MN-08: Rick Nolan misleads voters about Restore Democracy “Act”

For nearly 3 months, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has been campaigning heavily on a what he touts as “a comprehensive package of legislation to help restore our democracy,” addressing myriad issues from money in politics to gerrymandering to how Congress conducts business. But in reality the proposal merely expresses an idea, serving not the Common Good but rather the political ambitions of its sponsor.

On the last day Congress met before adjourning for the August recess, Nolan introduced what is officially called the Restore Democracy Resoluton.

Nolan,however, promotes the measure as the Restore Democracy Act, hyping it as destined to “bring about a new golden age of bi–partisan democracy—a model for the world and a reaffirmation of our great American experience.”

That’s a tall order for any legislation, but most particularly for a proposal that has no chance to go anywhere during what little remains of the current Congress and more importantly, is not even an act, but a simple House resolution.

This is not an exercise in semantics;It is an important distinction to make.

An act is a bill that can become a law. In order to do so, it must pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the President.

In contrast, a simple House resolution affects only matters of that chamber, so it is not sent to the Senate or to the president. And, it has no authority over the Senate nor does it have the force of law.

Most simple resolutions address rules of the House but others, like Nolan’s Restore Democracy Resolution, merely express the sense of the House and are purely advisory in nature. As such, Restore Democracy can’t possibly ‘bring about the golden age of democracy” or enact any other significant reforms.

By calling it an “act” Nolan creates the illusion that he has introduced a significant piece of legislation when in fact he has done nothing more than exploit the process to benefit his flailing bid for reelection.

And in that respect, the Restore Democracy Resolution is a huge success.

Nolan introduced the proposal on July 31, after polling showed him falling below 45-percent, a death knell for incumbents.The Restore Democracy “Act”, as Nolan referred to it, quickly became the centerpiece of his public relations campaign to win the hearts and minds of voters and generate media buzz during the five-week break leading up to its official unveiling on Sep. 8 – after Labor Day, when most voters are just beginning to pay attention.

The provisions are so wide-ranging that Nolan can use the resolution as a springboard to just about any talking point he cares to make – and he does so whether the subject is actually covered by the resolution or not.

In a particularly odious abuse of the incumbency, Nolan led a student reporter to believe that his simple House resolution is a bill that could be enacted and makes higher education more affordable – even though there is absolutely nothing whatsoever in the proposal that relates to tuition.

“The Restore Democracy Act will change the way politics are done in Washington, and according to Nolan students will benefit from the bill — should it pass — regarding their tuition.” (UMD Statesman, Oct 2,2014)

Nolan campaigned on campus that same day.

And this recent letter to the editor suggests that his campaign of misinformation has been wildly successful:

…Nolan is sponsoring the Restore Democracy Act, which would change the way we do politics. When enacted, this act would return Congress to a five-day work week, control the time candidates spend campaigning, end the controlling influence of big money, restrict spending on campaigns to 60 days before an election and prohibit raising money while Congress is in session. And the public will no longer be bombarded with negative political ads for months on end.The Restore Democracy Act is gaining traction under Nolan’s adept leadership…(Duluth News-Tribune, Oct 22,2014)

Nolan certainly is making political hay with this sham, shamelessly peddling his Restore Democracy “Act” like free beer on the Iron Range while on the campaign trail and during media interviews – everywhere it seems, with one notable exception.

Nolan was strangely silent about this “major reform initiative” during the debate with Republican Stewart Mills and Green Party Skip Sandman.

Not a peep at that event, where his farce was likely to be exposed.

Restore Democracy expresses ideas that merit serious consideration in the form of actual legislation and the resolution itself should be presented accurately and placed in the proper context. Unfortunately, Nolan is choosing to travel the low road of political expediency rather than the high road of leadership.

In order to believe that Nolan is not deliberately misleading the public about his Restore Democracy Resolution, one must also believe

– that the four-term congressman does not know the correct name of his own legislative proposal
– that the four-term congressman does not know what issues are addressed in his own legislative proposal
– that the four-term congressman does not know the difference between a simple House resolution and an act that can become law
– that the four-term congressman believes that a simple House resolution expressing the sense of the House can enact comprehansive reform
– that the four-term congressman believes that a legislative proposal with no cosponsors or support from the majority party has a reasonable chance to make it through three committees and to the House floor in the 19 remaining days of this Congress

Nolan’s entire story surrounding the measure lacks credibility.

Nolan says he’s been working on Restore Democracy for a year-and-a-half, a claim that conveniently serves not only to defend the timing but to perpetuate the myth that he is actually doing something about the issues he complains about so incessantly. He also claims growing support from other members of Congress.

But do these claims really make sense?

Think about it a minute.

From Day One, Nolan has been a vocal critic of the rules of this Congress, repeatedly calling for a return to ‘regular order’, a subjective term that is typically tossed around by the minority to protest the rules established by the majority party.

The one and only issue addressed in this measure that a simple House resolution could potentially change pertains to the rules of the House. But again, Restore Democracy expresses only a sense of what the House should do. And, since the rules change with each new Congress, it would be pointlesss to wait until the waning days of the current Congress before introducing a resolution to bring the House back to what Nolan calls ‘regular order.’

Gerrymandering, campaign finance and voter participation were also debated way back in the 1970s (Nolan’s name was on even on some of those bills), so its hardly new territory for Nolan, who has spent the bulk of this term working the national media circuit, complaining about the dysfunction in Washington and decrying the increasing role money plays in the political process.

So why, then, didn’t he introduce a legitimate comprehensive package of reforms? Are we really to believe that the best his staff could do in 19 months is throw together a simple House resolution, containing nothing more than statements of principle?

One needs only look to the press conference to see how seriously this so-called major initiative is taken in Washington.Just two colleagues joined him (even they didn’t sign on as cosponsors) and the event was so sparsely attended that Nolan’s legislative director was deployed to hold a sign in support.

Yet Nolan tells us other Members are jumping on board with this resolution – that is destined to die with the current Congress- even as they are busy campaigning for reelection. And doesn’t it seem strange that he didn’t speak to colleagues in advance in order to marshal support for what he describes as a major policy initiative a year-and-a-half in the making?

None of this makes sense from a public policy standpoint, but holy buckets, it sure makes sense politically – and it is a strategy that worked well for Nolan 40 years ago when he was first elected to Congress.

Unlike incumbents who must either introduce legislation fraught with details or face accusations of inaction, challengers have the luxury of floating plans containing nothing more than general statements appealing to a broad base that can be thrown together quickly.

According to the venerable Associated Press political reporter Gerry Nelson, Nolan’s young staff excelled in that area

“Nolan has pumped out a steady stream of news releases on a variety of subjects. His latest was a six-point program urging Congress to increase Social Security benefits for senior citizens”(Winona Daily News, Sep. 4, 1974.)

Nolan touted a nine-point program to “Save Rural America” in this campaign ad. (Hendricks Pioneer, Sep. 5,1974)

Nolan ad 1974

But its a seven-point economic plan to “restore this nation to a sound economy” that Nolan released just before the general election that should interest 8th district voters:
.

“There are no quick and simple solutions to the economic problems facing this country, Nolan said “My program contains a combination of long range and short range action which if implemented by congress can forcefully deal with our present economic crisis”(Hendricks Pioneer, Oct. 31, 1974)

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

2014 Incumbent Rick Nolan’s seven-point plan to “help restore our democracy” introduced during the waning days of Congress has no more teeth to it than 1974 challenger Richard Nolan’s seven-point plan to “restore this nation to a sound economy”

But by introducing this resolution -a mere plan of general principles- just before the election and passing it off as a comprehensive package of reforms that will “bring about a new golden age of bi–partisan democracy—a model for the world and a reaffirmation of our great American experience”, Nolan reaps the all benefits of a challenger while avoiding the pitfalls that usually face incumbents.

Genius, really, even if patently dishonest.

MN-08: Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Green Bay Packers?

Close elections often result in a lot of spaghetti being tossed around, but what U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin seem to think sticks to the wall in the race for 8th district congress has to rank as one of the weirdest: that being a fan of a particular sports team somehow correlates to how well one relates to residents of northern Minnesota.

If that is indeed an important factor when selecting a congressman, then Nolan is in serious trouble.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills is a fan of Minnesota Vikings rival the Green Bay Packers, but Nolan is guilty of an infraction at least as bad if not worse: He is a staunch fan of the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota,Twin Cities, archrival of the University of Minnesota, Duluth Bulldogs.

Republican challenger Stewart Mills was “caught” wearing a Packers jersey at a football game in 2009.

Mills packers

Nolan is seen proudly wearing a Golden Gophers hat in a 2013 holiday greeting that was mailed to constituents across Bulldog Country, tweeted and posted on Facebook.

nolan christmas card error
Oops.

Nolan may be the only 8th district DFL congressman in history who just doesn’t get it, but he’s certainly not the only DFLer to make the blunder.

One of the more memorable gaffes was made by Gov. Wendell Anderson in the 1970s during Legislative Weekend, a massive lobbying effort in which Duluth played host to legislators and their families.

The highlight of the weekend was the UM-UMD hockey game. Hockey is serious business in northern Minnesota and the rivalry between the Bulldogs and Gophers becomes particulary intense during the winter months.

Anderson decided it would be great fun to toss out the puck to start the game. Staff from northern Minnesota warned that the crowd would not respond well, noting that he not only graduated from UM but played hockey for the Gophers . But the governor didn’t understand why this would be the case, since it is after all a Minnesota team (not like the Packers, right?) and ignored their strenuous objections.

The chorus of boos was deafening, even when heard over the television, and continued for several minutes.

Those who are not from the northeastern part of the district might not truly appreciate the intensity of this rivalry, which is in part an extension of the long-standing battle between Duluth/the Iron Range and the Twin Cites metropolitan area.

Every legislative session is characterized by area lawmakers beating back legislation harmful to our communities and economy, and fighting to wrestle what often amounts to little more than nickels and dimes from those who don’t seem to believe that intelligent life exists beyond the Interstate 494-694 corridor.

For the first time in recent memory, that dismissive attitude has slithered its way up I-35 into the race for 8th district congress.

The picture of Mills wearing a Packers jersey was leaked to City Pages over a year ago and since then, the DFL party, Nolan for Congress and Nolan congressional staffers have repeatedly pushed it as a reason for voters to reject Mills.

And if that’s not insulting enough, a recent DFL mailing attacking Mills was built around the Packers, making it abundantly clear that the Metrocrats in control of the state party (and apparently the 8th district congressman) view residents as little more than bumpkins.

Following their lead, this race boils down to a choice between a DFL congressman representing Bulldogs Country who sees no problem in sporting a Golden Gophers hat in holiday greetings to constituents (and can’t spell), a Republican challenger caught wearing a Packers jersey at a football game and Green Party challenger Skip Sandman who, as of yet, has not been outed for being a fan of either.

It’s a probably a very good thing for the congressman that voters in northeastern Minnesota aren’t that shallow.

MN-08: How Rick Nolan stopped worrying and learned to love assault weapons

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s position on gun control seemed to be the one constant amid ever-changing positions on myriad issues. But all that changed Wednesday, after a picture surfaced of the congressman cheerfully posing with one of the assault-style weapons he says are dangerous and should be banned. Nolan is now facing new charges of hypocrisy and finds his hunting credentials called into question in light of obvious violations of basic gun safety rules.

Nolan wasn’t shy about voicing his support for gun control legislation during his 2012 campaign. As a newly-elected congressman, he reiterated that position during an early January 2013 appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation:

“I don’t need an assault weapon to shoot a duck. And I think they ought to be banned.”

Seems pretty clear.

And later that month, Nolan told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that he’d received threats as a result of that position

Nobody has actually come out and said they’re gunning for me, but the messages are quite angry, vitriolic, and a little bit frightening to people at my front desk who have been taking the calls. I’m a little nervous about it. I’ve never been nervous before

Nolan repeated that claim more than once, yet still made the puzzling decision to move his primary district office from the Gerald Heaney Federal Building – and the protection of security screenings by federal guards – to the ground floor of an unsecured building, just steps from the entrance to the bar of a downtown Duluth restaurant.

Odd behavior for a congressman concerned enough about threats of violence to voice them on national television to be sure. But no matter what their content, the messages gave Nolan an opportunity to portray himself as the victim of the NRA, garnering the sympathy and support of anti-gun progressives across the country. And he continued to beat the drum of gun control right up until this week.

But Nolan is now fighting for his political life, desperately trolling for votes from pretty much anyone – including those gun owners he previously vilified.

So bring on the picture of Rick Nolan holding an AR-15 (you know, one of those pesky assault rifles that he wants to outlaw.)

Most politicians would be at least a little embarrassed but not good ole Rick, who never lets a previously stated position on anything get in the way of shameless pandering. Just look at that smile!

Nolan with assault rifle sep 23

Nolan might not have a spine but, God love ‘em, he has the chutzpah to pose for a photo op so transparent that it insults the intelligence of every single voter in the 8th congressional district (a sports coat and tie, Gracie?)

Unfortunately for the congressman, he demonstrates far less common sense than most kids on the Iron Range, who learn at a very young age that you NEVER place your finger on the trigger of a gun unless you intend to shoot because:

#1: There is no such thing as an unloaded gun
#2: If you think the gun is unloaded, see #1

But wait, there’s more.

Nolan’s blatant disregard for the safety of others isn’t an isolated incident, as documented in this tracking video released Thursday by the NRCC

Holy. Buckets.

Congressman, we know you’re desperate but, trust us, winning the Dick Cheney Award for Gun Safety won’t get you many votes in the 8th district.

(Seriously Rick, even kids up here know better than to play around like that with a gun.)

Nolan may indeed go hunting (maybe he learned from the former vice president?), but he seems completely oblivious to the standards of responsible gun use that is the norm among sportspeople in northern Minnesota.

In the social media frenzy that followed the posting of the picture on facebook, many pointed out that Nolan violated a basic rule taught to 12-year-olds in DNR firearms safety classes. One declared “Rick Nolan’s right – guns are dangerous, but only when he’s holding them!”

Gun Owners PAC stepped up with a very generous offer to pay for Nolan to receive firearms safety training from a qualified instructor at (drum roll, please) Mills Fleet Farm Indoor Shooting!

Green Party candidate Skip Sandman said they all make good points, and while the Fleet Farm reference is amusing, there’s nothing funny about ignoring basic gun safety rules. “Carelessness like that [shown by Nolan] gets people killed”

Sandman and Republican Stewart Mills have different opinions on the gun issue, but both find Nolan’s hypocrisy troubling.

“The congressman is not acting for the benefit of his constituents” observes Sandman.
“What is Nolan really trying to say to the people – that he can’t make up his mind or he’s sitting on the fence? His record on gun control speaks for itself. This is a contradiction and contradiction leads to confusion among voters. And this is just one of many contradictions ”

“Rick Nolan’s hypocrisy is getting out of hand, and this is just the latest example” says Mills spokeswoman Chloe Rockow. “It’s absolutely outrageous that he would say he wants to ban guns like this in Washington, then come home and pose with one the first opportunity he gets. Minnesotans deserve a representative who won’t say whatever it takes to mislead his constituents on his real positions. Minnesotans deserve better.”

MN-08: How not to respond to a political ad

Friends of Stewart Mills released a new campaign ad Wednesday featuring Aurora steelworker Steve Biondich telling voters “It’s not about Republicans or Democrats any more. It’s about jobs and our way of life. Look past the party, start looking at candidates” – a very effective message for the Iron Range. So effective in fact, that Democrats felt the need to immediately go on the offensive.

But instead of articulating an intelligent response to the ad itself – or challenging Mills – U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and his allies chose to go the cheap and easy route of attacking the Mesabi Range steelworker who appeared in the ad.

The Twin Cities-based CityPages posted “Star of Stewart Mills’s (sic) latest ad has off-color facebook page” early Thursday morning, after they say Biondich’s facebook page was called to their attention by a “tipster.”

Nolan staffers quickly jumped into the social media feeding frenzy that followed, focusing on screenshots that play into the stereotype of Range men, particularly those who work in the mines. Campaign manager Kendal Killian called Biondich “Sexist Steve” and a misogynist, and campaign communications director Sacha Haworth passed along similar tweets. The Breck School graduate also criticized the Range steelworker for thinking that “sexist jokes” are funny:

Haworth Mills ad

So, if a voter from the Iron Range who decides to appear in a campaign ad is now considered a “spokesman” and subject to a social media colonoscopy, shouldn’t an official campaign spokesperson from Minneapolis undergo similar scrutiny?

Let’s just take a little look at some of Ms. Haworth’s social media postings.

Hmm…this tweet is pretty darn insulting to women:

haworth tweet demeans women oct 2010 (SFC)

Maine native Franni Franken might take issue with this one:

haworth maine weird people mar 29 2014

Does this indicate that Ms Haworth has reason to associate with a drug dealer?:

haworth knows how to get pcp

Is this really the level of communication expected from the assistant communications director of a member of Congress?

haworth boo invasives boo sep 2013

And then there are the pictures…

sacha 3

sacna haworth

What conclusions could one draw about Ms. Haworth if applying the same standards used to judge Mr. Biondich?

The point is that context is important, everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, everyone says things they shouldn’t (or should have expressed differently) and everyone has said or done something that others will find offensive.

Public officials and those running for office are fair game, but where does one draw the line for this kind of scrutiny?

If attacking and publicly humiliating a supporter becomes an accepted strategy to discredit a candidate, people will flee from the political process in droves. How many would choose to work on behalf of a candidate knowing that everything they have ever said or done in their personal lives will be fodder for opposition research?

Think of the chilling effect on our democracy.

Elections are supposed to be about ideas and articulating a message to voters, not trashing citizens who are actively engaged in the political process. Perhaps it is not the amount of money in politics that is truly corrupting our democracy, but rather what people think they need to do in order to get elected.

MN-08: Rick Nolan touts support from Koch-linked group then slams Stewart Mills for donation from KochPAC

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in July slammed challenger Stewart Mills for accepting a $2,500 contribution from Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Fund (KochPAC) but just two months earlier the 8th district congressman happily touted support from a social welfare group with close ties to the Koch brothers.

Nolan described Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) as “nonpartisan” and “bipartisan” after it lined up behind his amendment to the National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA) last May.

But TPA is part of what Pro Publica calls “a tangle of nonprofits, sometimes referred to as the Kochtopus, all aimed at advancing conservative causes.” Pro Publica’s excellent chart documents the organization’s place in the Koch network.

TPA receives nearly all of its funding from Americans for Job Security (AJS). According to the most recent IRS filings, AJS donated $1,108,000 to the group, which reported total receipts of $1,600,056.

And the relationship between the two organizations extends beyond money. Steven Demaura, the president/secretary/director of AJS, also serves as treasurer/secretary/director of TPA.

TPA describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating the public through the research, analysis and dissemination of information on the government’s effects on the economy.”

However, the group’s conservative underpinnings are quite obvious. It has argued, for example, that LEED green building standards are excess government regulation, that Obamacare will result in substandard medical care, that the Davis-Bacon Act artificially inflates construction costs and that a lower corporate tax rate will result in economic growth and job creation.

TPA’s 2014 lobbying agenda includes opposing net neutrality and a federal ban on internet gaming. The group also signed a letter to members of Congress in support of HR 3835, the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014.

In May, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) spearheaded a bipartisan effort urging adoption of several amendments to NDAA, including Nolan’s. TPA was one of 22 organizations to sign the letter to Congress which stated in part “The undersigned organizations may not agree on many things, but we all agree on this: The United States must curb wasteful and ineffective spending at the Pentagon. Doing so will save billions of valuable tax dollars as well as help to make America safer with the hard decisions our national security requires.”

Two groups that actively support Nolan -Council for a Livable World and Progressive Democrats of America – also signed the letter, yet Nolan repeatedly singled out the Koch-backed Taxpayers Protection Alliance

– In the defense issue section of his congressional website

My amendment prohibits the construction of any project over $500,000 without submitting a report to Congress assuring proper auditing and oversight. It was supported by the non-partisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the banner of the Project on Government Oversight.

– In a May 22 press release

The Nolan amendment was supported by the nonpartisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the banner of the Project on Government Oversight.

– In the May 27 Monday Report

That’s exactly why the measure received such enthusiastic, bipartisan support from the bipartisan Taxpayers Protection Alliance and 22 other organizations under the Project on Government Oversight.

The Democratic strategy in 2014 is to run against the Koch brothers and the Nolan campaign is continuing to pound on Mills for accepting Koch money, even linking him to the October 2012 closing of the Koch-owned Georgia Pacific plant in Duluth. Nolan also made the plant closure an issue in his campaign against incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack, accusing the Republican of not doing more to keep the plant open because of the $5000 KochPAC donated to his campaign.

KochPAC’s contribution to Friends of Stewart Mills is significantly less than that given to other Minnesota campaigns this cycle. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, KochPAC has contributed $10,000 – the maximum allowed under federal law – to GOP incumbents John Kline (MN-02) and Erik Paulsen (MN-03). 7th district DFL incumbent Collin Peterson received $6,000. To date, Mills has received just $2,500.

Update: Rep. Nolan has removed the reference to Taxpayer’s Protection Alliance from the defense issues section of his congressional website. This story now links to an archived version of the page as it first appeared, courtesy of the Wayback Machine

Nolan campaign manager slams Mills for KochPAC donation August 2014

MN-08: Stewart Mills says American pipelines should be built with American steel

Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Republican Stewart Mills disagree on many issues, but building American pipelines with American steel isn’t one of them. Mills said on Monday that using domestic steel for pipelines is “just common sense.”

The national controversy over the source of steel used in pipeline construction was pushed to the forefront in Minnesota on Aug.6 when Mike McFadden, a Republican seeking to unseat U.S. Sen. Al Franken, stated that he supported using unsubsidized foreign steel if it was cheaper than domestic steel. The predicted furor erupted across the Iron Range and threatened to spill over into the race for 8th district congress on Aug.11, when Nolan criticized McFadden’s position as “indefensible” and used it as a springboard to call on Mills to disclose his position on the issue.

“Stewart Mills III is a multi-millionaire with a financial stake in the oil and gas business. He’s also been campaigning with Mike McFadden all over the 8th District. Mills has a vested interest in building cheap pipelines, since it means more money in his pockets. Iron Rangers deserve to know whether he too would choose to import cheap steel from China in order to protect his own wealth.” Nolan said in the statement posted on Facebook.

But Mills supports the use of domestic steel.

“The Iron Range has long been the backbone of our part of Minnesota, and it’s just common sense for me that American pipelines should be built with American steel,” Mills responded in an email

“Miners and their families deserve a strong voice in Washington, but Rick Nolan doesn’t stand for their values. He claims to support American steel and steelworkers, but then turns around and votes against projects like Keystone XL that would benefit them. I’ll always stand up for Iron Range miners and their families”

Nolan and Mills each bring a certain level of expertise to the debate, but from different ends of the pipeline.

Mills’ personal financial disclosure reflects an ownership interest in Crow Wing Oil Company, a privately-held wholesale distributor of oil products. The company does not explore and drill nor process and refine, transport and store oil and gas. It simply purchases and sells end products.

Nolan lived and worked in the Middle East while serving as an investment advisor to the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi controls 95 percent of the oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 94 percent of its gas reserves. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the UAE “is one of the 10 largest oil and natural gas producers in the world.”

Since Nolan and Mills agree on using domestic steel when building pipelines, they are now free to quibble over who really supports the projects or workers. But another comment in Nolan’s statement grabbed the attention of Iron Rangers and did not go unnoticed by Mills.

“The strongest, safest, most reliable steel in the world is mined and processed by Minnesotans right here on the Iron Range,” said Nolan, prompting Mills to add “Just one final point – I would suggest that Rick read up on the difference between iron and steel (there are no steel mills on the Range, Rick!)”

A low-grade iron ore called taconite is mined and processed on the Iron Range. Steel is an alloy. Northern Minnesota has not produced steel since the early 1970s, when United States Steel closed their steel-making and finishing operations in Duluth.

Nolan’s facebook post remained unedited as of Tuesday evening.

Wednesday morning update: Nolan deleted the post.

Rick Nolan for Congress Steel Aug 11 2014

MN-08: Rep. Rick Nolan launched leadership PAC in March

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan might be more attuned to the realities of modern fundraising than the Nolan camp and party leaders recently indicated. Nolan quietly launched a leadership political action committee earlier this year, suggesting that the 8th district congressman knows that he has to step up his fundraising efforts.

Most members of Congress, including those in the Minnesota delegation, maintain a so-called leadership PAC, a legally non-connected committee that allows members to raise large sums of special interest money with few restrictions on how those funds are spent.

The one thing incumbents can’t spend the funds on is their own campaign and they typically use the money to provide financial support to political parties, candidates and colleagues, subject to contribution limits.

Nolan recently told MPR that he doesn’t care to spend time as “an entry level telemarketer dialing for dollars,” reflecting a long-held attitude towards fundraising which no doubt frustrates colleagues who are sending along money to keep the Nolan campaign afloat.

Talking points aside, Nolan appears to have been nudged down the path of self-sufficiency by party leaders taking a tough love approach with their wayward child.

On Mar 5, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced the first round of Frontline members and did not include Nolan on the list of endangered incumbents, an omission that seemed odd given his weak fundraising and the competitive nature of the race.

That same day, Nolan for Congress treasurer Jim DeChaine signed paperwork establishing Nolan’s leadership PAC, Restore Democracy.

Restore Democracy was officially registered with FEC on Mar 11 and the Agency noted that the committee failed to file its April quarterly report, for the period Mar 11 through Mar 31.

According to the July quarterly report (Apr 1 through Jun 30), the committee raised $17,500 from just four donors. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers donated $5000 on May 8, United Transportation Union $5000 on May 28, Lockridge Grindal Nauen $2500 on Jun 18 and American Crystal Sugar $5000 on Jun 18.

On July 15, Nolan for Congress posted its best fundraising quarter to date for the cycle, bolstered by $33,000 sent by colleeagues in the closing days of the reporting period. In addition, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s leadership PAC, Democrats Win Seats, acted as a conduit for contributions totalling more than $15,000.

Yet Nolan still fell behind Republican challenger Stewart Mills and was added to the Frontline program on July 18.

Restore Democracy is not connected to Nolan’s principle campaign committee, so it can accept donations from political committees and individuals who have already sent the maximum allowable contributions to Nolan for Congress. Those funds cannot legally be spent to directly benefit Nolan’s campaign, but can be used to meet his obligations to colleagues and the party and keep the special interest money flowing through the shell game that passes for campaign finance in this country.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows that the overwhelming majority of the contributions to leadership PACs come from other PACs. Contributions for this cycle (as of Jun 30) total $33,006,846, with $32,695,096 coming from other PACs

Leadership PACS are subject to federal contribution limits and reporting requirements but campaign finance laws don’t apply to how the funds are spent, resulting wide-spread abuse according to watchdogs Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Campaign Legal Center (CLC)

CLC Senior Counsel Paul Ryan notes that leadership PACs were created in the 1970s, ostensibly for politicians to support those of similar ideologies but have “evolved into slush funds to raise and spend money on anything they want except their own campaign.”

However, the public may be unaware that their representative or senator even has such a committee.

The FEC requires that affiliated committees, such as joint fundraising committees, be disclosed in the filings of a candidate’s principle campaign committee. But there is no such requirement for non-connected committees and finding out who has a leadership PAC can be difficult, allowing politicians to operate these committees largely outside of public scrutiny.

The lack of disclosure makes it easy for members of Congress to quietly create a leadership PAC and solicit funds from special interests without their constituents ever knowing about it, which is exactly what Rep Nolan did last March.

MN-08: The tweet U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan didn’t want you to see

“The tweets they prefer you wouldn’t see” is how the watchdog Sunlight Foundation describes Politwoops,a project that archives tweets deleted by politicians, and just such a tweet has turned into a headache for 8th district U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.

The drama began Friday evening when Nolan responded to a tweet by U.S. Rep. Trent Franks criticizing Pres. Obama for statements made during a 2001 interview. “Says Constitution imperfect document reflecting fundamental flaw of the country that continues,” Franks tweeted. Nolan fired back this gem:

Blog Nolan constitution deleted

Nolan deleted the tweet eight minutes later, but it was captured by Politwoops and caught the attention of Republican challenger Stewart Mills. On Monday morning, the Mills campaign issued a press release calling on Nolan to explain the tweet:

“Rick Nolan needs to explain what exactly he meant when he called the Constitution an imperfect document on Friday,” said Mills. “As a Member of Congress, he took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, but now he’s showing his true colors. For hundreds of years, countless Americans have fought and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our way of life. They stood up to defend not only their country, but their Constitution and all it stands for. The Eighth Congressional District needs someone who will respect the principles our country was founded on, not someone who thinks that foundation is imperfect.”

Congressman Nolan has not yet issued a statement or responded to our request for comment. But City Pages reports a Nolan source suggested the tweet may have been deleted because it contained a spelling error or was made by an unauthorized user.

This deleted tweet containing mistakes and reeking with attitude created a furor, but previous tweets that were not deleted raised a few eyebrows for similar reasons. For example:

Blog Nolan tweet earth day apr 2013

Blog Nolan tweet Obama snark apr 2013

Nolan repeated a media spelling error and didn’t recognize that ‘piece meal’ is one word:

Nolan twitter weinermobile

Nolan twitter mistake piece meal apr 2013

Nolan apparently confused the Legacy Amendment with the Clean Water Fund :

nolan twitter clean water fund screw up

Nolan sponsored a bill facilitating a land swap between Carlton County and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, but still didn’t get the Band’s name correct:

blog nolan tweet ojibwa jul 2013

Nolan is responsible for all of his official communications. The Sunlight Foundation created Politwoops to hold politicians accountible for their public statements and accountibility is indeed the issue here.

This story will be updated if Rep. Nolan responds to our request for comment.

An earlier version of the story omitted the reference to City Pages

Mills, Westrom form new ‘super joint’ fundraising committee

A new ‘super joint’ fundraising committee will benefit Republicans seeking to unseat two Democratic congressmen in Northern Minnesota, according to paperwork filed on May 21 with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

First reported by the Center for Public Integrity, the committee, called ‘Young Guns Day 1 2014′, includes Mills Fleet Farm Vice-President Stewart Mills, who is challenging 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, and State Sen. Torrey Westrom, who is challenging 7th District U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson. Other beneficiaries are the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and eight other Republican candidates who have reached the top tier of the party’s Young Guns program.

Young Guns is a challenger-assistance program and employs a multi-tier approach that allows candidates to advance in the ranks by demonstrating a credible campaign in a competitive race. Mills was named to ‘On the Radar’, the lowest tier, in November 2013. He and Westrom both achieved top tier ‘Young Gun’ status on May 13, 2014.

Joint fundraising committees consist of two or more candidates, party committees or political action committees. All share in fundraising costs and distribute the proceeds according to a specific formula.

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v FEC, federal law limited the total amount an individual could give to federal candidates, party committees and political action committees, so these joint fundraising committees were quite limited in scope.

But in McCutcheon, the Court ruled those aggregate contribution caps unconstitutional, opening the door for donors to give to as many candidates and committees as they want and paving the way for ‘super joint’ fundraising committees – those formed for the benefit of many candidates or committees – that can exert pressure on deep-pocketed donors to write big checks.

Under these new rules, an individual is allowed to write a check for as much as $84,600 to Young Guns Day 1 2014. But the donor must abide by the maximum contribution limits of $5200 per election cycle to a candidate and $32,400 per year to a national party committee.

This is the second joint fundraising committee formed by Mills and Westrom. In March, they joined with the NRCC to form the Minnesota Congressional Victory Fund. Mills reported receipts of $9,254 from this venture on his April quarterly FEC filing, while Westrom’s share of the proceeds was $16,312.

From the Archives: Iron Range Delegation asks Governor Dayton to veto anti-Range Republican tax bill

(originally published on May 18, 2011)

In yet another attempt to avoid public scrutiny, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Tax Bill (HF 42) during the wee hours Wednesday morning. The Republicans do in fact have ample reason to be ashamed of the bill, for it contains onerous provisions that directly target the people of the Iron Range. One would pilfer $60 million from the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust Fund, a business development fund that derives its revenue from the tax on production of taconite paid by the mining companies in lieu of property taxes. And apparently stealing Range property tax revenue isn’t enough for the Republicans, for another provision takes aim at reducing the taconite tax by freezing it at levels when the demand for steel was low. IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich estimates that the agency will lose approximately $20 million in the next biennium as a result, money that will not be available for economic development and diversification of the region’s economic base.

In other words, the Republicans are requiring just three percent of the state’s population to give up their property tax revenue and to disproportionately fund the state’s budget reductions while at the same time making a significant cut to that same revenue stream and guaranteeing the region’s major industry windfall profits as it removes a non-renewable resource.

Sounds reasonable.

The Iron Range Delegation sent the following letter to Governor Mark Dayton urging him to veto HF 42:

We the undersigned members of the Iron Range Delegation of the Minnesota Legislature, are writing to call your attention to the following provisions of the omnibus tax bill that punish the Iron Range.

First of all, the Republicans confiscated our local property tax by taking $60 million from the Taconite Economic Protection Fund. As you know, Article X Section 6 of or Constitution clearly states that taconite production taxes are in lieu of local property taxes. Secondly, they froze the escalator which was agreed upon with the mining industry at the time when taconite pellet prices are at an all time high. Governor, the mining companies’ profits are at record levels. Finally, they eliminated the small amount of money that we appropriated in statute for the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) and the Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, both of which are very beneficial to the people of the Iron Range.

Clearly, Governor, the attacks by the Republican Majority on all the DFL areas of the state are an embarrassing way to govern and set a new low in public policy for the state of Minnesota.

We respectfully request that you veto the omnibus tax bill and ask that you mention our issues in your veto message.

Republican Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick of Grand Rapids is the only member of the Iron Range Delegation who did not sign the letter. McElfatrick did, however, previously join the Delegation in denouncing the raid on the DJJ fund.

On Tuesday’s edition of MPR’s Midday program, Governor Dayton clearly voiced his displeasure about the assault on the Iron Range’s economic development fund:

It’s terribly wrong and it’s unacceptable.