MN-08: Does Rick Nolan’s record in Congress reflect a poor work ethic?

“Congress needs to go to work five days a week like everyone else in America!” has been U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan’s rallying cry since returning to Congress in 2013, pointing to his previous service during the 1970s as an example of what should be done. However, Nolan’s record while representing the 6th district in Congress suggests a poor work ethic not in sync with residents of Northern Minnesota, and reflects a pattern that should be of concern to his 8th district constituents.

Concerns about Nolan’s attendence were first raised during the 2012 campaign by 8th district incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack. Cravaack pointed out that Nolan missed a large number of votes during his last term in office from 1979-80, which Nolan promptly dismissed as “cherry picking” and not indicative of his time in public office. And Nolan insisted that he was there for all of the critical votes.

(The UpTake)

But the public record contradicts both of Nolan’s claims and an analysis of his voting record reveals a troubling pattern.

Between 1975-80, 6th District Rep. Richard Nolan missed 17.70 percent of recorded votes. As a point of reference, 8th district Rep. Jim Oberstar missed just .96 percent of recorded votes during that same period.

According to GovTrack, Nolan’s current lifetime average is 13.9 percent, still significantly higher than the median of 2.5 percent.

And note that Nolan’s rate of absenteeism climbed with every successive year in Congress.

Nolan Voting Record

In 1975, Nolan missed votes on 16 of the 143 days Congress held recorded votes and missed all votes on three days. But by his last year in office, that had mushroomed to missing votes on 83 of the 125 days Congress held recorded votes. He missed all recorded votes on 34 days – including the entire month of November.

The missed votes were not, as Nolan claimed, inconsequential.

Breakdown of Missed Votes

The majority of the votes Nolan missed in 1975 were on final passage of bills,conference committee reports and amendments, including those addressing criminal procedure, the fishing and agricultural industries and prohibiting common situs picketing.

In 1980, once again the vast majority of those missed votes were on final passage of bills,conference committee reports and amendments, including important votes on veteran’s disability benefits and vocational rehabilitation, mental health services,Indian health care and foreign policy.

Nolan missed two votes on major bills in 1975, four in 1976, 11 in 1977, 20 in 1978, 29 in 1979 and 29 in 1980. This includes votes on final passage of appropriations for Department of Defense, Military Construction, Public Works, Transportation, International Monetary Fund, Agriculture and Related Agencies, Foreign Assistance and Related Programs, Labor and Health Education and Welfare, Energy and Water Development, Treasury and Postal Service, State, Interior, Justice and Commerce.

Nolan is correct that procedural votes, such as those that set the rules for debate, are typically not given as much weight as passing appropriations bills or other legislation. But they can’t be dismissed as those of little consequence either.

The procedural votes are how Congress does its business, setting everything from how long a bill will be debated to how many amendments will be allowed. Demanding recorded votes on mundane things like approval of the Journal is one way for Leadership to get Members to the floor. And procedure is part of the strategy to pass -or kill-legislation. Oberstar, for example, employed a variety of procedural maneuvers during his efforts to keep the BWCA open to snowmobiles and motorboats, fighting in opposition to Nolan’s bill that designated every inch of the BWCA as wilderness.

Even more puzzling is that these procedural votes and votes on amendments that Nolan said were “of no consequence” are exactly what Nolan refers to when complaining about the current House not operating under his definition of ‘regular order.’

What exactly is the point of pushing to consider legislation under an open rule if you’re not going to bother to show up to vote?

Nolan’s rather cavalier attitude towards his responsibilities as congressman is as disturbing as his lack of candor.

Being stuck on the floor debating legislation or fighting over procedure for hours on end is arguably a lot less fun than being back in the office schmoozing with visitors, but it is an important part of the job.

The Rules of the House of Representatives acknowledges that constituents expect their representatives to show up for work and states that Members shall vote on each question. But,the House does not enforce this provision.

And recorded votes represent only a fraction of the number of votes in the House. Many more are voice-votes and division votes that are taken only among those present on the floor and are not recorded. Recorded votes allow Members 15 minutes to get to the floor to cast a vote.

Nolan’s attendence record is summarized below and shows that his first year representing the 8th district is on par with his first year representing the 6th district.

Nolan Attendance Record

In 2012, MPR’s Brett Neely noted that Cravaack’s claim had merits and that Nolan’s defense didn’t hold up but didn’t get any answers from the Nolan camp:

“We had a heck of a of a lot more votes than your Congress ever did and I was always there for the important issues,” Nolan said. “I missed a few votes on the recording of the minutes and the naming of post offices but when the critical issues were up, I was there…

The Congress Cravaack currently serves in has actually held more roll call votes than the one in Nolan’s final term in office. And as Cravaack’s campaign points out, some of those votes Nolan missed include major spending bills.

Neither Nolan nor his campaign manager would explain why Nolan was so absent in his final term. Misterek calls the whole issue a distraction.

“They’re trying to talk about votes 30 years ago that were of very little relevance to the job of the congressman,” Misterek said.

Nolan too continued to insist that he never missed any important votes:

(KSTP Tom Hauser)

The difference in the number and nature of the missed votes over a six-year period is just too stark to be explained away as faulty memory.

Nolan frequently compares Congress to a business when criticizing how the House operates. So, let’s follow Nolan’s lead and put his attendence in the context of the typical worker.

How effectively could a business operate with an employee who, like Nolan, has an absenteeism rate that ranges from two percent to 27 percent and fails to fulfill basic job requirements on eight percent to 66 percent of the days he is at work?

If recorded votes are viewed as a meeting or a task, can you imagine telling your boss you missed three percent of your meetings or didn’t complete 39 percent of your tasks because you didn’t feel like it was important?

And would you then expect a pay raise?

Nolan did.

He voted to increase his salary four times during that same period.

So much for “It’s time for Congress to start living in the real world – where you either do your job, or you don’t get paid.” as Nolan declared in 2013 when promoting his No Government No Pay Act.

Rick Nolan waxes nostalgic for the 1970s, but he complained about how Congress operated back then too. The GOP will remain in control of the House in 2015, and if Nolan showed this kind of disinterest when his party was in control and Congress operated under rules he viewed as favorable, can he be expected to behave any differently if returned for another term?

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 comprehensive 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 it is 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.

Restore Democracy Presser

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 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 it is 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 all the 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 (perhaps 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: 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: 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.

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.”

Senior Nolan staffer opposes DFL-endorsed candidate, rankles DFL Party

The above headline is one no first term 8th District DFL congressman wants to see and newly-hired congressional staffers are cautioned that any perceived transgression – personal or professional – reported in the media will be framed in exactly this manner. And most are careful to always act in the Member’s best interest, behaving in a manner that serves to further their mission to serve constituents rather than detract from it. Wise staffers understand that others will assume their actions are sanctioned by the congressman and typically steer clear of intraparty battles involving other candidates for public office and instead strive to maintain good relationships within the party. Yet Congressman Rick Nolan’s district director, Jeff Anderson, has chosen to formally endorse a candidate who is challenging the DFL-endorsed candidate in a race for the Duluth School Board and to snub the DFL party apparatus in Northern Minnesota.

Nolan is facing some potentially serious problems within the ranks of the DFL and his district director’s actions, which one die-hard DFLer describes as “disheartening”, have no doubt contributed to the growing discontent among some members of the party. And it isn’t just the involvement in intraparty election contests that rankles activists. Anderson was scheduled to speak on Nolan’s behalf at the 8th District DFL Annual Fall Dinner last month, yet he never showed up at the event and did not even send other Nolan staffers in his place. But he did make sure some of his former campaign staffers attended the event, thus the table purchased by the Nolan campaign was occupied solely by those who supported Anderson in the DFL primary. No one spoke on Rep. Nolan’s behalf, leaving the congressman without representation at a major party event just as the Cuyuna Range native faces a tough bid for re-election.

Duluth School Board elections are non partisan, but the Duluth DFL does endorse candidates. In District 1, DFLers endorsed long time party and community activist Rosie Loeffler Kemp over newcomer Joe Matthes. Matthes had stated he would abide by the endorsement, but declared the process unfair after he lost to Loeffler Kemp, whose name was placed in nomination from the floor of the convention per DFL party rules. Anderson formally endorsed Matthes in his challenge to the duly endorsed DFL candidate. Matthes did make it through the three way primary with 28 percent of the vote but finished far behind Loeffler Kemp, who made a strong showing with 54 percent.

This race not only pits DFLers against each other, but also long time rivals AFSCME Council 5 and AFSCME Council 65. Matthes is a representative for Council 65, Loeffler Kemp’s husband is a field representative for Council 5 and together these unions represent approximately 12,000 members in the 8th congressional district. Also in play is a 2007 controversy involving the Loeffler Kemps hiring of a non-union contractor to build their home, an act that was characterized as a misunderstanding but nonetheless fueled the sometimes tense relationship that exists between the public employees union and the building trades. The story was revived just last week on MNLabor.

Only three other unions joined Council 65 and Council 5 in endorsing candidates in this race. The Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council backed Matthes and the Duluth Federation of Teachers and AFSCME Local 66 threw their support behind Loeffler Kemp, a former organizer for Clean Water Action. Of note is that the Northeast Area Labor Council endorsed candidates in every school board race except District 1.

The District 1 race was not the only school board election which Nolan’s district director chose to get involved in this year. In District 4, there was no DFL endorsement because delegates remained divided between Justin Perpich and incumbent Art Johnston. Anderson formally endorsed Perpich, one of his former congressional campaign staffers, over Johnston and EPA biologist David Bolgrien. And like Anderson, Perpich angered the DFL party by distributing campaign materials that gave the impression that he had received the party endorsement and he too failed to emerge from the primary. Bolgrien was the top finisher with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Johnston with 33 percent and Perpich with 29 percent. Perpich subsequently threw his support to Bolgrien.

It’s interesting that both of the candidates Anderson endorsed for school board received roughly the same percentage of the vote that he received in his unsuccessful primary challenge to the DFL-endorsed candidate in the race for 8th district congress.

The involvement of Nolan’s district director in these school board races is perplexing, especially since there is no record of the former city councilor formally endorsing any candidate who is seeking election to the Duluth City Council.But Anderson did join Mayor Don Ness and Councilor Dan Hartman (both of whom supported him in his primary race against Nolan) in co-hosting a fundraiser for council at large candidate Zack Filipovich last month.

Nolan’s district director has an interesting personal history with the DFL and the endorsement process that perhaps offers some insight into his recent actions. Anderson sought and received the endorsement for Duluth City Council in 2008, yet chose to not abide by the process in 2012 when it became obvious he would lose the DFL endorsement for congress to Rick Nolan. Nolan was indeed endorsed by a resounding 76 percent of the delegates to a mere 10 percent for Anderson, who then accused the 8th district DFL of being anti-mining and joined Republican incumbent Rep. Chip Cravaack in calling for deregulation of the mining industry. Nolan vehemently opposed such legislation and went on to handily win the primary with 38 percent of the vote. Anderson finished last in the three way contest, garnering just 29 percent to Tarryl Clark’s 32 percent, but as district director seems to have prevailed on the issue of deregulating the mining industry. We noted in September that Nolan changed his position and voted for the bill – which expedites the permitting process by gutting the Clean Water Act and NEPA – that Anderson advocated, a move that angered many supporters, including the Lake County DFL. Interestingly, one of the candidates Anderson opposes has ties to a group that advocates for clean water and another works for the federal agency charged with enforcing rules and regulations that protect the environment.

Anderson’s apparent disdain for both the party and the endorsement process stands in stark contrast to that of his boss, who is a staunch supporter of the endorsement process and has always run for office with the party’s full support. But the buck stops with Nolan. It is his responsibility to ensure that his district director serves him well because the assumption is that Anderson is acting with his full knowledge and consent. And a first term DFL congressman who has no presence at the 8th District DFL’s annual dinner and sees nothing wrong with his district director opposing the DFL-endorsed candidate in a local race may well find lukewarm support from party activists in his bid for re-election.

Congressman Nolan’s communications director did not respond to our request for comment.

An earlier version of the story erroneously switched the names of Art Johnston and David Bolgrien in the District 4 race. We regret the error.

MN-08: Challenger Mills Outraises Rep. Nolan In Third Quarter Fundraising

Republican Stewart Mills III of Nisswa formally declared his candidacy for 8th district congress just last week, but came out strong Tuesday, releasing a third quarter fundraising report reflecting contributions nearly double the amount raised by DFL Rep. Rick Nolan of Crosby. Mills raised $243,826 for his bid to unseat the incumbant, while Nolan posted receipts of just $129,472, falling short of his second quarter total of $134,764 despite a strong last minute push from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Steve Israel and the DCCC just before the fundraising deadline of Sep. 30.

Nolan received slightly more unitemized individual contributions, reporting $19,497 to Mills’ $19,198, but Mills trounced Nolan in itemized individual contributions, both in number of donors and in dollar amounts. Mills racked up contributions of $218,128 compared to just $48,075 for Nolan. Analysis of individual contributions reveals that Mills raised more money from inside the 8th district, while Nolan raised the bulk of his money from donors outside Minnesota. The breakdown is as follows:

8th District
Mills – $93,178 from 60 individual donors
Nolan – $11,350 from 18 individual donors

Minnesota
Mills – $44,151 from 37 individual donors
Nolan – $13,525 from 17 individual donors

Outside Minnesota
Mills – $80,800 from 35 individual donors
Nolan – $24,100 from 18 individual donors

Nolan’s largest individual donation this quarter came from Bridge Capital CEO John Baldwin of Hayden Lake, Idaho, who contributed the $5200 maximum allowable contribution for the election cycle. In Minnesota, Nolan’s top individual contributors this quarter were Minneapolis lobbyist Jim Erickson, who donated an additional $3950 to max out his contribution to the campaign, and Tofte Management CEO Dennis Rysdal of Schroeder who contributed $2000.

Mills’ report is remarkable in that his largest contributors from inside and outside the 8th district all donated the maximum allowable for the election cycle. Out-of-district donors are David Copham of Fort Myers, Fla.; Ruthann & Thomas Hall of Green Bay, Wis., Sandra Mills of Menasha, Wis.; Travis Mills of Vail, Colo.; Jeff Olcott of Wausau, Wis.; Guy & Karen Smith of Black Creek, Wis; Mark & Shannon Evenstad of Wayzata, Minn; and Robert Ulrich of Edina, Minn. Residents of the 8th district who donated the maximum allowable are Dennis Frandsen of North Branch, Arnold & Joann Johnson of Lake Shore, Heather Mills of Nisswa, and Marissa Mae & Stewart Mills Jr of Brainerd. Candidate Mills also contributed $5200, but under FEC rules is not bound by contribution limits

Donations from political committees/PACs separate the challenger from the incumbent, and here Nolan handily outraised Mills. Mills received contributions totaling only $6,500 from just two organizations, but Nolan raised $61,00 from 33 different political committees, with $26,900 of those donations coming from PACs affiliated with labor. Mills’ top contributor was the Cravaack for Congress Campaign Committee, which donated $4000, the maximum allowable contribution for an authorized political committee. Nolan’s largest contributions this quarter came from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which donated $10,000,the maximum allowable for multicandidate PACs, and from the American Crystal Sugar Corporation, which donated an additional $5000 to max out its contribution to Nolan.

Mills reported no disbursements that appeared to be associated with fundraising, but Nolan’s report reflected at least $13508.22 spent for fundraising – ACT Blue $275.73 (service fees), Katie Connolly $9006.99 (consulting fees $7500, mileage $350.25, expenses $1156.74), Dottie Mavromatis $4225.50 (consulting fee $4000, expenses $225.50)

Both campaigns reported debts. Nolan for Congress disclosed obligations of $50,313 while Friends of Stewart Mills reported $14,608.

Rep. Nolan does have a slight edge over his challenger in cash on hand, reporting $261,00 to Mills’ $234,443.

This is Stewart Mills’ first quarter of fundraising, yet he raised just $174,631 less than Rep. Nolan raised this election cycle- to-date. The breakdown is as follows

Individual Contributions
Mills $243,826
Nolan $147,092

Political Committee Contributions
Mills $6500
Nolan $271,365

The 2012 8th district congressional race was one of the most expensive in the nation and attracted over $9 million in outside spending. Nolan never excelled at fundraising and raised significantly less than Tarryl Clark or Chip Cravaack, yet defeated his well-funded opponents in both the primary and general elections. It is too early to tell how the congressman’s self-imposed limit on time spent fundraising will impact his bid for re-election. But outside groups are already targeting Nolan in radio and TV ads, so the 2014 race is sure to exceed $10 million in outside spending. And the NRCC is certainly impressed with Mills: he’s number one on the list of 5 Republican House Candidates Who Are Outraising Democrat Members Of Congress.