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D.C. Memo: Under control as much as you can control it

This week from Washington, a campaign finance complaint in the Fifth District DFL primary, candidates go to Farmfest and who got PPP loans.

photo of donald trump
President Donald Trump recently described coronavirus in the United States as “under control as much as you can control it.”
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week from Washington, a campaign finance complaint in the Fifth District DFL primary, candidates go to Farmfest and who got PPP loans. Let’s get on with this.

Fifth District finance complaint

On Tuesday the DFL filed a complaint with the FCC against the campaign of Antone Melton-Meaux, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Fifth District Primary. Citing reporting from MinnPost and TMI’s Andrew Perez, the complaint claims that Melton-Meaux is concealing payments to campaign vendors through the use of newly organized consulting companies.

On Wednesday, Melton-Meaux responded to the complaint, defending the campaign’s use of nondisclosure agreements with the companies:

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“We filed NDAs or sign them with them because … this is really the result of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and an edict they put out in the fall of last year that they would blacklist any vendor that worked for someone like me — someone that’s running against an incumbent,” Melton-Meaux said during a press conference on Wednesday. “They’re basically going to put these folks out of business. And so now these individuals and organizations have to protect themselves and they’ve done it in a legal way. And I think the DCCC should be ashamed of themselves because they are being undemocratic.”

Melton-Meaux is talking about a policy created by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in early 2019, which came with a stern warning: if you are a consultant and work with primary challengers, the Democratic party will cut financial ties with you. The DCCC, the campaign arm of the Democratic party, created the policy after a wave of progressive challengers dramatically altered the political landscape for Democrats. Most prominently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated Joe Crowely (then still considered a potential future Speaker of the House) in New York’s 14th District.

Earlier this year, one company actually dropped Melton-Meaux as a vendor because of the DCCC’s ban. When asked about Melton-Meaux’s recent comments, the DCCC’s Communications Director Cole Leiter told MinnPost that this isn’t really about their ban on vendors working with primary challengers. “If Mr. Melton-Meaux is, in fact, intentionally using a shell company to hide his vendors as this complaint alleges he has done, this is a legal question first, not a political one,” he said.

Farmfest

Farmfest, the yearly discussion on ag policy, was this week. As always, that means that candidates spent the week talking policy on panels and debating each other. But it was a little bit different this time: candidates traded in-person panels on the field for conversations on Zoom.

First up was Sen. Tina Smith, Minnesota’s former lieutenant governor who was initially appointed, then elected in 2018, and now must run for re-election just two years later. Smith debated Jason Lewis, the endorsed Republican candidate, who served one term in the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s Second District.

If you want to know more about the debate (or watch it), you can read more here at MinnPost.

You might also want to watch:

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Still no COVID-19 relief

With the additional $600 unemployment benefit already expired as of this month, Congress has still not reached a deal on what the next COVID-19 bill will look like. Senate Democrats have said they are willing to negotiate, but not on the $600 a week benefit. Some Senate Republicans are said to not want to vote on any COVID-19 legislation at all.

As of this week, the White House is threatening to take executive action if Democrats and Republicans cannot reach a deal shortly, but it is unclear how much the White House can do without Congressional approval.

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By the numbers

  • 4: The number of days until Minnesota’s primary.
  • 88: The number of days until Election Day.
  • $1,976,703: The amount Americans for Tomorrow’s Future, a Super PAC that says it is “deeply committed to America’s alliance with Israel,” has spent on television advertisements and direct mail to defeat Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Following the money

Where did Minnesota’s COVID-19 small business loans (called PPP or Paycheck Protection Program loans) go?

The Strib’s Jeffrey Meitrodt, Briana Bierschbach and Jim Spencer took a look at how 58 Minnesota firms with political connections received large PPP loans.

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In other news

Quote of the week

“They are dying. That’s true. And you — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it,” President Trump said in an interview with AXIOS reporter Jonathan Swan this week.

What I’m reading

Ed Yong for The Atlantic: Why the Pandemic Is So Bad in America

“How did it come to this?”, asks the Atlantic’s Ed Yong. Then, in several thousand words, he provides a clear and concise answer: a failure at all levels.

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.