Matt Dean and Roger Chamberlain did not receive funds according Campaign Finance reports. The Chamber has not endorsed several Republican candidates such as Steve Drazkowski (21B), Eric Lucero (30B), Mary Shapiro (48A), Cory Campbell (57), and Abigail Whalen (35A).
In a statement to Alpha News, Cory Campbell’s Campaign Manager, Ryan Kirkley says:
“ We are very disappointed in the (Minnesota) Chamber of Commerce playing politics and not endorsing the best candidate for business in Minnesota. Cory is not only a member of the Apple Valley and Dakota County Chamber of Commerce, but was also endorsed by them. Furthering his case the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business) gave Cory their strongest endorsement saying, “The choice for the small business community in the Senate District 57 race is an easy one, we are enthusiastically endorsing him. Plain and simple, the decision to not endorse Mr. Campbell can only be described as back-room politics. He is the clear choice for those who value small business in Minnesota.”
Eric Lucero posted on Facebook that he is “humbled by the strong support from hard working men and women of my local area Chambers of Commerce and I’m proud my 2015/2016 voting record received a 100% score from the NFIB.”
While the Minnesota Chamber has every right as a nonpartisan group to donate to any party or candidate it desires, Republicans are calling into question the Chamber’s true intentions and mission behind news of political interference.