Alliance for a Better Minnesota is a left-of-center nonprofit that garners support for liberal political candidates in Minnesota using social media. The group is self-described as progressive, identifying conservatives as people to be “held accountable” in its website’s main description.
Its funding comes largely from labor unions and the family of former Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat who held the office from 2011-2019. From 1978-1986, Dayton’s ex-wife Alida Rockefeller Messinger, a member of the petroleum-fortuned Rockefeller family, donated $500,000 to the left-leaning WIN Minnesota Political Action Fund in May 2010; WIN Minnesota in turn donated $900,000 to ABM’s political action fund in July 2010. 1
In March 2012, ABM publicly criticized, and demanded an apology from, Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson (R-Alexandria)2 for a video branded with Minnesota House of Representatives graphics and posted to the MNGOP House Caucus website, Franson reads a quote from a constituent calling it “ironic” that the Department of Agriculture is “pleased” to distribute more food stamps than ever while the same department requests that citizens not feed animals lest they become dependent. After reading the quote, Franson said her plan would be to provide a safety net for those in poverty, but “not a hammock.” 3
During the 2018 Minnesota gubernatorial race, ABM produced an ad attacking Republican candidate Jeff Johnson for allegedly planning to reduce healthcare programs, specifically towards people with disabilities. Johnson denounced the ad by saying his policies would not terminate health coverage for people with disabilities, and said there’s a “special place in hell” for those who made the attack ad. 4
ABM’s website is critical of the Trump administration throughout its postings. The website’s email subscription title as of late April 2020 was titled “Help Us Keep Trumpism Out of Minnesota.” 5
Allegations of Misleading Attack Ads
In 2018, CBS published an article critiquing an attack ad produced by ABM against former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty (R), who held the office from 2003-2011 and ran again unsuccessfully in 2018. The ad featured a mother and her son who was born with a heart defect. A CBS article exposed the fact that much of the healthcare adversities during Pawlenty’s term were nationally influenced with cost spikes and the Great Recession. 6
In July of 2010, ABM produced an attack ad against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. The ad has been described as misleading by FactCheck.org. The video ad features a woman identified as Margaret Everson who says her son was killed by a drunk driver and then alleges that Emmer sponsored a law to reduce the penalty for drunk driving. Emmer, who had been charged with a DWI 20 years earlier, refuted the claim that the bill reduced punishment and said the bill delays revocation of driving privileges until after a driver has been formally convicted of driving under the influence. The punishment for the conviction, according to Emmer, was not changed in the bill. 7
A Better Legislature
Alliance for a Better Minnesota sponsors an initiative called A Better Legislature, which focuses on electing legislators specifically who will support for the same left-progressive ideas as ABM. 8
Joseph Davis has been the executive director for Alliance for a Better Minnesota since 2015. Prior to his appointment, Davis spent seven years as ABM’s deputy director. 9
- FactCheck.org. “Alliance for a Better Minnesota.” FactCheck.org, August 11, 2010. https://www.factcheck.org/2010/08/alliance-for-a-better-minnesota/.
- News, EchoPress. “Alliance for a Better Minnesota Demands Apology from Republican Party over Franson Video.” Echo Press, March 7, 2012. https://www.echopress.com/news/1635457-alliance-better-minnesota-demands-apology-republican-party-over-franson-video.
- “Food Stamps= Feeding Wild Animals: Rep. Mary Franson Legislative Update.” YouTube, March 2, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijWu7lK7Hss. Timestamp for quote 1:54 – 2:35.
- “’Special Place in Hell:’ Jeff Johnson Refutes Attack Ad Featuring Disabled Man.” FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul. FOX 9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, October 31, 2018. https://www.fox9.com/news/special-place-in-hell-jeff-johnson-refutes-attack-ad-featuring-disabled-man.
- “Home Page: Alliance for a Better Minnesota.” A Better Minnesota, April 28, 2020. https://abetterminnesota.org/.
- Kessler, Pat. “Reality Check: Left-Leaning Group Takes On Pawlenty In New Ad.” WCCO | CBS Minnesota. WCCO | CBS Minnesota, July 19, 2018. https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2018/07/19/abm-pawlenty-ad/.
- Jackson, Brooks. “Corporate-Labor Smackdown in Minnesota.” FactCheck.org, October 12, 2010. https://www.factcheck.org/2010/08/corporate-labor-smackdown-in-minnesota/.
- “Build a Better Minnesota Legislature.” A Better Legislature. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://abetterlegislature.org/.
- Kimball, Joe. “Joe Davis Named New Executive Director of Alliance for a Better Minnesota.” MinnPost, March 6, 2015. https://www.minnpost.com/political-agenda/2015/03/joe-davis-named-new-executive-director-alliance-better-minnesota/.