TV station sees conflict of interest for Sen. Hann, others

Did you catch Tom Lyden’s Fox9 News piece on state Sen. Dave Hann? “When you vote for someone, should you know what they do for a living? That’s a question surrounding Minnesota Sen. David Hann, one of the most powerful leaders in the Republican Senate. If Republicans retain their majority after this election, Hann could be in line to be their leader. What his constituents don’t know is that he’s also currently working in the insurance industry, which is the very industry he also oversees as chair of the powerful Health and Human Services Committee. That committee is responsible for overseeing both the health insurance industry regulation compliance and health reform. … FOX 9 News attempted to contact Hann about whether he feels he’s been transparent about his new career or if there is a conflict of interest, but he said he was too busy campaigning to comment. Still, he’s hardly the only person at the Capitol with a similar conundrum. Republican Rep. Steve Gottwalt is also a licensed health insurance agent. In fact, he’s an associate of the same firm — and he also chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee. Democrats aren’t immune either. Former Sen. Jim Vickerman was a farmer who once chaired the Agriculture Committee, and Sandy Pappas — an instructor at Metro State University — once chaired higher education.”

In lieu of any recent Denny Hecker news, we have this, from Paul Walsh of the Strib: “The onetime owner of a car dealership in Grand Rapids, Minn., has been charged with scheming to cheat her bank out of about $1.5 million, using some of the money to pay for a trip to the Virgin Islands, where she rang up ‘substantial personal charges,’ according to a federal indictment. Jodi A. Montavon, 47, of Grand Rapids, was charged in federal court in Minneapolis with bank fraud and engaging in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property. According to the indictment: Montavon inflated the cost of vehicles in stock at her Ford dealership so she could borrow more from American Bank of the North than the vehicles were actually worth.” I’ll bet there’s a life-size statue of Elvis in this story somewhere.

We do, however, have a new piece on Our Favorite Congresswoman. Conrad Wilson of MPR writes: “Following a campaign event in St. Cloud earlier this month, [Michele] Bachmann named some of the things she has done for the 6th District during her last term. ‘Probably the main thing would be the passing of the Stillwater bridge crossing. That hadn’t been done for decades,’ Bachmann said. ‘But I also did the same with the Veterans’ Clinic in Ramsey. And I was able to get that built.’ … polarized responses have a lot to do with her national profile, said Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. ‘She’s not one of these legislators who really works with the minutia with legislation and builds a reputation through committee work and floor work,’ Schier said. ‘She’s much more interested in addressing the national debate in a way that grabs public attention. And I just think that’s going to be her style as long as she’s in public office.’ ” There’s no debate on that one.

Allie Shah and Dan Browning of the Strib get an exclusive with an FBI special agent following the Al-Shabab terror network: “Others identified in the trial as leaders of recruiting efforts here include: Abdiweli Yassin Isse, 27, Cabdulaahi Ahmed Faarax, 35, and a man one witness knew as Yassin, who also goes by the nickname Abu. Wilson said Yassin has “not yet” been charged and declined to comment further about him. The other men are believed to be in Somalia. … Wilson said investigators are looking into multiple recent departures, but he would not say how many. Court testimony this week revealed that at least two young men left the Twin Cities in July and subsequently failed to return on their scheduled flights. Wilson said they are presumed to be in Somalia.”

The GleanWe know he has the cash for it … The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner says: “Mitt Romney will start airing ads over the weekend in Minnesota, a state that last went Republican in 1972. Romney’s campaign says they have about $169 million in cash on hand, a huge amount of money with the election only two weeks away and most swing state airwaves already saturated. While one Rasmussen poll finds Romney only 5 percentage points down in Minnesota, other public polls do not suggest that the race in Minnesota has tightened.”

I’m sure he’s changed his ways … . Marino Eccher of the Forum papers reports: “People [in New York Mills] know Danny Bettcher for all the wrong reasons. Many also know the number: He’s had 27 convictions for drinking and driving offenses, believed to be the most ever accrued in the state. The police who made the arrests remember him. The prosecutors who brought the charges remember him. The local activists trying to curb the behavior he embodies remember him. On Friday, Bettcher becomes a free man for the first time in more than three years. It’s unclear what he plans to do next — through his attorney, he declined to be interviewed for this story. But for many, he remains a symbol of the limitations of the state’s ability to keep chronic drunken drivers from getting behind the wheel again.”

The feds have coughed up $1.9 million to study the profitability of organic dairy farming. The AP says: “University of Minnesota researchers will collaborate with organic dairy farmers on a new study aimed at improving the dairies’ profitability. The project will be headquartered at the university’s West Central Research and Outreach Center at Morris. It brings farmers together with experts in animal science, entomology, agronomy and economics. A $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping fund the four-year project.” How fast do you think that one would be red-lined by “a proven job creator”?

That ad the DFL put up in support of Rick Nolan … the one accusing Chip Cravaack of not even living here? It’s been, uh, retrofitted. Mark Zdechlik of MPR says: “After a Duluth TV station refused to air a Minnesota DFL ad critical of Republican Congressman Chip Cravaack because it included the claim Cravaack ‘doesn’t even live in Minnesota anymore,’ the DFL has come up with a new version of the spot. The reworked ‘Pretender’ ad shares the tone of the previous spot, and is almost identical, apart from the claim Cravaack doesn’t live in Minnesota. … Although the DFL has backed down, the Nolan campaign is standing by its own ad in which Nolan looks into the camera and says Cravaack ‘doesn’t live here anymore.’ ”

Over at City Pages, Aaron Rupar makes some calls on the Facebook-fueled flap over whether GOP Rep. Mary Franson was “TRASHED” and “macked on someone elses man” at an Alexandria bar. “Franson says she had two drinks in three hours and was more than sober enough to drive herself home. But as she prepared to exit the bar and restaurant, something strange happened — one of the employees began ‘interrogating’ her about how she was going to get home and then began ‘laughing at [her] hysterically,’ according to Franson. It seemed to Franson that she was being ridiculed, and as she left she had a strange premonition that employees might call the cops as part of an effort to ‘harass’ her. On her way home, she says she was followed by a cop for a bit, but wasn’t pulled over. … seconds after our brief exchange, Franson called back and opened a vein. She called the accusations ‘disgusting’ and ‘unfounded’ and says that those who made them ‘should be ashamed.’ ”

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Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/26/2012 - 02:46 pm.

    Re: Conflict of interest?

    If anything, any legislator who happens to be an attorney or otherwise makes his living in the law is guilty of conflict of interest. Should lawyers be allowed to create the laws?

    • Submitted by Matthew Levitt on 10/26/2012 - 03:24 pm.


      Explain the conflict of interest. Or does the phrase mean something different to you than the rest of us?

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/26/2012 - 04:19 pm.

        People should not be creating laws

        who then can benefit financially from enforcing those laws. Attorneys who create laws that govern behavior in the workplace or marketplace are in a position to represent plaintiffs who sue employers or companies who are in violation of those laws.

        To create a law and then represent a paying client to enforce that law to their benefit is a conflict of interest.

        Lawyers should be barred from being members of the legislature.

        • Submitted by Matthew Levitt on 10/26/2012 - 05:30 pm.

          Client = Campaign Donor

          Client being no different from campaign donor.

        • Submitted by Susan McNerney on 10/27/2012 - 09:45 pm.

          I’m all for seeing more diversity in the legislature,

          and pulling politicians from many more walks of life, but asking that all of our representatives be even more ignorant of governance and lawmaking than they already are is a nonstarter. It’s not a conflict of interest to be well-trained in matters of the law before you start writing them.

          We need legal experts in our legislative bodies, and we need other people too. And we need to worry about real conflicts of interest, not imaginary ones that are uncovered via six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

  2. Submitted by Hugh Gitlin on 10/26/2012 - 03:51 pm.

    Romney on TV

    Which markets? Duluth and the Twin Cities go into Wisconsin, and Rochester goes into Iowa.

  3. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/26/2012 - 03:59 pm.

    The Senate’s Ethics Rules

    leave a great deal to be desired.

    56.1 Members shall adhere to the highest standard of ethical conduct as embodied in the
    Minnesota Constitution, state law, and these rules.

    56.2 A member shall not publish or distribute written material if the member knows or
    has reason to know that the material includes any statement that is false or clearly misleading, concerning a public policy issue or concerning the member’s or another member’s voting record
    or position on a public policy issue.

    56.3 Improper conduct includes conduct that violates a rule or administrative policy of the
    Senate, that violates accepted norms of Senate behavior, that betrays the public trust, or that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor or disrepute.

    56.4 Members of the Senate shall disclose potential conflicts of interest in the discharge of
    senatorial duties as provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 10A.07.

    For the text of 10A.07, go here:

  4. Submitted by Sean Olsen on 10/26/2012 - 04:45 pm.

    False equivalency

    The Pappas and Vickerman situations aren’t the same at all. Jim Vickerman didn’t hide the fact he was a farmer and you could judge his activities fairly on that basis. Here, Hann is going to some lengths to cloud what he is doing in his career outside the Legislature.

    The problem is that the disclosure rules for our elected officials are porous. The clause that allows them to register as “self-employed consultants” pulls the veil over who is paying them. The law should be amended to require self-employed consultants to disclose who is paying them.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/26/2012 - 05:09 pm.

    And she did all by herself

    Yeah, Obama, Dayton, and Senators Franken and Kobuchar had nothing to do with that bridge finally getting approved. She was the least involved of he bunch.

  6. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 10/26/2012 - 06:06 pm.

    Disclosure Is The Key

    When I was Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) – a licensed insurance agent – chaired of the House Commerce Committee which oversaw financial services among it responsibilities. Everyone on the Committee and everyone who came before the Committee knew that he was the insurance business because he made a point of disclosing it – often! Though we sometimes disagreed on issues, Rep, Davids was an excellent and very fair chair of that committee.

    Quite often, legislators serve on committees that reflect their professional or personal interests. Not surprising, people in the health care professions seek service on health care related committees, teachers on education related committees, farmers on Agriculture, hunting and fishing enthusiasts on Natural Resources and so on. The conflict occurs when a legislator refuses to acknowledge that they are employed or actively participate in that industry and/or take pains to hide it.

    Both the House and Senate Commerce committees attracted legislators who came from the financial services industry and so long as they didn’t try to hide the fact, it worked fine because they had both interest in and some knowledge about issues that came before the Committee.

    Sen. Hann needs to make disclosure his highest priority including who he works for and if necessary, who his clients are and what his actual job is.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/26/2012 - 11:27 pm.


      It does make sense to have persons experienced in a field to seek committee appointments. Well said!

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 10/27/2012 - 10:44 am.

      AMEN !

      But Sen. Hann is so, so busy right now, he just can’t find the time for disclosure !!

      I guess the cat’s got his tongue.

      Another thing to remember about Sen. Hann: he moved to strip city charter requirements from the Vikings stadium bill. He is one of those conservative supporters of public handouts to the wealthy.

      Would you trust this guy with important public policy matters, especially when he attempts to hide an apparent conflict of interest ?? If he was open in disclosure, that’s one thing. But when he is so evasive, it suggests he has an ACTUAL conflict of interest. What other reason could there be ??

  7. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/26/2012 - 06:20 pm.

    Credit where credit is due

    Bachmann did help get the bridge-ball rolling in the House.

    Whether that’s a good thing seems to be a question of one’s perspective on the bridge itself and how one sees its benefts and/or consequences. Likely winners? The owners of land that will be developed in Wisconsin, existing residents of Western Wisconsin and residents of Stillwater who are tired of their streets being taken over twice a day by commuters. Losers? Some Stillwater business owners, those who prefer the river as it looks today.

    I don’t see how it helps her outside of Stillwater. It’s not something I would expect fiscal conservatives to cheer.

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