Legislators running for governor rack up expense payments

Legislators running for governor — and there are a bunch of them — collected $23,000 in expenses over the summer, MPR reports.

They are entitled to collect expenses for legislative-related costs even when the Legislature is not in session, for travel, lodging and daily expenses.

This turned out to be one of those “be careful what you ask for” deals, because MPR began looking into it when Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall, one of those legislators running for governor, raised the issue. Turns out, he was second highest on the list, with just over $6,000 since June.

Top of the list was Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, with $6,600.

Says MPR:

When asked about the figures, Seifert said the issue isn’t that candidates for governor are taking expense payments, but that some in power have the right to call hearings and meetings and then claim expenses. Seifert stepped down from his position as House Minority Leader when he announced his campaign for governor.

“I live the farthest from the Capitol of a lot of these folks, but I don’t have the ability to at will travel to Crookston, visit a college and do other things and sign a slip for myself,” Seifert said.

Seifert singled out three DFL lawmakers over expense reports: House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Chair Tom Rukavina, and House Health and Human Service Policy Committee Chair Paul Thissen.

But Thissen only collected $40.

Bakk said it isn’t fair to compare the expense reports of rural and metro lawmakers because rural lawmakers can claim lodging expenses and metro lawmakers can’t.

MPR said:

The metro candidate who claimed the highest amount of expenses is DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher. She claimed about $2,300 in per diem and travel expenses and spoke at several DFL-heavy events like a union convention Rochester. Kelliher said she’s careful about separating politics from her role as speaker.

“When I’m invited as Speaker of the House, I’m very clear about my role as Speaker of the House and I make sure that in my comments and commentary, I’m not talking about being a candidate for governor,” Kelliher said.

One candidate for governor didn’t claim any expenses since June, but it wasn’t because he’s taking a stance against the process. Republican Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie said he didn’t have a reason to claim expenses during the break but said it’s possible that he could file expenses in the future.

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