As McFadden courts votes on the Range, DFL raises Chinese steel comments

MinnPost photo by Devin Henry

HIBBING, Minn. — The orange sign bearing GOP Senate candidate Mike McFadden’s name would have blended in perfectly among the colorful lineup of Republican yard signs at a Hibbing intersection on Wednesday — except for the message on the bottom.

The DFL, seizing on McFadden’s statement two weeks ago that he wouldn’t oppose using Chinese steel to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline if it was cheaper than an American product, peppered Iron Range towns like this one with the signs on Wednesday. They proclaim, under his campaign logo: “McFadden Supports Chinese Steel.”

McFadden called the signs a political stunt, and said that Democrats are “trying to pivot, trying to reframe the issue.”

“I haven’t seen any [Sen. Al] Franken signs that say ‘I support mining’ or ‘I support the pipeline,’ ” he said during a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

McFadden has long hit Franken for not moving to speed up the permitting process for either the Keystone pipeline or the PolyMet copper-nickel mine project, both of which are under environmental review. But since early August, when McFadden said he wouldn’t oppose using Chinese steel to construct the pipeline, DFLers have launched an offensive of their own, hoping to use McFadden’s words against him in an area — the Iron Range — that both sides consider important to this fall’s elections. That includes the yard signs, deployed against him before his visit to Hoyt Lakes’ PolyMet site on Wednesday.

“I don’t want to see foreign steel used any more than Sen. Franken does,” McFadden said. “The only difference between Sen. Franken and myself is that on day one I will vote to pass the Keystone pipeline.”

Franken has voted against a handful of Senate proposals meant to hasten the Keystone environmental review process, which is expected to last at least through the election, and he’s undecided on the project until the process runs its course.

As for mining, “Senator Franken supports mining and American steel and he’s got the record to back it up,” campaign spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff said in an email. “He’s fought to protect mining jobs by fighting illegal dumping and ensuring that we use more American-made steel. He believes the PolyMet project will create jobs and that it will be done in an environmentally responsible way.”

McFadden consistently uses PolyMet to illustrate why it’s important to overhaul the federal regulatory process. The mine, which would be the first precious-metals mine in Minnesota, has been under environmental review for more than seven years. A study — backed in part by PolyMet and the mining industry — predicts the project could create up to 1,300 jobs in mining and other industries by the time it’s up and running.

McFadden’s campaign said Wednesday he would immediately urge federal regulators to quickly approve the project if he’s elected to the Senate this November.

“[Miners] absolutely believe we’re on the wrong path right now in Minnesota and in this country, and I think I know how to get us on the right path,” he said in an interview. “We’ve got to get this economy growing again, and what’s happening with PolyMet is really exciting.”

Devin Henry can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry.

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Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/21/2014 - 10:11 am.

    Iron Rangers need not worry about McFadden’s views on…

    …mining. He has no views of his own anyway.

    That silly business about Chinese steel was just his incompetence as he put his toe in the waters of thinking for himself and strayed from the script his handlers provide to him. It didn’t go well. I’m sure they gave him a good talking to.

    They might think twice, though, about electing an incompetent, script-bound person who can’t think for himself to the office of U.S. Senator.

    • Submitted by E Gamauf on 08/23/2014 - 08:29 am.

      Reframing an issue?

      Which version of the statements made by McF are true?
      He’s said he was for it, and he said he was against it.

      It does not garner my trust, though he was never my default candidate.

      Apparently, a visit with staffers has schooled him – telling him which version had a downside in the election; in effect told him what to say he believed. What that translates to after election – well…

      Quoted above that the Dems are trying to reframe things, I heard some attempts at reframing from the accuser too – McFadden wants to blame OTHER people for his gaffe!

      Is that a responsibility deficit?

      Maybe he should be more circumspect in his words,
      whichever ones turn out to be the final version.

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg on 08/21/2014 - 10:48 am.

    I’m not sure about the wisdom . . . . . .

    of the imitation lawn sign strategy.

    A lot of people will just see the large “McFadden” and not notice the subtitle beneath it. Especially if the sign resembles McFadden’s own campaign signs.

    It could actually backfire by increasing his name-recognition and apparent popularity level rather than drawing attention to the Chinese Steel issue.

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/21/2014 - 11:37 am.

    All that expense down the tubes at the mention of one word:


    I highly encourage these kinds of desperate, wasteful expenditures by the DFL and it’s attendant special interests.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/21/2014 - 06:37 pm.

      Perhaps Polymet means more to people

      who live in Minnesota than those who live in South Carolina, Mr. Swift?

      Canadian mine disaster raises tough questions about Minnesota nonferrous mines

      “Sometime in the middle of the night on Monday, Aug. 4, the dam holding together a tailings basin at a British Columbian copper and gold mine gave way, sending 1.3 billion gallons of tainted, sludgy water into local streams and lakes.”

      “Already, copper mining critics cite this disaster as Exhibit A that these mines threaten local ecosystems. Many here in Minnesota wonder: if this tailings pond breach can happen at an active mine in Canada, where regulations are similarly stringent to U.S. law, how on earth can we be confident in a tailings pond at a proposed nonferrous mine in northern Minnesota? After all, those tailings basins are supposed to last 500 years, according to PolyMet’s own Environmental Impact Statement estimates.”

      “… the vocal mining opposition group Mining Truth issued a statement pointing out that the same engineering firm that build the failed dam in British Columbia advised PolyMet and the Minnesota DNR during the ongoing permitting process for PolyMet’s NorthMet nonferrous mine project near Hoyt Lakes.”

      “Minnesotans are being asked to put a lot of faith in these companies that their projects won’t endanger the mine’s workers or the surrounding environment,” said Paul Danicic, Executive Director of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. “It’s deeply disturbing that the same firm that designed the collapsed tailings dam was hired by PolyMet and the Minnesota DNR. We’re being asked to trust these companies with Minnesota’s water.”


      Scoffing at the insistence that new mining operations be environmentally sound is not a joking matter, Mr. Swift. Kudos to those who insist that POLYMET operations be vetted as safe.

      • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/22/2014 - 10:15 am.

        If it’s such an important issue to Minnesotans, how come Franken doesn’t want to talk about it…or anything else for that matter?

        Is his refusal to address issues of importance just a form of passive aggressive mockery? I think so.

        • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/22/2014 - 01:23 pm.

          Seriously, Mr. Swift

          Did you actually read the article?

          “He [Franken] believes the PolyMet project will create jobs and that it will be done in an environmentally responsible way.”

          Let’s get the environmental issues out of the way first. That is the responsible thing to do.

          We don’t want to end up another West Virginia or South Carolina.

          • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 03:51 pm.

            Yeah, I’m sure all those Iron Range miners believe Franken; you betcha.

            BTW, while there are a couple aluminum (bauxite) operations, mining in South Carolina is pretty much relegated to small time gold and sand operations. Not sure why you keep bringing South Carolina non-sequiturs into the discussion.

            • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 08/25/2014 - 04:17 pm.

              Why South Carolina?

              Because that’s where you live.

              • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/25/2014 - 10:31 pm.

                What does where I live have to do with mining in Minnesota? I’m sure the reasoning behind it is absolutely fascinating since, as I pointed out, with a few exceptions, mining in South Carolina is all but non-existant.

                Please, tell it all!

      • Submitted by E Gamauf on 08/24/2014 - 08:11 am.

        Former BP guy in charge?

        Polymet should worry people at least a little bit. Are there enough safeguards in place?
        Fixing groundwater, once contaminated isn’t so easy.

        At least we won’t kill the dolphins.

  4. Submitted by David Broden on 08/21/2014 - 11:43 am.

    Links to Understand Minnesota-Do Candiates Understand

    For several election cycles we have seen candidates express messages and idea that do not match to what real Minnesotan’s think, how they live, and what they have as a vision. Candidates seem to be in some mode of a “handler telling them what to say” and then speaking. As we approach 2014 elections it would be interesting if the candidates would ask the simple question or state the question such as ” how can I best serve your interests to make MN better and benefit from the strengths of state. In the past we had candidates who did approach the campaign by linking with the citizens. In my opinion all of the candidates need to go back to campaign class 101 and learn that the citizens are to served by the elected official not the official be some disconnected voice. The McFadden steel issue is an example of disconnect and Franken has some also. Link and connect to voters and you will win.

    Dave Broden

  5. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 08/21/2014 - 11:50 am.


    Of course miners are going to support mining. That’s like asking a beauty pageant contestant if she likes tiaras. Does McFadden expect some other response from them?

    I’m more concerned with the rest of the state of Minnesota and what they think about mining. Sure, we’ll get some jobs for a few years, but then what? More jobs for the people who clean up the pollution? How about skipping the middle steps and keep the place pristine instead? And while we’re at it, work on jobs that will be sustainable over the long term, not just a flash-in-the-pan for a couple of decades.

    When it comes to making Minnesota healthy and viable, it would be nice if people worked on long term strategy and not just what’s at the end of their face.

  6. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 08/21/2014 - 01:16 pm.

    McFadden Hypothetical Day 1 – do the Kochs’ bidding

    “on day one I will vote to pass the Keystone pipeline”

    Interesting priority for someone attempting to represent a state with not a drop of oil in its ground.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/21/2014 - 03:25 pm.

      And . . .

      . . . a state that stands to gain nothing from the pipeline, except perhaps some steel purchases which may or may not come from iron ore mined in Minnesota.

  7. Submitted by Jay Fellows on 08/22/2014 - 12:04 pm.

    A Senator looks out for the State AND Federal Interests

    That argument could work perfectly against Franken on SOPA/CISPA. The bill does nothing to help MN, it just helped his friends in Hollywood. Yada yada yada. Whatever, Franken took a stand on a national issue (the wrong side I think on that one), but are you going to chastize him for that like you’re doing to McFadden for the pipeline?

    I think the pipeline has significant benefits to the US beyond creating jobs. Fossil fuels are going to be here for a VERY long time. Sad I know. Whatever. Wishing that clean energy will become efficient and reliable within 50 years won’t make it happen. We need to invest in both clean energy and domestic resources. McFadden’s promise to vote on the pipeline on “Day One” is him saying he’s main issue is jobs. It’s really that simple. Franken should be supporting it too.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 08/22/2014 - 09:46 pm.

      With an attitude such as yours

      we never would have made it to the moon in nine years. Clean energy is here to stay and will be significantly relevant in far shorter time than 50 years. Fossil fuels are a finite resource with major environmental impact. We’ll be done with them much sooner than you think. Just curious, name a significant benefit to the pipeline for his country? It certainly isn’t jobs.

  8. Submitted by E Gamauf on 08/24/2014 - 08:07 am.

    What did that use to called?: Flip-flopping?

    The Chinese steel comment very much should be brought up. McFadden clearly doesn’t have a grasp of the Iron Range or forgot that it is a part of Minnesota (?)

    It isn’t JUST the steel comment that should make us look askance.
    It is a lightweight, dilettante candidate who shows his meager grasp of the issues…

    …when so many assertions made by Mr McF have immediately be dialed back, or retracted, or even rewritten, claiming he said its opposite.

    If I am correct, it was during media interviews at Farm Fest where this big gaffe was made. It was declared & subsequently retracted. That’s amateurish.

    There is nothing wrong with making mistakes & a retraction here and there, but somehow this vaguely reminds me of Rick Perry in presidential primary debates, when he had 3 large points he wanted to make – things he was going to change, pivotal to his campaign – and couldn’t remember his own over-arching policy points!!!

    Farm Fest seemed to me less than a debate.
    It was a forum with candidates addressing specific questions culled & posed by the presenters.

    Farm Fest was also a tell about the experience, inexperience & even ignorance of the candidates before the staff polishes them all up: They can’t hide behind mock slap fights on a podium trying to fill their time – making us forget they never answered the audience-posed questions!

    After one term Senator Franken has the chops. He has some seniority in the senate and he knows the state well. The challengers all took their turn to say that they are in agreement with the positions Senator Franken has taken and what he has to date done at that Farm Fest forum.

    Coming up they will try to convince us to change horses, when we’ve got one that already has proven out – and find some ridiculous reason why we should fund Mr McF’s OJT he win.

  9. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 08/23/2014 - 05:38 pm.

    Yes, Mr. “Fellows”, McFadden is all about jobs

    Chinese jobs.

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