Koch group targets lawmakers on Vikings stadium vote

Americans for Prosperity Minnesota, the local arm of the conservative Americans for Prosperity, is targeting three state Senate incumbents for supporting the new Vikings stadium.

In an unusual twist, two of those targets are Republicans: Sen. Julie Rosen of Fairmont who is running in SD 23 and Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria who is running in SD 8. The third, Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, is a Democrat running in SD 44.

"We simply don't agree with publicly funded stadiums," said John Cooney who is state director of Minnesota's branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP).

It's a message made clear in these fliers sent out in Rosen's, Ingebrigtsen's and Bonoff's districts.

"A nearly half a billion dollar boondoggle taxpayers can't afford. Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen sided with corporate special interests and his policies are costing taxpayers," an example of the flier reads. It calls the Vikings stadium deal a "give away" to corporate special interests.

The Vikings stadium will cost the state $348 million paid for with new, expanded electronic pull tabs and bingo. The City of Minneapolis will kick in $150 million paid for with existing sales and hospitality taxes.

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All three senators were instrumental in writing and passing the Vikings stadium deal.

Bonoff is running against former Republican Sen. David Gaither, and the race is considered competitive by both parties.

The fliers also highlight the senators' other votes, including one against allowing voters to decide on the so-called right-to-work constitutional amendment.

AFP supports small government and low taxes. It was founded by David Koch, a well-known name among conservative donors and co-owner of Koch Industries, a conglomerate that operates oil refineries and owns several household goods brands.

Koch serves as chairman of the organization's tax-exempt educational arm, according to recent tax filings. A separate arm of AFP is allowed to pay for political advertisements, such as the fliers showing up in Minnesota.

The AFP-Minnesota mailers may raise some eyebrows; it's unusual for a right-leaning organization to oppose the records of right-leaning lawmakers.

But Cooney said that political affiliation doesn't always mean much to AFP.

"The votes that they took certainly weren't conservative in nature," he said. "We believe that you don't just fight for conservative issues, but you hold our public representatives accountable for the votes they take."

AFP has chapters in more than 30 states, including Minnesota, but the group here has kept a relatively low profile since it opened up shop in 2011. It weighed in on the right-to-work debate, it hosted a rally for tax cuts featuring former GOP contender Herman Cain, and it commissioned a poll about the Vikings stadium.

Cooney estimates that the group has roughly 17,000 members. And its funding currently comes from donors in the state.

Cooney isn't sure which legislative races or which issues AFP-MN will be weighing in on next, but added that the group will be focusing on the legislative performance of any number of state lawmakers.

"Our hope is that we won't be seeing bills like [the Vikings stadium bill] come up again in the near future" he said. "We want to be part of the dialogue in the state on how we spend our taxpayer dollars."