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D.C. Memo: A big franking problem

This week from Washington, big spending in Hagedorn’s office, what’s going on at the RNC and an update on the CD-7 race.

Rep. Jim Hagedorn
REUTERS/Leah Millis
Rep. Jim Hagedorn is in the news for a few reasons.
Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, big spending in Hagedorn’s office, what’s going on at the RNC and an update on the CD-7 race. Let’s get on with this.

Hagedorn’s mail problem

First District Rep. Jim Hagedorn is in the news for a few reasons. For one, Legistorm pointed out that he’s spent the most money of any House office in the first quarter of 2020. Most of it was spent on letters and postcards sent by franked mail, a congressional privilege that allows members to send their constituents mail for free (the cost is for the companies that printed the mail).

But more importantly, Daniel Newhauser, a freelancer at The Minnesota Reformer, pointed out that he’s been paying some of it to a part-time employee in his office: a violation of House ethics rules. Since then, Hagedorn has fired his chief of staff and hired a lawyer.

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Want to get up to date on what happened? Read more at MinnPost.

The DFL hosted a panel with several campaign finance experts, who said Hagedorn’s office had clearly violated congressional rules. Craig Holman, one of the most prominent experts in government ethics in the country, said that if Hagedorn knew about the payments, the consequences will be severe.

“That is a clear violation of congressional rules and this is clearly on the agenda of the House Ethics Committee. At the very least, I would expect Hagedorn to reimburse the federal treasury for whatever spending was in violation of the rules,” Holman said. “However, if Hagedorn was more culpable and knew what was going on, the consequences would be even more severe, including a possible censure from the House of Representatives.”

Additionally, Patrick Condon and Briana Bierschbach at the Star Tribune obtained emails showing Hagedorn was involved in making constituent mail decisions.

In a recent statement, Hagedorn responded to both the DFL and the reporting from the Strib:

“The nuts and bolts duties of establishing franking service, hiring vendors, and sending out mail were fully delegated to my former chief of staff,” Hagedorn said. “For Democrats and the Star Tribune to conflate those duties with my work to review mass mail communications or help staff field media inquiring about our office budget is complete nonsense, careless journalism, and purposefully mixing apples and oranges to further this non-story.“

RNC

Few Minnesotans were given big speaking slots at the RNC, as Kevin Diaz at the Star Tribune pointed out. 

One notable voice was MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a delegate from Minnesota to the RNC, who has been pushing a snake-oil COVID-19 miracle cure. 

But former Eveleth Mayor Bob Vlaisavljevich, a former Democrat, did have a speaking slot to explain why he is voting for Donald Trump. He attributes mining’s revitalization in the region to President Donald Trump.

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By the numbers

Seventh District race

Minnesota’s Seventh District has been shifting more and more red. But can Republican candidate Michelle Fischbach finally do what Republicans haven’t been able to do for years: replace Rep. Collin Peterson, the fifteen-term Democrat who represents the district? And will it even matter, when redistricting comes around?

Read more from me and Greta Kaul at MinnPost. 

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In other news

Quote of the week

“Abraham Lincoln once famously said: ‘America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves,’” Lara Trump, the President’s daughter-in-law, said at the RNC this week, quoting something Lincoln never said.

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What I’m reading

Ellie Hall, Amber Jamieson, Tasneem Nashrulla, & Kadia Goba for BuzzFeed News: Kenosha Suspect Kyle Rittenhouse Was Front Row At Trump Rally

Kyle Rittenhouse, a law-enforcement obsessed 17-year-old who shot two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin during protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake, appeared in the front row of a Trump rally in January.

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