Rick Nolan holds high-dollar fundraiser on the Iron Range as hundreds lose jobs

The steel industry is crashing and over 1000 Iron Rangers are out of work, but that isn’t stopping U.S. Rep Rick Nolan from holding a high-dollar fundraiser in the heart of the Mighty Mesabi.

Suggested contributions for individuals range from $100 to $1000 and from $1000 to $5000 for PACs, putting the July 2 reception at the Holiday Inn Express in Mountain Iron more in line with the larger,wealthier Twin Cities than an area with higher-than-average unemployment that is bracing for a lengthy economic downturn.

Ironically, it is Nolan’s most expensive event in Northeastern Minnesota this year.

A March “Progressive Professionals” fundraiser in Duluth commanded prices from just $25 to $100:

Nolan Fundraiser March 11 2015

Nolan requested contributions ranging from $25 to $500 for a barbecue fundraiser in Crosby earlier this week:

Nolan Fundraiser June 29 2015

It isn’t just the price of admission that differentiates the events. The Nolan camp heavily promoted the Crosby and Duluth fundraisers on social media in addition to email, but there’s been nary a mention of the Range fundraiser on either Facebook or Twitter. Email invitations were sent to supporters beginning June 10:

Nolan Fundraiser Invitation June 10 2015

And again on June 23, June 28 and July 1:

Nolan Fundraiser July 2 2015

Nolan’s July 3, 2013 fundraiser at the same location requested contributions of just $100 to $250.

Holding an obscenely pricey fundraiser on the Iron Range while the local economy is tanking and workers are struggling to put food on the table is at a minimum distasteful, which is no doubt why the campaign is trying to fly this event under the radar.

And Nolan, who has repeatedly decried the role of money in politics, should indeed be ashamed.

The lack of transparency is troubling enough, but it makes the congressman even more beholden to special interests.

The campaign is not publicly promoting the fundraiser and Nolan claims he doesn’t personally spend time ‘dialing for dollars,’ so the bulk of the responsibility for ensuring a successful event falls on the hosts, among which are four unions, IRRRB Executive Director of Development Steve Peterson, lobbyist and former RAMs director Ron Dicklich; lobbyist and Silicon Energy Vice President Gary Cerkvenik and Mining Minnesota Executive Director Frank Ongaro.

And think about it a minute.

Who on the Iron Range does Rick Nolan think has an extra $1000 to toss his way right now?

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’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” (he 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.

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 the 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: How not to respond to a political ad

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

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

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

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

Haworth Mills ad

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

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

Hmm…this tweet is pretty darn insulting to women:

haworth tweet demeans women oct 2010 (SFC)

Maine native Franni Franken might take issue with this one:

haworth maine weird people mar 29 2014

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

haworth knows how to get pcp

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

haworth boo invasives boo sep 2013

And then there are the pictures…

sacha 3

sacna haworth

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

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

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

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

Think of the chilling effect on our democracy.

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

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

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

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

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

But Mills supports the use of domestic steel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday morning update: Nolan deleted the post.

Rick Nolan for Congress Steel Aug 11 2014

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.”

MN-08: Mills Announces Formal Challenge To Nolan

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan of Crosby now has a formal challenger in the 2014 race for 8th District Congress. Mills Fleet Farm Vice President Stewart Mills III of Nisswa made that announcement Thursday at events in Cloquet and Rush City.mills family

Mills said the following in a prepared statement:

I have seen first-hand how overreaching government policies affect Minnesota families. I’m running for Congress because I want to roll up my sleeves and make sure that our government is working for us, not stifling our local job creators and the American dream.

The current government shutdown and impasse in Congress is the perfect example of why Washington needs fresh voices and perspectives to move our country forward. Our government needs to work harder to make sure that no matter what the disagreement, our social contracts are being met, like those to our seniors and veterans. This partisan squabbling is unacceptable.

Mills launched his formal bid to unseat the DFL incumbent at businesses near the Duluth and Twin Cities media that cover the sprawling 8th congressional district, but Friends of Stewart Mills campaign coordinator Isaac Shultz was quick to point out that Mills has recently been to Hoyt Lakes and other cities on the Range.

“Mills enjoyed his visits to the Iron Range and looks forward to going back up there soon,” Schultz said, adding “he’s excited about the opportunities that PolyMet and Twin Metals offer to Rangers and wants to be of assistance in any way he can.”

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin released a statement Thursday blasting Mills as being out of touch with “Minnesotans” and “utterly unqualified to take on the job of U.S. Congressman”:

In announcing he is running for Congress, Stewart Mills III lined up with the extreme Republicans who put thousands of Americans out of work with their senseless government shutdown. Mills III is another Tea Party extremist who would rather hold our nation’s economy hostage to promote a radical agenda rather than solve problems to grow the middle class.

You only get one time to make a first impression, and out of the gate Mills III demonstrated just how out of touch he is with Minnesotans. The last thing Washington needs is another hyper-partisan, uncompromising Tea Partier like Michele Bachmann or Ted Cruz who is long on rhetoric and short on substance. It’s obvious that he is utterly unqualified to take on the job of U.S. Congressman and that he represents exactly what this country is running away from.

Schultz had this to say in response to Martin’s harsh statement:

Stewart Mills is focused on reaching out to voters and discussing the stunning failure of partisan leaders in Washington DC. Instead of reaching commonsense solutions that help grow our economy and reduce the burden of government on working families, Washington insiders are bickering over partisan ideologies.

In June, Mills’ potential candidacy caught the eye of CQ Roll Call, which noted a “Brad Pitt kind of appeal” and we noted the Crow Wing county native could pose a serious challenge to Rep. Nolan. Mills’ decision later that month to launch an exploratory campaign prompted a ratings change in the race, which The Rothenberg Political Report currently rates as a Lean Democrat.

The Nolan campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Mills’ formal entry into the race.

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: Nolan Launches First Strike Of 2014 Campaign

8th District Congressman Rick Nolan of Crosby does not yet have an official challenger in 2014, but that hasn’t stopped him from going on the offensive. In a recent fundraising email sent to supporters and lobbyists in Washington DC, Nolan attacked a potential opponent for being a Tea Party extremist aligned to 6th District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Mills Fleet Farm CEO Stewart Mills III of Nisswa, who has not previously sought or held public office, has not yet announced his candidacy for 8th district congress. But reports of his potential challenge to Nolan caught the eye of Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report and contributing writer for Roll Call, who drew national attention to the 2014 8th district race earlier this month with “Brad Pitt and Minnesota’s 8th District.” In response to reports about a potential challenge from Mills, Nolan’s communications director told the Brainerd Dispatch:

Congressman Nolan welcomes anyone to the race who is willing to run for public office, but his sole focus will continue to be on governing and doing the job he was elected to do — not campaigning.

Yet a recent flurry of fundraising activity in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. indicates that the congressman is taking the potential challenger seriously. Mills figures prominently in what appears to be a hastily-prepared invitation to a $500-$5000 fundraiser at the home of Dennis McGrann:

Youmay have heard that a likely challenger to will announce his candidacy to run against me next month. My challenger’s looks have been compared to Brad Pitt by a Politco reporter, but the truth is, he has some very extreme Tea Party views which are closely aligned with Michele Bachmann. He also has some deep pockets and will be able to write himself a huge check to fund his campaign. We need to be well prepared for a fight. Keep in mind the opposition spent over $8 million to try and beat me in 2012. They are coming back to try and do it again. We’ll beat them again!

It does not bode well for the congressman that a prospective Mills candidacy panicked the Nolan campaign into firing off a fundraising email of this tone and riddled with so many avoidable errors to Washington insiders and may indicate a deeper concern that the 8th district could indeed swing from blue to red in 2014.

Nolan FR