"Report cards" for some Minnesota lawmakers are being mailed to voters across the state.
Bluestem Prairie, a blog with a "progressive" edge, reports Reps. Drew Cristhensen, Mary Franson, Pat Garofalo, Jennifer Loon and Tara Mack (all Republicans) have been the subject of mailed-out post cards declaring their grade to be an "F."
The site references former Rep. Amy Koch, who tweeted about one of them.
Clearly there are some political games being played, despite the next statewide legislative elections not coming until Nov. 8, 2016.
OK, so what are the candidates being graded on, and who is handing them out?
It's a PAC!
The post cards come from the Liberty Minnesota Political Action Committee (a type of organization you'll usually see shortened to PAC).
Under Minnesota law, a "Political Committee" such as Liberty Minnesota exists "to influence elections," according to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. The committees can give the contributions they get to candidates, other political committees, political party units, and other entities.
In Minnesota, there's a contribution limit for each individual or political committee (among other things), which changes based on the race. Here's a look at the 2013-14 numbers. (One of them: A committee can only give $4,000 max to the gubernatorial race during an election segment.)
There are a whole host of other regulations, and basically everything is must be tracked and reported. For example, a political committee can't take money from corporations or LLCs; no anonymous contributions over $20 are allowed; and money can't be given on the condition it be used for a particular candidate. Click here to read the handbook.
(Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly cited federal PAC rules via OpenSecrets, not state regulations.)
Liberty Minnesota describes itself as promoting "constitutional conservatism," and wants Minnesotans "to take control of their government once again." Its Facebook page promotes an event with the Minnesota Tea Party Alliance.
Republican Rep. Marion O'Neill, the subject of the tweet at the top of this post, responded on Twitter to her "F" grade.
Franson did as well.
Karl Eggers, the PAC's treasurer, told BringMeTheNews in an email that the mailings were sent to "a few dozen districts" where they believe voters should "use this information to hold their legislator accountable."
What constitutes an 'F'?
The grades are derived from the PAC's scorecard site.
At the tail end of August, the PAC opened MinnesotaScorecard.com. There, you can search through all the state representatives and senators and see what percentage grade Liberty Minnesota gives them when it comes to "protect[ing] YOUR liberties."
"Our scorecard itself doesn't give letter grades but every member of the Minnesota House received a score less than 60% and Minnesota voters deserve better," Eggers told BringMeTheNews.
There's a clear political bend here: The individual lawmaker pages go over a number of bills voted on, then gives the lawmakers a green dot for "protected your liberty," and a red dot for "took away your freedom." Here's one example.
The political leaning isn't strictly "Republican vs Democrat," but more Democrats appear to be in the lowest-graded tier than Republicans.
"All districts that received a mailer had a legislator who had a failing grade," Eggers wrote. "We looked at both Republican and Democrat seats and made a determination on the impact of this information." He also noted not every district that had an "F"-graded legislator received a mailer.
Info on Minnesota political committees
If you want to look up information on Minnesota political committees, it's available here, on the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board website.
You can look up committees by name, find who registered them with the state (which is legally required) and when, get contact names and numbers, and even see reports about how much money they raised and where it went.
For example, here's Liberty Minnesota's numbers from 2014.
The PAC got $5,372.88 in 2014, and $4,000 of it came from Mark Wegscheid, the PAC's chair. $1,000 came from Broadband America Corp. – which is owned by Wegscheid. The final $235.88 came from the MN Tea Party PAC.
Liberty Minnesota spent $2,734.86 that year,
Bluestem Prairie dives even deeper into the campaign finance records as well.