MN-08: Rick Nolan’s pander-and-evade strategy on PolyMet and the environment

Mention Rick Nolan, PolyMet and the environment in the same sentence and you’re likely to get a number of different reactions across Northeastern Minnesota. And for good reason;inconsistency creates confusion, and Nolan’s words and actions have not been consistent.

It is extremely difficult to communicate the many inconsistencies,nuances and perspectives in a clear and concise manner. Iron Country hopes this very general overview will help readers understand why Nolan is facing charges of flip-flopping and playing both sides, why he has a Green Party challenger and why many who once supported him can no longer do so.

Campaign, 2012
Nolan says he supports both iron and copper-nickel mining but stresses projects must meet current environmental rules and regulations. Clearly states his belief that the technology exists to allow PolyMet to be done safely.

Nolan agrees that it takes too long for mining projects to be approved and supports streamlining the permitting process by improving coordination between agencies

Critics note that mining is conspicuously absent from the Nolan for Congress website, which discusses a number of issues ranging from jobs to the environment.

Nolan voices strenuous objections HR 4402, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Act of 2012, because it deregulates the mining industry and expedites the permitting process by gutting existing environmental rules and regulations. It also incorporates a Cravaack amendment that would apply these new rules to projects already under review – in effect fast-tracking the PolyMet project

Nolan blasts his opponents for supporting the bill and vows never to support it if elected to Congress.

Nolan continually pounds on Cravaack for gutting environmental rules and regulations, which he says is completely unnecessary because mining companies, including PolyMet, don’t have a problem with meeting the current rules and regulations. They just want the permitting process to be more efficient, he says.

‘We don’t have to choose between jobs and the environment, the technology exists for us to do both. We just need to have the political will to do so’, becomes Nolan’s mantra.

Nolan blasts Cravaack for not doing anything that will actually move PolyMet along, claiming that HR4402 has no bipartisan support in the House (it did have one Democrat cosponsor) and no companion in the Senate thus it has no chance of being enacted. Says Cravaack has had two years to get the project permitted and all he has done is talk and support a bill that is not going anywhere.

Congress, 2013-14
In March, Nolan promises to author a bill that streamlines the permitting process for mining projects, similar to the bipartisan bill that passed in the Minnesota legislature.

Nolan, however, does no such thing and his failure to keep that promise proves to be a harbinger of things to come.

In June, Nolan issues a press release indicating the permitting process is working just fine for PolyMet.

Nolan also praised progress in the permitting process for PolyMet’s proposed copper, nickel, and precious metal mining operation near Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota:

“In meetings with both PolyMet and the EPA, it’s clear that all parties are confident that the process is moving forward in a timely manner, and that PolyMet has been cooperative in agreeing to virtually all that has been asked of them. We have reason to feel confident that the process will produce positive results for the region,” Nolan said.

But Nolan is about to make a 180-degree turn that will stun many in the 8th district.

In September, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Act of 2013 (HR761) is scheduled for vote in House.

The bill contains language identical to HR4402 and, like that abomination, should properly be called the Mining Company Dream Act, for it allows the mining companies to run amok on federal lands at will – without paying one dime of royalties on the minerals they remove – and streamlines the permitting process by gutting NEPA and the Clean Water Act, essentially wiping out decades of hard work by John Blatnik and Jim Oberstar to reign in the mining companies and protect our workers,communities and environment.

And, it retains the language of the Cravaack amendment to apply the new rules to projects already under review, essentially fast-tracking the PolyMet project.

Nolan assures those concerned about the effects of deregulating the mining industry in general, and about relaxing environmental standards for PolyMet in particular, that he will keep his promise to vote against the bill.

But the day before the vote, Nolan tells the Mesabi Daily News that he’s going to vote for HR761 and even more astounding, says he comfortable voting for it!

But Nolan said he believes we can have both expedited permitting and environmental safety.

“I’m pro-mining. But I also very strongly believe we have to do it right. And we can. We have the brains and the technology to do so,” Nolan said.

So, is the congressman going to hold his nose and vote yes on the bill?

“No, I’m comfortable voting for it. It’s not the bill I would write, but they’re not asking me. But it’s a start in streamlining and standardizing the permit process,” Nolan said.

“We’re holding up a whole host of taconite projects alone at Essar, Minntac, KeeTac and Mesabi Nugget.”

Nolan does indeed vote for HR761, which passes the House on a party-line vote, but does not speak to the bill on the floor nor does he make any mention of the vote in social media – an odd omission for a congressman who never misses an opportunity to toot his own horn on everything from getting a haircut in the district to advocating price supports for Big Sugar.

He does, however, send out a press release so rife with doublespeak that it puts George Orwell to shame:

Even though this is not the bill I would have written, I voted YES on H.R. 761 because we need to streamline and standardize a broken mining permitting process that is delaying projects with the potential for thousands of good paying jobs, and billions of dollars in economic development, across Minnesota’s Iron Range. We are long past the time when we need to choose between good jobs and a healthy environment in our great nation. I will continue to do everything within my power to advance good paying mining jobs, and work for strong environmental protections in all the laws and policies that affect the mining industry.

The Duluth News-Tribune asks about the change in his position, but gets an equally murky response.

Nolan’s office said the difference this year is a “deeper appreciation on Congressman Nolan’s part for how the delayed and broken permitting process is holding back projects” on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Those who supported Nolan because of his vow to never vote for that bill and his strongly stated position that PolyMet must meet existing environmental standards in order to be approved are furious.

But they are told “There’s nothing to be upset about.The bill is not going anywhere.”

And that’s true. There is no companion in the Senate and the Obama Administration makes it clear HR761 is unacceptable to the president:

…The legislation also undermines existing law safeguarding the multiple uses of public lands by placing mining interests above all other uses. This change has the potential to threaten hunting, fishing, recreation, and other activities that create jobs and sustain local economies across the country. Furthermore, the Administration opposes the legislation’s severe restrictions on judicial review. Although the legislation purports to limit litigation, its extremely short statute of limitations and vague constraints on the scope of prospective relief that a court may issue are likely to have the opposite effect.

But at the same time Nolan is assuring those opposed to PolyMet that HR761 is indeed the same Bill-To-Nowhere that HR4402 was in 2012, he is proclaiming to PolyMet supporters that the bill will get the ball rolling on the project.

However, Nolan’s general messaging strategy on HR761 diverts attention away from PolyMet and towards iron mining projects he says are being delayed due to permitting problems, citing Essar Steel as one example. But Essar Steel is already permitted and under construction and facing delays only due to difficulty obtaining financing.

His sound bite on HR761 is another read-into-it-what-you-like statement:

I am supporting federal legislation to streamline the permitting process, while working to assure strict, fair and timely environmental review.

And the doubletalk continues…

Nolan tells those who support PolyMet and those who support iron (but not necessarily copper-nickel) mining that he is working hard to get the bill passed.

But in a response to a constituent upset about his support for HR761, Nolan indicates his work on the bill consists of urging John Boehner, Harry Reid and President Obama to work it out amongst themselves.

Yeah, that’s going to happen.

But reality doesn’t dissuade Nolan from using the vote for HR761 to his advantage on the Range, and use it he does, repeatedly citing this vote as evidence he is a champion of mining and working hard to get PolyMet permitted.

But Nolan doean’t keep his promise to introduce his own bill to streamline the permitting process for mining projects, one that could garner the bipartisan support needed to pass the Senate and land on the president’s desk.

Meanwhile, environmentalists are growing more and more dissatisfied with Nolan – or more precisely, with his lack of candor They say Nolan lied to them in 2012 and again just before the vote on HR761- and that he refuses to explain his actions.

They are not happy campers.

Nolan’s attempt to bring them back into the fold takes the form of a climate change forum, sponsored at his request by Twin Cities environmentalists who likely remember Nolan was an original cosponsor of Rep. Don Fraser’s 1978 bill to designate every inch of the BWCA as wilderness. Although held at UMD, environmental groups in Northeastern Minnesota are not a part of the conversation, learning about the forum only via social media shortly before the November event.

The forum is scheduled on the same day and at the same time as a regularly scheduled rally that draws many in the target group. Though attendance is expected to be minimal , the event is designed to be carefully controlled. No questions on mining and pipelines will be allowed and all others must be submitted in advance and screened by staff. This does not sit well with the crowd and Nolan eventually agrees to take questions from the floor.

But Nolan is not about to give straight answers about his flip-flop on HR761.

First, Nolan claims the bill, which made the Democratic hit parade of anti-environment bills, simply streamlines the permitting process and does not harm the environment. Then, after hearing they intend to find a candidate to challenge him if he continues to say one thing and do another, he acknowledges that it does indeed gut environmental regulations and assures the crowd that if it looks as though HR761 could actually be enacted, he will vote against it. Finally (and unbelievably), he claims that has been always his position and always will be.

That the crowd isn’t buying what he is selling doesn’t seem of much concern to Nolan, who points out that “elections are about alternatives” (him or a Republican) and barely breaks his stride as he scurries off to tell the Duluth News-Tribune how he remained “steadfast” despite opposition at the event and a scathing letter from the Lake County DFL criticizing him for his flip-flop on HR761.

Mr. Environment also has this to say about the 500-plus years of water treatment the PolyMet project would require

“Everything has a long-term impact. I mean, (Interstate 35 in Duluth) has a 500-year impact”

Well then, it seems there’s been much ado about nothing.

Meanwhile, Nolan continues to point out to those concerned about the ramifications of HR761 that the bill isn’t going anywhere. He denies working to fast-track PolyMet, insisting the project must follow the current process and meet existing rules and regulations in order to be permitted.

Up on the Range, it’s a different story. Nolan spins the anger over the flip-flop and doubletalk on HR761 as environmentalists being upset over his “strong support” for PolyMet and continues to cite his support of the bill as evidence he is working to speed up the permitting process for the project. And, he says, support of this bill confirms his commitment to help iron mining projects.

And he flatly denies backtracking on support for HR761.

Like his campaign website, mining remains conspicuously absent from Nolan’s official congressional site. And he doesn’t publicly come out hard for PolyMet until March 2014.

Nolan widely publicizes a detailed letter (complete with scientific analysis, assertions, and conclusions) in support of the project sent to Minnesota DNR that reads more like it came from the public relations department at PolyMet than from a concerned member of Congress acting on behalf of all his constituents. Further evidence, he tells Rangers, of how hard he’s working to speed up approval of the project, noting that a staffer testified on behalf of the project at the public hearing in St Paul.

Yet at the same time, Nolan deflects criticism from environmentalists about that testimony by saying the staffer was acting as an individual and points out that his letter in support of PolyMet is basically symbolic and does nothing to short-circuit the review or speed up the permitting process for the project.

But there is trouble brewing for Nolan, as area environmentalists make good on their promise to recruit a challenger and PolyMet supporters become increasingly aware of the game Nolan is playing.

2014 Campaign
Nolan now focuses his efforts on convincing constituents that he is not playing both sides nor has he flip-flopped on his stated positions on PolyMet or the environment.

Nolan’s congressional website is updated to contain a section on mining that reflects general campaign talking points. The campaign website makes only a passing mention of mining and still does not include mining or PolyMet as an issue.

Nolan continually hammers home this familiar sound bite

“We need to recognize that we are long past the days of having to choose between good mining jobs and a clean environment. We have the brains and the technology to do both”

He embellishes it with tales of rivers catching on fire and noting that the mining companies have no problem meeting current environmental rules and regulations.

It is true that Nolan has said those things all along.

Unfortunately that is where his consistency ends. The same old doubletalk continues even as he protests to the contrary.

And Nolan isn’t talking about his recent endorsement from Environment Minnesota – at least, not in public and certainly not on the Iron Range.

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.

Rep. Rick Nolan backtracks on support for PolyMet permitting bill

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

Nolan made that assurance while addressing the audience at the Climate Change Forum held at the University of Minnesota, Duluth on Nov. 16, 2013.

We reported in September that Nolan stunned many by voting for National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, mining industry-backed legislation that he blasted both Democrat Jeff Anderson and Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack for supporting and promised never to vote for if elected to congress.

Nolan’s sudden reversal of his position that proposed mining projects must meet environmental rules as currently written in order to be permitted and subsequent vote to assist right-wing Republicans in their efforts to deregulate yet another industry was among the issues attendees wanted to discuss with their congressman. But getting answers to their concerns proved difficult and when pressed, Nolan often contradicted himself. For example, he initially claimed HR 761 does not gut environmental protections (contrary to what he asserted on the campaign trail), but simply changes the “regulatory regime” just as was done in the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013 and went on to discuss how Cirrus Aviation benefits from that legislation. But when later questioned if his flip-flop on the issue is a sign that he’s taking support from environmentalists for granted, Nolan finally acknowledged that HR 761 does indeed gut environmental protections, and made this promise:

I assure you if and when that legislation (HR 761) comes to anywhere near close to becoming law as I said then, I will not vote for anything that is going to degrade our environment and that’s my position and it has always been my position and I’m sticking with it.

When asked to clarify Congressman Nolan’s position on HR 761, Communications Director Steve Johnson replied “original statement still stands.”

The reaction of those who gathered in Bohannon Hall on that Saturday afternoon is perhaps best summed up by 32-year-old Jesse Peterson, who characterized Nolan’s responses and actions with respect to HR 761 as “incredibly deceptive and reflecting a willingness to be phony.”

Nolan Puts Mining Company Interests Above Workers, Communities

Mining is deeply ingrained in the culture of Minnesota’s Iron Range, and this issue more than any other defined the candidates in the 2012 race for 8th district Congress. Candidate Rick Nolan’s position put the Cuyuna Range native on the correct side of the worker v mining company nuance that made him a true ally of Rangers: strongly support mining, but enforce the rules and regulations that protect our environment and the health and safety of our workers. Unfortunately, Congressman Rick Nolan appears to have abandoned this common sense approach in favor of a Company Man position, voting for the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act, legislation he previously vowed he would not support because it expedites the permitting process at the expense of our workers, communities and our environment.

The current legislation, HR 761, is a reincarnation of HR 4402 passed by the US House of Representatives in 2012. DFLer Jeff Anderson, Nolan’s opponent in the primary, and Republican 8th District Rep. Chip Cravaack both strongly supported HR 4402 and criticized Nolan for refusing to do so. In fact, the harshest criticism came from Anderson (now Nolan’s district director), who deliberately and methodically mischaracterized Nolan as being anti-mining. But candidate Nolan was adamant that one did not need to compromise safety rules and regulations in order to expedite the permitting process and repeatedly blasted both for supporting the legislation that was being pushed by right wing Republicans at the behest of the mining companies. Indeed, Nolan made his position quite clear in this statement from July 2012*:

Yet on 18 September 2013, Congressman Nolan voted in favor of HR 761 (legislation that contains language identical to that of HR 4402), a move that stunned many observers, supporters and constituents. And Nolan told the Mesabi Daily News that he’s comfortable with the legislation and continues to insist we don’t need to sacrifice safety in order to expedite permitting:

But Nolan said he believes we can have both expedited permitting and environmental safety.

“I’m pro-mining. But I also very strongly believe we have to do it right. And we can. We have the brains and the technology to do so,” Nolan said.

So, is the congressman going to hold his nose and vote yes on the bill?

“No, I’m comfortable voting for it. It’s not the bill I would write, but they’re not asking me. But it’s a start in streamlining and standardizing the permit process,” Nolan said.

Wow.

When questioned about the change in his position, the Duluth News-Tribune reports

Nolan’s office said the difference this year is a “deeper appreciation on Congressman Nolan’s part for how the delayed and broken permitting process is holding back projects” on Minnesota’s Iron Range.

Huh?

Does that mean that candidate Rick Nolan didn’t understand the issue or truly support mining as alleged by his former primary opponent and current district director Jeff Anderson?

Does it mean ‘screw our workers, screw our communities, screw our environment – mining projects come first at all costs?’

Or does it mean that staffers have convinced Nolan to compromise his beliefs and take the easy road to favorable headlines in order to boost his support on the Iron Range as he heads into an election year?

Nolan’s press release does nothing to clarify his position and offers little more than Orwellian doublespeak:

Even though this is not the bill I would have written, I voted YES on H.R. 761 because we need to streamline and standardize a broken mining permitting process that is delaying projects with the potential for thousands of good paying jobs, and billions of dollars in economic development, across Minnesota’s Iron Range. We are long past the time when we need to choose between good jobs and a healthy environment in our great nation. I will continue to do everything within my power to advance good paying mining jobs, and work for strong environmental protections in all the laws and policies that affect the mining industry.

What we do know is that Congressman Nolan firmly believed that provisions in last year’s bill were harmful to workers, harmful to the environment and harmful to communities, and that gutting rules and regulations was not necessary to expedite the permitting process. We know that he clearly stated he would not support that bill. And we know he inexplicably reversed his position and chose to vote for a bill introduced this year that contained identical language.

Going back on one’s word and throwing our workers, environment and communities under the bus in order to further the interests of the mining companies is a questionable strategy at best, and definitely not what one would expect from a candidate who campaigned on a theme of integrity and changing the way we do politics ‘Because you matter’.

Congressman Nolan certainly got the headlines he wanted, but at what cost?

*Text of Nolan’s statement in the above video is as follows: “….HR 4402 that was passed by the House of Representatives here recently ostensibly to expedite the process, and to the extent that it does that I would quite frankly have no problem with that legislation. But careful observers and journals all around the country and around the Congress say that the bill does more than that. I don’t know if Jeff (Anderson) just read the Republican press releases or if he’s actually read the bill. The fact is that the bill guts many environmental health and safety provisions for workers, for the community, for the environment. It guts provisions requiring mining companies to pay royalties and to forego many of the rules and regulations…. Democrats and Republicans both support mining. The primary difference is the fact that Democrats insist on rules and regulations to protect the health and safety of workers, to protect the health and safety of our communities, the health and safety of our water and natural resources and our heritage. Make no mistake about it – mining is very, very important for our region, but so are the pensions of the workers and the health and safety of the people who work in those mines and the footprint that will be left behind. That is every bit as important. Mining has a time-certain limitation on it. The long range consequences are something that will be with us not simply for a lifetime. They will be with us here forever. So don’t underestimate under any circumstances the importance of stepping up and making sure that we insist on these kind of protections for the people here now today and for future generations.”

MN-08: Radical Rick Nolan Returns To Washington

During the recent election Rep Chip Cravaack and his extremist friends repeatedly pounded away at former Congressman Rick Nolan for being “liberal and radical”, and warned voters Nolan would continue his “radical ways” if returned to Congress. Well, Radical Rick soundly defeated Tea Party Chip on November 6, and in a telephone news conference Monday, the 8th District congressman-elect outlined his radical agenda: changing the way we do politics by getting big special interest money out of elections, supporting a national light rail transit system, and passing sensible BWCA land swap legislation that represents the best interests of northern Minnesota residents.

In the early morning phone call with reporters, Nolan said he was optimistic that a BWCA land exchange bill could still be passed this year, but without the problematic provisions of Cravaack’s bill: exempting lands from the Thye-Blatnik Act, which would result in millions of lost revenue for Lake, Cook and St Louis counties; weakening protections normally afforded to federal lands; potentially allowing logging and mining interests to avoid paying revenue due to the taxpayers for use of the land. Radical Rick noted there is currently no companion bill in the Senate, and indicated he would ask Senators Franken and Klobuchar to introduce legislation that could garner bi partisan support for the land exchange and enable its passage before this session of Congress adjourns.

This new approach to the BWCA land swap highlights the difference in representation 8th district residents will notice in many areas over the coming months. Whereas Tea Party Chip’s first statements as congressman-elect were to oppose funding for the new terminal at the Duluth International Airport and for the Northern Lights Express, Radical Rick voiced strong support for a national light rail transit system, which he said would “create jobs and provide a cost effective and sensible” means of transport. And Nolan emphasized we need to continue funding for northern Minnesota airports, funding that Cravaack voted to cut or eliminate during his single term in Congress.

Nolan was also critical of the role money now plays in politics, describing it as “dangerous and threatening to our democracy”. “Members should be beholden to the public and not to the highest bidder,” he continued, and under the current system “Members spend too much time fundraising and not enough time governing.” Radical Rick plans to introduce legislation providing for federal funding for campaigns, limiting the amount of time Members devote to campaigning, and overturning the Citizen’s United ruling.

Nolan made these comments as he headed out to Washington DC for what will be his second freshman orientation. He was first elected to Congress in 1974 and served until 1980, experience that gives him a significant edge over new Members. And Nolan retains seniority from his previous service which will likely assist him in securing assignments to committees key to the 8th district: Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure. Nolan said he is eager to get to work and is particularly looking forward to the National Mining Association reception for Members of Congress this week. And the Cuyuna Range native noted that his family will continue to live in northern Minnesota “I’m just going to find a room right close by the Capitol where I can stay when Congress is in session. We’ll keep our home up in Crow Wing County where we’ve been all our lives”

Yep, that’s radical for an 8th district congressman all right.

MN-08: Veda Ponikvar Calls Out Chip Cravaack In New TV Ads

Not much gets past Iron Range publishing icon Veda Ponikvar.

The 93 years young Ponikvar (who earned the moniker “Iron Lady” for her battle against the Steel Trust), has watched in disgust as Rep Chip Cravaack blundered and lied through his 2 years in Congress.

Well, the Iron Lady is mad and she’s not going to take it any more. So Ponikvar recently teamed up with award winning documentary filmmaker Tom Selinski to produce two new TV ads for the group Regular Folks From The Range.

Registered with the FEC as an electioneering and communications organization, Regular Folks From The Range does not endorse any particular candidate, but focuses on informing the public about Chip Cravaack’s abysmal voting record and embarrassing performance in Congress through ads currently running on cable TV throughout the 8th district.

Their first ad, ‘Company Man‘, featuring respected union members pointing out that Cravaack sides with the mining companies and not workers, has proven highly effective.

Last Friday, the group launched its final salvo with Ponikvar starring in ads exposing Cravaack’s appalling record on the public health crises of autism and breast cancer. Ponikvar’s simple message “He seems to take care of himself, but not us” is sure to resonate with voters throughout the district who have watched Cravaack engage in a pathetic game of political dodge ball in recent weeks.

MN-08: Chip Cravaack’s False and Misleading Ad Reflects A Bad Case Of Steelworker Envy

Rep Chip Cravaack lost the coveted United Steelworkers endorsement to former Congressman Rick Nolan last month, prompting a whiny temper tantrum that echoed across the Iron Range. Cravaack’s jealousy over Nolan’s big endorsement has now morphed into a serious case of steelworker envy with the airing of a desperately deceptive mining ad purporting to be filmed on the Iron Range.

The ad titled “Good Man” features two Iron Rangers discussing mining and Cravaack visiting with workers. The release that accompanied the ad reads:

A strong and vibrant mining industry is key to creating good-paying jobs for Minnesota workers and their families…. I am thankful for the support of so many former and current miners throughout this far-reaching district,” said Chip Cravaack

To say this ad offers no credible evidence of support from Iron Range steelworkers is an understatement. Consider the following:

1. It was shot at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Training Facility in Hinckley, not at a mine on the Iron Range

2. The retired miner is not a member of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR), and the active miner is viewed as a renegade who once tried to sue the USW for not advocating enough for workers, and reportedly threatened to run against Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

3. Cravaack is shown with 49ers, not steelworkers

Talk about compensating for one’s shortcomings!

Cravaack is trying to parlay a very misguided endorsement from the 49ers into an implied endorsement from SOAR and USW, both of which have endorsed Nolan. And how arrogantly insulting that Cravaack thinks Rangers won’t notice. Packsacker Chip Cravaack may not know the difference between steelworkers and 49ers, or between Hibbing and Hinckley, but Rangers sure do.

This deliberately misleading ad is devoid of all credibility and is just the latest of many desperate attempts by Cravaack to deceive voters into believing he has support of Range steelworkers.

Only an outsider or one truly clueless would think this ad is going to be effective with its target audience. Insulting the intelligence of voters from across the Iron Range is not a winning strategy, something Chip Cravaack would know if he were actually a Minnesotan.

MN-08: Mining Issue Separates A Ranger From A Packsacker

As election day rapidly approaches, mining and Medicare are lining up as the key issues in the race for 8th district congress between Rep Chip Cravaack and former Congressman Rick Nolan of the Cuyuna Range. But on the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota, mining takes center stage and it is this issue that separates a Range native from a packsacker more than any other in the race.

Both candidates have voiced support for mining, but being pro-mining on the Iron Range is not as clear cut as one might think. Mining has created a classic love-hate relationship between Rangers and the mining companies; love the mining, but not the mining companies. It’s a nuance that most outsiders don’t get, and this is in fact the major difference between the candidates in the race for 8th district congress. Chip Cravaack’s determination to roll back rules and regulations in order to give mining companies free reign makes him a much hated ‘Company Man’, one who would likely have told Jim Oberstar’s dad to just shut up and vote the right way if he wanted to keep his job or fired Veda Ponikvar’s father for union organizing. In contrast, Rick Nolan’s commitment to protect workers and the environment makes him an ally of miners and is an extension of the common good that anchors the moralistic political culture of the Iron Range.

While Cravaack sees mining through the very narrow jobs-only lens typical of an outsider, Cuyuna Range native Nolan understands that mining is much more than that. Mining is a part of our culture and a source of pride; steel made from Iron Range red ore built a nation and won two world wars, and taconite continues to fuel the domestic steel industry. In addition, the taconite production tax is a major source of revenue for our cities, schools and counties, and state mineral leases generate millions of dollars for students throughout the state. Any candidate who hopes to carry the heavily DFL Mesabi Iron Range on election night must understand what mining really means to Rangers and be on the right side of the worker v company man nuance of the mining issue.

Rick Nolan’s pro-worker position on mining harkens back to the roots of the Iron Range, to the core of who we are, to the common good. Chip Cravaack’s company man position evokes bitter memories of oppression by the Steel Trust, of the bad old days when the mining companies were allowed to sacrifice worker safety and the environment for profit margins.

The choice Iron Rangers must make on November 6 is simple: Do we want to maintain the hard fought status quo of being equal partners with the mining companies or do we want to return to a time when the mining companies had the power to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted to whomever they wanted?

The Ranger or the Packsacker.

Seems like a pretty simple choice.

MN-08: Does Chip Cravaack Have Any Ties To The 8th District Besides The Title Congressman?

Candidate Chip Cravaack presented himself to northern Minnesota voters as one who shares their values and sense of community, promising his family would always live here and as a former union member, he would stand with workers and support mining. Yet as congressman, Chip Cravaack broke those promises. Every one. From a family living in New Hampshire to carrying water for Big Steel to a campaign committee located in St Paul, every day it becomes clearer that the only connection Rep. Chip Cravaack has to northeastern Minnesota is the title ‘8th district congressman’.

So what happened to the Chip Cravaack who had a family and campaign committee firmly planted in the 8th congressional district and who vowed to represent unions and workers?

He got elected and hasn’t been seen since.

Cravaack cast his very first vote in Congress in support of Tea Party Wing Nut Rep. Michele Bachmann for GOP Conference Chair, and things went downhill for his constituents from there. Instead of supporting unions, former union member Cravaack immediately joined right wing extremists in their war on organized labor, earning a paltry 24% rating from the AFL-CIO while getting an 88% approval rating from the US Chamber of Commerce for these efforts. Much to their dismay, Rangers soon learned that Cravaack’s idea of supporting mining is to champion the cause of Big Steel to roll back rules and regulations previous generations of Iron Rangers fought for to protect the environment and the health and safety of workers. And Cravaack steadfastly refused to stand with the United Steelworkers as they fought back attempts by the mining companies to cut worker pay, health care and retirement benefits. In perhaps the most blatant affront to his constituents in the 8th district, Chip Cravaack moved his family to New Hampshire, a state that just happens to have no income tax.

Since Cravaack doesn’t see a need to live in the 8th congressional district, it follows suit that he doesn’t feel his campaign committee needs to be in northern Minnesota either. Like his family, the Cravaack for Congress Campaign Committee was located in the 8th district during the 2010 campaign, but this too changed after the election. Three separate filings with the FEC dated 18 March 2011 show different mailing addresses for the Cravaack for Congress Campaign Committee: PO Box 951 in North Branch, PO Box 4182 in St Paul, PO Box 25950 in Woodbury. The April 2011 Quarterly report yielded yet another address change, this time PO Box 40040 in St Paul. According to the most recent FEC filing, this St Paul post office box is the current address for the Cravaack for Congress Campaign Committee.

So within a matter of months candidate Cravaack morphed into the congressman from the 8th district in Minnesota who has a family living in New Hampshire, a campaign committee located in the 4th congressional district and is an eager soldier in the Tea Party’s war on organized labor and the middle class, representing outside big money special interests.

Chip Cravaack clearly is not one of us and cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Not about mining, not about Medicare and certainly not about former Congressman Rick Nolan, a 4th generation Cuyuna Iron Ranger who has family that still lives and works in northern Minnesota.

The only thing tying Cravaack to the 8th district is the title ‘congressman’. Nothing more.

MN-08: Tom Rukavina Says Chip Cravaack Both A Liar And Clueless

That’s a damn lie!

declared State Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Pike) about claims made by Rep. Chip Cravaack of New Hampshire during Tuesday morning’s debate with former Congressman Rick Nolan of Crosby.

Nolan clearly had the edge at the Duluth Playhouse during this first debate of the 8th district congressional race. While Rep. Cravaack appeared unsure, reading his opening statement from a prepared script and relying heavily on his notes throughout the one hour debate, former Congressman Nolan appeared confident, speaking off the top of his head and delivering his opening statement and answers with ease. In fact, the fourth generation Ranger so intimidated Cravaack that the incumbent became desperate enough to lie about Rep. Tom Rukavina and PolyMet:

We actually were pro-active in having four quarterly meetings so far with Polymet and with all the principal parties within Polymet, the agencies, Native American tribes, we all got, we all, we talked…it was a very productive meeting. Even Representative Rukavina said it was extremely productive in moving the Polymet project forward.

Big mistake Chip.

Rukavina was watching the debate and shot back immediately, furiously sending off messages letting everyone across the Range know he never said anything of the kind. This undoubtedly toned down statement from the Refreshingly Honest Croatian was released through the Nolan campaign:

I never said that Chip Cravaack’s meetings in Duluth on Polymet were productive.

That’s a damn lie.

Rukavina also blasted Cravaack for the worthless meetings held in Duluth (some 70 miles from the Iron Range) and noted how clueless Cravaack is about mining in general and PolyMet in particular:

I attended three or four of them (quarterly meetings) and they were useless, and Cravaack couldn’t even grasp the situation!

Uff-da.

Did Cravaack really think Rukavina would let him get away with such a blatant lie? Has he ever met Tommy?!

Or is this yet another example of Chip going off script and saying whatever the heck comes to mind? Remember when he recently claimed on a national radio show that the Iron Range produces steel?

A congressman who hasn’t got a clue as to what he’s saying is more than just embarrassing – it’s dangerous. Can we really afford to have someone this clueless and loose with the facts representing us in Congress?

Chip Cravaack has represented northeastern Minnesota in Congress for the past two years and this much has become clear: Chip Cravaack is not one of us, Chip Cravaack is a liar, and Chip Cravaack is too clueless and dangerous for the 8th district.

Just ask Tommy Rukavina.