Pioneer Press: GOP operatives launch new, independent influence group

Bill Salisbury
Jan. 10, 2013

Two veteran Minnesota Republican political operatives, Ben Golnik and Tom Erickson, today filed papers with state campaign regulators to operate a new “independent expenditure political committee” to hold Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislators accountable for their tax and spending proposals and votes.

The Minnesota Jobs Coalition will “work to raise public awareness regarding the importance of pro-growth economic policies,” the organizers said in a press release.

Just two days into the legislative session, DFL lawmakers have already produced “an avalanche of tax increase proposals,” Golnik said, and the new coalition will try to represent the interests of “hard-working taxpayers.”

It will be one of a relatively new type of outside organization that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from individuals, businesses, unions and other political committees to elect or defeat candidates or take sides on policy positions. They cannot, however, contribute money directly to candidates or cooridinate with their campaigns.

In the 2012 elections in Minnesota, independent expenditure groups vastly outspent candidates in several competitive legislative and congressional races.

Golnik will chair the group. He is a public affairs strategist who has managed or consulted on several congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and in the governor’s office and is a former executive director of the state GOP.

Erickson, a communications professional and political organizer, will be the group’s executive director. He previously was a press aide to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, worked on the Pawlenty and Norm Coleman campaigns and handled media relations for congressional Republicans.

Other Republican independent expenditure groups tend to operate only during campaign seasons. “We hope to fill the gap other groups have left open” by becoming a year-round operation, Erickson said.