GOP Senate hopeful Mike McFadden gets ‘soft-focus’ specific

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
Mike McFadden: "There’s a path to growth and prosperity, if we allow it to happen."

U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden continues to put a soft-focus filter on his campaign statements. But in an interview with MinnPost, he reveals some specifics on policies he’d pursue if he defeats Sen. Al Franken in November.

It’s not that the others seeking Republican endorsement have done much more than articulate their support of traditional conservative positions. It’s that, unlike McFadden, the most serious challengers — State Rep. Jim Abeler, State Sen. Julianne Ortman and St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg — have voting records. 

McFadden, a mergers-and-acquisition consultant with a Georgetown law degree, declined to participate in early debates and often gave generalized responses when pressed for policy details. Both the DFL, and his GOP competitor Dahlberg, have accused him of dodging the issues. 

Below, McFadden defined a few of his positions, including tax reform, energy sector growth, and foreign affairs:

MinnPost: What did you think of Congressman Dave Camp’s tax plan — it eliminates write-offs and lowers the overall rates — and how does this compare to your concept of tax reform?

Mike McFadden: I think there’s a huge opportunity to sit down and really make some dramatic improvements here.

It shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it should be bipartisan. Sitting across the table with like-minded Democrats and say, “Let’s agree it’s going to be revenue-neutral,” because we’ve got $17 trillion of debt that we have to address.

But we can all agree that we have something that’s much more simple and much more transparent. Every economist will tell you that we’ll see economic growth from that, because it’s just more efficient.

Let’s sit down and talk about what that looks like. The 15,000 deductions; exemptions … I think you start with a white, blank sheet of paper and say, “This is the amount of money we need to run the government, here’s what we’re going to do. Here are the rates. What deductions or exemptions do we absolutely need and why?”

MP: So you’re looking at a revenue-neutral tax plan, but vastly simplified?

MM: And transparent. I want people to know what people are paying. People pay a lot in taxes, and they should have the confidence as to what that is.

We need tax reform. It’s so complicated, no one understands it.

We have a 35 percent tax rate for corporations. That’s too high. I believe that’s too high. But having said that, corporations are all over. There are reports that there are some large corporations in America that paid zero income tax last year. That’s wrong. It’s not illegal, but it’s wrong.

MP: Do you support the Fed’s monetary policy of keeping interest rates low?

MM: I’m concerned we are in uncharted territory.

The Fed has been manipulating interest rates for five years now. As they’ve been the predominant buyer of securities on the open market — they have affected that market greatly. As they stop buying the bonds, there’s a real concern that interest rates will spike.

… They announced some tapering last summer, and interest rates spike on five- and ten-year bonds. They pulled back immediately. The last couple situations where they decreased the amount of buying, it’s been smoother in the marketplace.

What’s absolutely critical is that we get … the underlying economy — manufacturing sector, service sector — doing better, creating more jobs so that the Fed can pull back.

They’ve got to pull back, and if we don’t have the growth, my concern is that we’ll see out-of-control inflation.

MP: Do you support a federal increase in the minimum wage?

MM: I support anything that increases wage and increases jobs. My concern is two-fold:

One is federal versus state. It concerns me that the government dictates a wage across the whole country. As we all know, the factors that we face in Minnesota are dramatically different than New York or California or Alabama.

The other … is when I read reports from economists that this will destroy jobs.

MP: So you don’t support a federal increase?

MM: Yeah that would destroy jobs. I think there’s a better way to do it. I’m a big fan of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The other thing is that we gotta get this economy growing. That’s how you increase jobs; that’s how you increase wages.

I’m very concerned we’ve absolutely had stagnant growth. Last quarter, we grew 0.1 percent. While the unemployment rate has gone down, it’s somewhat misleading because the labor participation rate has gone done significantly.

… We’re going sideways and I know that. I’m a businessman. There’s a way forward. There’s a path to growth and prosperity, if we allow it to happen.

I think one of the reason we have so few new business starts is that regulation has made it so expensive to start a new business.

MP: In a bill, what regulations would you propose to eliminate?

MM: I don’t think it’s as simple as proposing language in a bill.

Someone was asking me what committees I would like to be sitting on in the U.S. Senate. I said one of the things I’d like to do is create a new committee, which would be the committee of de-regulation.

We have all these committees that create laws, then create regulation. There’s no one whose job is to look through and say what is still relevant.

MP: But specifically, where do you see these regulatory roadblocks?

MM: I am for smart regulation, efficient regulation.

Let me give you a real-life example in Minnesota that’s problematic. We’re sitting on the largest copper deposit in the world. It has the opportunity to have Bakken-like economic impact on our state and on the region.

Nobody in Minnesota, including myself, wants to do anything that harms our 10,000 lakes. We are all environmentalists in this state. What is problematic is this copper deposit — this has been under review for seven years, $150 million, and we don’t have an answer yet.

There currently are seven different regulatory agencies that have control over this project: the DNR, PCA, sovereign nations, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Engineers, Department of the Interior and the Forest Service.

If we were in Germany, which has the toughest environmental laws in the EU, we’d have an answer in six months. Just tell us.

Nobody wants to do something that’s harmful, and my sense is that they’re going to allow this to happen because they can do it in an environmentally safe way — but nothing should take seven years and $150 million. We have such an inefficient, chaotic regulatory review process. That’s wrong. That stops economic impact.

MP: With these entrenched structures, how would you propose to make them more efficient?

MM: You need to build a coalition of like-minded people. Ideally, it’s bipartisan. I think this is ideally suited for people that have private-sector experience. I’ve solved problems my whole life, that’s what I’m trained to do. …

Let’s take the energy industry. We are sitting on the doorsteps of an energy renaissance, which is truly game-changing if we allow it to happen in a responsible way.

We haven’t been energy independent; we haven’t been an energy superpower since the early 1960s. People forget that in World War II, we provided six-sevenths of the oil that was used to prosecute the war on behalf of the allies.

We have the opportunity — because of technology, because of innovation, because of horizontal drilling — to really be an energy superpower.

It’s a game-changer, because not only is energy the number one source of high paying jobs over the next decade, but also more importantly, with low cost energy, we have a manufacturing renaissance.

MP: What do you think Congress should do with energy policy?

MM: One is approve the Keystone pipeline, which has thoroughly passed multiple environmental reviews.

Two is natural gas. There are 24 [liquefied and natural gas plants] around the country that have applied for permits. I would fast-track the permitting process.

Let’s talk about Europe. France does use [nuclear]. Germany curtailed their nuclear program, and went to natural gas and I believe 60 to 70 percent of their energy comes from Russia. That’s a problem; that’s a huge problem.

Energy independence is not just to allow us to be an economic superpower — which we need to be — but it’s got huge implications on geo-political issues. If we had these L-and-G plants up and running, we actually could export to Europe. We could supply their energy — democracy to democracy.

Germany allowed themselves to get in a situation where they were dependent on Russia.

MP: Natural gas is a resource that produces methane that may contribute to climate change. If Congress decides to act on climate change — what is the most prudent course, in your opinion?

MM: One of the frustrations that I’ve had is the way that the question is posed. There’s a false choice out there. You’re either for the environment, or you’re for the economic growth or business growth.

… You can do both. You grow; you develop in a responsible way. With natural gas, the studies I’ve seen, there’s more methane produced from livestock than there ever is from natural gas production. And natural gas is one of the cleanest forms of energy.

I’m a big proponent of all forms of energy. Let the market determine what’s the most efficient way to provide energy sources.

Look at the improvements we made in the coal industry in terms of what we’ve been able to do there. Whether its coal, nuclear, natural gas, propane — let’s promote it in a responsible way.

If we’re able to provide natural gas to Europe, they’re not held hostage by Russia. Russia’s economy is completely energy dependent.

MP: What is your opinion of U.S. policy regarding Russia and the Ukraine?

MM: I’m very disappointed in the current administration in terms of their foreign policy. I think they’ve put the U.S. in a place where we are in a less safe, more dangerous position today that when they got elected into office.

Let’s look at Benghazi. A U.S. ambassador was murdered. We had a rapid deployment force of Marines on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. We did nothing and the world watched.

Then we drew a red line in the sand in Syria. They crossed it. We did nothing and the world watched. So no one should be surprised by what Putin did in the Ukraine.

MP: Do you advocate a more muscular U.S. policy in this situation?

MM: I advocate a more clear policy. I would have started in Benghazi. I would have sent a very strong message that we’re going to protect our embassies.

We find ourselves in a situation in the Ukraine. I would have immediately kicked Russia out of the G-8. We become the G-7. I would consider things like taking the [2018] World Cup from them immediately. I’m a big proponent of economic sanctions. We need Europe’s support to make them effective.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 05/12/2014 - 09:25 am.

    Let’s begin a campaign to kill “transparent” and “transparency,” replacing them with “visible” and “visibility.” Don’t know about others, but I can see right through much stuff I am allowed to see.

    Don’t we all need to see the other half of many a half truth?

    ‘Tis the season of mangled metaphors and suspicious semantics…of smoke and mirrors and curtain pullers.

    May we at least hope for “translucency”? Enjoy the show!

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/12/2014 - 09:30 am.

    A True Profile in Banality

    Even when he gets more specific, Mr. McFadden can’t come up with anything more than banalities and platitudes. He waffles, and then comes down on the side of the standard issue Republican orthodoxy. All his calls for “efficiency” and “transparency” are just a big wad of nothing.

    There is an axiom that you haven’t really said anything if no one can disagree with you. Look at his comment, “I am for smart regulation, efficient regulation.” Can anyone disagree with that? Is there anyone out there who will speak out in favor of “stupid regulation, inefficient regulation?” Every inch of red tape put out by the federal government is there for a reason–because an agency thought it was “smart,” and probably “efficient.” The necessity of a given regulation is usually a matter of opinion. No congressional committee filled with freshmen members looking to make their bones is going to change that.

    PS Mr. McFadden, if you want to look like you know anything about foreign policy, at least get the jargon right. Benghazi was not an embassy, it was a consulate or mission. Embassies are in capitols (if a Democrat said anything like that, the right-wing would be howling about it for years).

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 05/12/2014 - 10:10 am.

      Yes, RB, McFadden comes off as the shallow Republican, typical of those who made many followers into committed Independents. You have the scent.

      After 5+ years, Al Franken knows little beyond his morning briefings. Even so, the DFL machine will run right over McFadden and others, unless they start filling their card files with specifics and documentation.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/12/2014 - 10:09 am.

    Actually he’s telling us something very important

    It’s all well and good when the “government” intervenes to suppress the interest rates that banks pay for transactions and access to taxpayers money… but it’s kills jobs when the government intervenes on behalf of low paid workers. Trickle down economics, bad economics, and class warfare. Typical mediocre executive thinking.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/12/2014 - 10:22 am.

    And he can’t be trusted

    He obviously didn’t even read the “report” he’s referring regarding possible job loss associate with raising the minimum wage. If you go and actually read the report they predict minimal job losses and express little confidence (one third of a chance) in the 500,000 job loss prediction. Meanwhile upwards of 16 million workers would see a pay rise. Anyone who can’t or doesn’t read a report, or cherry picks parts of a report, can’t be trusted to create jobs or raise wages for American workers.

    Here’s what the CBO report McFadden is referring actually says:

    “Effects of the $10.10 Option on Employment and
    Income.Once fully implemented in the second half of
    2016, the $10.10 option would reduce total employment
    by about 500,000 workers, or 0.3 percent, CBO projects.
    As with any such estimates, however, the actual losses
    could be smaller or larger; in CBO’s assessment, there is
    about a two-thirds chance that the effect would be in the
    range between a very slight reduction in employment and
    a reduction in employment of 1.0 million workers (see
    Ta b l e 1 ) .

    Many more low-wage workers would see an increase in
    their earnings. Of those workers who will earn up to
    $10.10 under current law, most—about 16.5 million,
    according to CBO’s estimates—would have higher earn-
    ings during an average week in the second half of 2016 if
    the $10.10 option was implemented.Some of the people
    earning slightly more than $10.10 would also have higher
    earnings under that option, for reasons discussed below.
    Further, a few higher-wage workers would owe their jobs
    and increased earnings to the heightened demand for
    goods and services that would result from the minimum-wage increase.”

    You can see the report for yourself here:

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/12/2014 - 11:24 am.

      Not What He Meant

      When Mr. McFadden says he has read “reports” that increasing the minimum wage will kill jobs, he probably means editorial pieces in the Wall Street Journal, talking points issued by the US Chamber, and blog posts by right-wing academics. He did not mean something with actual rigor behind it.

      You would think the constant echoing would hurt his ears.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 05/12/2014 - 12:38 pm.

      McFadden and dogmatic ideology

      Why read and learn when it’s much more convenient to endlessly recite the eternal ideological verities of conservative politics? His likely supporters won’t know the difference…

  5. Submitted by Conrad Soderholm on 05/12/2014 - 12:32 pm.

    BWCA as Bakken

    Everyone needs to take to heart what Mr. McFadden says about the opportunity for Superior National Forest to undergo “Bakken-like” development. Bakken-like development turned a pristine, clean prairie into an industrialized high-priced rural slum. Housing is scarce, schools are jammed, roads are falling apart. Thanks to Mr. McFadden for warning us about what can happen to Northeast Minnesota.

  6. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 05/12/2014 - 01:09 pm.

    Same interview

    Is the same interview of Al Franken available so we can decide who might have a better grasp of these issues?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/12/2014 - 05:13 pm.

      What’s your point?

      Mike McFadden has not yet been nominated to run. Right now, he’s just another potential candidate trying to get the attention of the voters.

      This article, in case you were wondering, is not about Al Franken. I really don’t understand why you people insist on making that same comment every time a Republican candidate is mentioned. Do you think you are convincing anyone of anything? Are the staff of MinnPost burying their heads in shame, that their lapse in judgment/liberal bias has been called out? DO you think this adds to the debate in any way?

      I’m sure, if and when there is an interview with Al Franken, you will be asking where the same interview with the Republican candidate is.

  7. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 05/12/2014 - 03:28 pm.


    Without getting into this guy’s repeating the debunked right-wing Benghazi narrative, is it fair to assume that by sending a strong message that we are going to protect our embassies means he is critical of Republicans cutting embassy security?

    I love the part about taking away the World Cup. This guy is almost Palin-esque. What a clown.

  8. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/12/2014 - 05:59 pm.

    A great phrase

    My thanks to RB Holbrook. Not only is it a nice summary of Mr. McFadden’s positions, such as they are, I like “…Profile in Banality” so much that I’ll probably steal it and use it in some other correspondence somewhere down the road.

    I do agree that it would be nice if the same questions were asked of Mr. Franken.

    Presumably, Mr. McFadden knew this interview was coming, and thus had an opportunity to prepare for it. If that is, in fact, the case, the cliche-ridden result is even more sad. As RB Holbrook pointed out, who is going to campaign on the basis of “stupid” or “wasteful” or “inefficient” regulation?

    So, let’s drag Mr. Franken into the room, letting him know in advance that he’s going to get questions about ‘x’ topics, and see what he has to say. Given what I’ve seen of the Republican field so far, I doubt that his responses would change my vote, but you never know, and even a seasoned performer like Mr. Franken might occasionally say something just as mindless as Mr. McFadden has done.

  9. Submitted by John Clouse on 05/13/2014 - 12:34 am.


    “Let’s agree it’s going to be revenue-neutral,” because we’ve got $17 trillion of debt that we have to address.”
    So, if we have to address the debt so urgently, how about a non-revenue-neutral budget.
    Don’t we want to pay our bills AND pay down the debt?
    I guess not.
    I’m surprised he didn’t advocate a special, revenue-neutral, assessment to investigate Bengazi. After all, (other than killing Osama Bin Laden, which happened on Bush’s watch), it’s the greatest foreign policy failure of the century!

  10. Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/13/2014 - 09:45 am.

    Of course

    John, of course you are leaning towards the humorous in saying killing Osama Bin Laden happened on Bush’s watch.

    History isn’t that favorable to the Republicans and their foreign policy so they are going to shout about the specific moment things went bad in Bengazi to cover their part in it.

    Henry Ford, for all his faults, raised the pay in his factories from $5 a day to $7 a day realizing that the laborers in his factories would buy more of his cars if they made more money and they did. Laborers showed up in droves to work for him, which forced the other manufacturers to raise their wages.

    The quickest and easiest way to increase jobs here in America is to bring back jobs from overseas. That would increase revenues that could be used to pay down the debt. Of course that would mean paying more American employees higher wages than their overseas counterparts and of course that is out of the question for the foreseeable future.

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/13/2014 - 11:59 am.

    If it weren’t for bad ideas…

    These guys would have no ideas at all. It’s sooooo typical of this executive thinking to assume that they can re-brand their way out of the policy holes they’ve dug. I guess we’re not supposed realize that “revenue neutral” is simply a replacement phrase for no new tax pledges. I suppose we’re also not suppose to notice that the only plan they still have for creating jobs is a magic plan, i.e. cut taxes and government spending and wait for the magic to happen.

    It’s also really weird if you ask me. The Republicans keep putting these business boys who always think they’re the smartest guys in the room up as candidates. They’re supposed to be job creators yet they all promise to cut government spending. The fact is to the extent that any of these guys have amassed personal fortunes, created jobs, or built new companies… none of them have ever accomplished anything with “revenue neutral” budgets. No business or executive makes money with revenue neutral business plans. Basically these guys are promising to bring their business acumen to the table but they promise not use it, rather their going run the government using a budget plan they have absolutely no experience with.

  12. Submitted by Mary McCarthy on 05/13/2014 - 01:12 pm.

    Soft Focus Indeed

    Me: OK, Cyndy. I’ve admired your work for a long time. I know this question and answer format can make it difficult to draw real responses from a subject. But let’s give it a try, shall we?

    You: Fine. I ask the questions?

    Me: Well, I’m in favor of questions. That’s part of the American Dream. But I think we should sit down and formulate them together, so they are transparent and—you know, bipartisan.

    You: Are you running for something?

    Me: As you ask about running, I’ll tell you I’m very much in favor of it. My daughter ran a 5k recently, and she found it s transparent activity carried out with a like-minded coalition.

    You: Then you’re not running for anything?

    Me: I’d have to sit down and have a bipartisan conversation about that, so that the results could be, well, better in the long run.

    You: What are your thoughts on the environment as it relates to running?

    Me: Primarily, I’m for it. But then again, I know air is transparent, so perhaps I should be entirely for it. Let’s have a bipartisan conversation about that too. It could be a real game-changer, coalition-wise….


  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/15/2014 - 09:59 am.

    A suggestion for the future

    Ms. Brucato,

    I guess since “revenue neutral” is the new no-new-tax pledge I’d like to see one simple and basic question when you (and/or other reporters) talk to these Republican candidates: “What experience do you actually have with managing revenue neutral budgets?” I’ve never seen anyone ask that basic question and it seem to an obvious question when someone is promising to implement such a budget. Has McFadden ever managed or implemented a revenue neutral budget or recommended one to a client? Business models are based on growth, not stagnation, so what kind of experience does a guy like this have with promoting and managing stagnation?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 05/15/2014 - 05:00 pm.


      Eh. A politician would just give some lame reply. Like “I’ve had to run a business under challenging circumstances with tough choices to make. In hard budget times like the recession we’ve recently been through everyone has to tighten their belts and government should be no different.”

      He’ll throw out some more stuff about how government should be run like a business, even though it shouldn’t, a little more blah blah blah about bipartisanship, and then “freedom!” thrown in for good measure to round it all out.

      At the end of the day his position won’t have changed one wit and we’ll still just have his code words to go off of.

  14. Submitted by Jon Lord on 05/16/2014 - 08:30 am.

    I’ve yet to see

    the tightening of belts by CEO’s. True, they cut jobs, but not their own pay. It keeps going up. Corporate politicians, along with throwing out the word “freedom” will also get around to throwing out “strong individual”, then “Bengazi”, and will then throw in the word “impeachment” because it helps keep focus off of them as individuals. One of the basic tenants of ‘debate’ is never get caught focusing on facts.

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