Daily Digest: Costly battle to fight invasives

Good morning, and happy Tuesday. Here's the Digest.

1. Are we winning the fight against invasive species? Minnesota spends millions of dollars every year to fight invasive species — such as zebra mussels and starry stonewort — in the state's lakes and waterways. But the damaging plants and animals continue to spread. In 2014, the Legislature took the unusual step of setting aside $10 million each year to distribute to the counties fighting invasives. The money came with very few strings: No detailed financial reporting is required. Counties must submit a spending plan, but it can be as simple as a county board's resolution saying it will use the money for aquatic invasive species programs. The low overhead was intended to avoid bureaucracy and spur innovation. Four years into the program, many Minnesota counties have taken the funding and run with it. The money has prompted a raft of new local initiatives, but because the reporting is slim and invasives are tough to track, it's unclear if all that funding — and activity — is protecting Minnesota's lakes. (MPR News)

2. GOP-aligned group uses Ellison allegations in ads. A conservative fundraising group Monday released television ads attacking four Minnesota Democrats running for Congress, saying they “should be ashamed” of standing by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison after he was accused of domestic violence. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that is trying to elect Republican candidates, created the ads that target four Minnesota candidates for U.S. House, as well as Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general. Ellison has repeatedly denied the abuse allegation. “The National Organization for Women is calling for Ellison to end his campaign. But Dean Phillips is standing by Keith Ellison. Backing Ellison instead of believing his victim? ... Dean Phillips should be ashamed,” the commercials say. Other versions of the ad swap out Phillips, who is running in the Third Congressional District, and instead mention First District candidate Dan Feehan, Second District candidate Angie Craig and Eighth District candidate Joe Radinovich. A spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund said the ads are part of a six-figure advertising buy and will be airing on television in each of those congressional districts. Phillips and other Democrats said the allegation by Ellison’s former girlfriend is serious and he should withdraw if it is true. (Star Tribune)

3. DFLers take a leap of faith on Ellison. When someone comes up to you and they look you straight in the face, when they say, ‘Hey, I didn’t do it,’ you’ve got to take a person’s word,” said Joel Heller, an Iraq war veteran from Duluth. He was one of the members of the DFL central committee that endorsed Keith Ellison's run for Minnesota attorney general over the weekend. But Heller said he knows the consequences if it turns out that he and the party put trust in Ellison that he didn’t deserve. “If he doesn’t tell the truth, not only is he going to be branded a liar now, he’s going to branded a liar for years and years to come,” Heller said. “We put faith in this person and that’s all we’ve got is faith. If he breaks our faith right now, it’s going to devastate the party. The Republicans are going to cream us in November if that happens.” (MinnPost)

4. Group spends to promote copper-nickel mining. As election season gets into full swing this fall, a Twin Cities conservative think tank will wade into the fierce economic debate about copper-nickel mining in northern Minnesota with a statewide advertising campaign that promotes the potential of the new industry. John Hinderaker, President of the Center of the American Experiment in Golden Valley, said the $270,000 campaign announced Monday will start after Labor Day. It will include highway billboards, TV and radio spots, YouTube videos and other social media ads that highlight the billions in economic benefits the state will reap from mining, according to a new report from the Center.“If voters understand the huge benefit of mining, they will want to see it happen,” Hinderaker said. “And an election is a good time to be talking about it.” Critics also argue that creating a new mining industry will permanently alter a region now cherished for its lakes, forests, hunting and fishing, and eclipse a thriving outdoor industry — a view that was supported earlier this month by a different economic study independently conducted by a Harvard economist. (Star Tribune)

5. Pence to visit again. Vice President Mike Pence is heading back to Minnesota. Minnesota Republican Party chairw Jennifer Carnahan announced Monday that Pence will return to Minnesota Aug. 30. It's the latest evidence of the White House's keen focus on Minnesota ahead of an election filled with competitive races in a state President Trump nearly won in 2016. Pence's upcoming visit will be the third White House stop to Minnesota in just over a month. Trump hosted a rally on behalf of Republican congressional candidate Pete Stauber in late July. Pence followed up to support Stauber earlier this month. (AP)

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