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D.C. Memo: ‘As far as his tweets go, I’m not impressed’

The NRCC and antisemitism; sugar PAC supports Peterson; mysterious health care ads; Al Gore on Line 3; and more.

Trump, Xi
REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
President Donald Trump’s trade war with China was on attendees’ minds at Farm Fest.
The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, Republicans call people antisemitic, Rep. Collin Peterson made some new friends, and a mysterious voice on TV asked people to call Sen. Tina Smith. Let’s get on with this.

NRCC and antisemitism

The National Republican Congressional Committee, chaired by Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota’s Sixth District, has taken to leveling accusations antisemitism far and wide. According to them, a good number of Democrats in the House are antisemitic —including Jewish members. That strategy, for obvious reasons, doesn’t sit right with at least two Jewish Democrats who have been targeted.

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For one, the NRCC targeted Third District Rep. Dean Phillips, who comes from a prominent Jewish family in Minnesota, with just such an accusation. Phillips replied:

“I’m a business person and I happen to be of the Jewish faith. I’m certainly not antisemitic and I’m not a socialist,” he said, noting that such language might be an effective tactic “But we should hold ourselves to higher standards in this country. Both parties. And that’s just a woeful example of I think dangerous rhetoric that makes this country a more dangerous place for a lot of people.” Read more at MinnPost.

Speaking of antisemitism … and, uh, Tom Emmer, the American Jewish World reported that Emmer also sent a letter to Minnesotans in March that says: “the news of impactful, real progress on turning our nation around was undercut by biased media and hundreds of millions of dollars of anti-Republican propaganda put out by liberal special interests, funded by deep-pocketed far-left billionaires George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.” As AJW points out, “Soros and Bloomberg are Jews; and Steyer had a Jewish father.”

“There is nothing anti-Semitic about drawing attention to billionaire donors and who they are giving money to,” NRCC spokesman Chris Pack told AJW reporter Adrian Glass-Moore.

“The idea that Jews are behind a conspiracy to undermine society or control government is pretty classic anti-Semitism, and we know that these words can lead to real violence — recall that the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter was motivated by the belief that Jewish money was behind the migrant caravan approaching our southern border,” Carin Mrotz, executive director of St. Paul-based Jewish Community Action, said in a statement. “It’s language that puts Jews in real danger and has unfortunately become too frequent of a go-to for those seeking to undermine and combat progressive advocacy.”

Sugar rush

Rep. Collin Peterson has been called the “godfather” of the sugar beet industry and, as the chair of the House Agriculture Committee, one of the most important members for the industry.

It appears that, as Republicans ramp up a potential challenge to Peterson, sugar executives are worried. Or at least concerned enough to create The Committee for Stronger Rural Communities; a super PAC that will only focus on re-electing Peterson this cycle.

A representative for the committee said that it has already raised more than $300,000, with an initial contribution of $150,000 from the American Crystal Sugar Company, the large agricultural cooperative based in Moorhead. And they said that the super PAC intends to raise more. Read more at MinnPost.

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The voice on the TV

Have you been hearing a mysterious voice on TV, telling you to contact Sen. Tina Smith about health care? You’re not alone.

Doctor Patient Unity, a secretive dark money group whose funding can’t be traced beyond its business registration in Virginia, has already spent $277,348 on local television advertisements, according to Karl Evers-Hillstrom at Open Secrets.

The group is spending millions around the country, pushing senators to not support one proposal for cutting down surprise medical bills. Specifically they want people to call and ask senators for things like: “To be taken out of billing disputes between doctors and insurance companies” and for “An independent resolution process that allows healthcare experts to solve billing disputes between doctors and insurance companies.”

An aide in Sen. Smith’s office said that their office has never heard of the group and has not been contacted by them. By their account, the ads were confusing, in that Sen. Smith ostensibly is on their side.

“Sen. Smith believes that surprise medical bills are terrible for patients and need to be urgently addressed,” Smith spokesperson Ed Shelleby told MinnPost. “She supports bipartisan legislation that would fix this problem with arbitration, which means that providers and insurers would work together with an independent arbiter to come up with a fair price for insurers so that patients don’t have to pay anything.”

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Al Gore: Line 3 is ‘not a good project’

Former Vice President Al Gore was in Minneapolis late last week. Along with Gov. Tim Walz, Gore urged fast action on global warming at an event that showcased Minnesota’s changing climate, its split politics over the Line 3 oil pipeline and its plans to make the energy grid carbon free by 2050. Read more from MinnPost’s Walker Orenstein.

Farm Fest

As the trade war between President Trump and the Chinese government continues, farmers gathered in Morgan for Farm Fest. And many of them were not happy.

“As far as his tweets go, I’m not impressed and I don’t think anybody in here is, to be honest,” Joel Schreurs, a Tyler, Minn., soybean farmer who sits on the American Soybean Association board, said. The Forum News Service’s Dana Ferguson has the story.

“Minnesota farmers in my area are particularly influenced by the tariffs,” Jamie Beyer, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, told MinnPost. “Our beans are normally carried by rail to the West Coast where they are typically shipped to China.” Beyer said that while provisions to deal with the current situation have been helpful, farmers “would rather have trade than aid.”

The president next door

Sen. Amy Klobuchar released her “Plan from the Heartland” this week, detailing the policies and proposals she’d seek to help farmers and rural communities if she was elected to office.

Klobuchar also shared a first look at her “plan to fight hate crimes” in the wake of the El Paso shooting with Vox, proposing things like providing federal resources to marginalized communities dealing with the impact of violence and explicitly pushing the federal government to address white nationalism.

So far only 9 candidates have qualified for the third Democratic presidential debate, to be held on September 12 and 13 at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. Klobuchar has qualified for this one, as well as for the fourth debate, which will be held in October.

In other news

  • Authorities in El Paso are viewing the attack on Walmart, in which a gunman killed 20 people and wounded several others, as a domestic terrorist attack.
  • A top climate scientist has quit the U.S. Department of Agriculture, following others who have accused the Trump administration of politicizing their work.
  • The New York Times has a great map detailing exactly who in your area is donating to which political candidate. The map make several things apparent: Sen. Bernie Sanders is dominating the country with a swath of small dollar donors, Klobuchar’s base is definitely in Minnesota, and Beto O’Rourke’s base is definitely in Texas.

Quote of the week

“What do you think? You know the shit he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the fuck?” — Beto O’Rourke, when asked what the president could do to make things better following the shooting in El Paso.

What I’m reading

Hilton Als for the New Yorker (2003): Ghosts in the House – How Toni Morrison fostered a generation of black writers.

Pulitzer prize winning author and generation setting author Toni Morrison passed away this week. In 2003, Hilton Als set out to give us a peek into Morrison’s life earlier this millennium and it’s worth reading again, if you haven’t yet.

Hayes Brown for The Outline: The end times are here, and I am at Target

Hayes Brown writes about what it’s like to actually live in the only time with experts using objective evidence to actually predict a potential catastrophic end to history.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.