While searching for information on another story, a clickable online ad appeared for Jeff Backer, sponsored by the AgFood Alliance.
That appetizing name was chosen by Minnesota AgriGrowth Council director Perry Aasness for a political fund at the same address as the Council. The fund was registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board in February 2016; it had a $0 cash on hand balance on hand (unchanged since the last reporting period), according to its pre-primary report.
We putzed around with the landing page, replacing Backer's name with other legislators' names--and when we entered Minnesota House Ag Finance Chair Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake and Ag Policy Vice Chair Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, we got a goose egg--but also a search engine box. Typing in no name at all produced this list:
Will additional names and landing pads be added? Or are these few House members the only ones the AgFood Alliance has scraped up the money for? The property tax and vague rural job creation message seems like a meager meal, but with corn and bean prices being what they are, perhaps that's all the AgFood had to go around.
The Agrigrowth Council is "a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization representing the agriculture and food systems industry" whose 150 members include Dow, Monsanto, and Syngenta, as well as the University of Minnesota Extension Service, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and so on.
Of course, the political fund and ads are totally separate from the nonprofit, so independent expenditures asking voters to pick one candidate over another can't be any sort of ethical problem at all. We wait for the end of the month release of the pre-general report to the campaign finance board to see where Perry scrounged up the cash for these online ads (and whatever else he bought) to help these poor indigent legislators keep their jobs.
Screengrab: Austin area Democrat Jeanne Poppe is the only Democrat so far on the AgFood clickable ad landing page site--and the only non-freshman on the group's list so far. Poppe, seeking her seventh term, is the DFL lead on the Ag Finance committee.
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