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As others see it: Raising the volume on competition debate

'Money is the mother's milk of politics," a California politician once said, and the milk supply in Minnesota appears to be getting larger. Taking advantage of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make direct political contributions, Minnesota's business groups have formed a political action committee to support candidates who they believe to be good for business.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Business Partnership are the two main participants in the new group, to be called MN Forward, and to be fronted by Brian McClung, longtime aide to Gov. Tim Pawlenty. McClung will be moving from the staff of the two-term Republican governor, who is not seeking re-election.

There are good policy reasons to groan when the "mother's milk" begins flowing more freely, because more money often translates into more of the kind of political advertising that voters love to hate. MN Forward, like all such groups, will have to be judged on the quality and tenor of its messages.

But we think voters will be well-served if the issues business groups have been promoting can be fully debated this election season. Whether or not voters agree with the positions, it's important to see government policies as business owners and managers do, because their decisions affect our economy, our jobs and our quality of life.

It is a common practice for unions and groups interested in such issues as abortion and gun rights to try to persuade voters to vote for candidates who agree with them. The Minnesota Chamber has long done so through its Leadership Fund, drawing on personal contributions. This year, MN Forward hopes to tap direct corporate contributions to advance the same causes. David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber, said, "I think it's going to be all about jobs and Minnesota's economy ... Who's going to have the policy positions and initiatives that are about keeping the economy strong, and keeping this a good place to do business."

We see Minnesota's success as dependent on our ability to compete, both with other states and with the world. ...

We hope the new venture can get that message out and help raise the state's competitive metabolism. If that is the effect of MN Forward, the additional "mother's milk" will serve to sustain us and not to merely add to the background noise of the election year.

St. Paul Pioneer Press