Outside groups supporting Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack have released two new ads attacking DFL challenger Rick Nolan over his time in Congress decades ago, providing fuel for the next debate between the candidates.
Cravaack is criticizing Nolan for his record as head of the Minnesota World Trade Center decades ago. Today's debate will be the third between the two candidates, and will be broadcast live at noon on MPR News.
Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's American Action Network is behind one of the new anti-Nolan TV spots. In the ad, a narrator says, "In Congress, Rick Nolan voted to raise his own pay four times in five years," criticizing Nolan for voting to raise congressional salaries when he served in the House more than 30 years ago.
In addition, the ad takes Nolan to task for missed votes decades ago: "And he skipped a third of votes as he left Congress."
A second ad, paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, goes after Nolan on congressional pay raises and over his support for raising the debt ceiling in the mid-1970s: "Rick Nolan voted 10 times to raise the debt limit by a total of 75 percent."
Nolan said higher congressional salaries were needed years ago to ensure members could afford to maintain households in Washington and in their home districts. As for the missed votes, Nolan insists they were on procedural matters, not important issues.
A couple of days ago, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics clocked outside spending in the Cravaack-Nolan race at a little less than $4 million. Their analysis now has amount at more than $4.35 million.
According to the center, more outside money is targeting Cravaack for criticism than is targeting Nolan.
Outside involvement is likely to pick up in the final weeks of the campaign, said Viveca Novak, the center's editorial and communications director.
"Our research shows that the pattern is for more money often to be spent in the last month before the election than has been spent in the whole cycle preceding that," Novak said.
Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier agrees the pace of outside spending is likely to pick up in the 8th District.
"It's very likely that the amount of money spent by outside groups, that is groups that are beyond the campaigns or the candidates, will dwarf the amount of money spent by the candidates themselves," Schier said.
The attacks aren't delivered just in advertisements. The candidates are also trying to use the news media to beat up on each other.
Nolan held two news conferences last week.
On Monday, Cravaack met with reporters at the State Capitol to tear into Nolan for his work with the financially troubled Minnesota World Trade Center in the 1980s and '90s. Cravaack accused Nolan of drawing an unreasonably large salary at a time the center was in financial distress.
"Even with the WTC still failing to be solvent, in June of 1989 Mr. Nolan was given an $8,500 pay raise which made him one of the highest [paid] state employees at that time," Cracaack said.
He also criticized Nolan over a failed personal business venture that ended in bankruptcy.
The Nolan campaign accused Cravaack of "false, desperate attacks." The campaign said Nolan never set his own salary at the World Trade Center and that a bipartisan board determined his compensation. Nolan has said he is proud of his World Trade Center work and maintains the center and his efforts helped Minnesota businesses increase global sales. As for the bankruptcy, the Nolan campaign said entrepreneurs take risks and not all of them pay off.