A classic semi-sliming? GOP’s Seifert sort of goes after three DFL governor candidates

Rep. Marty Seifert
Rep. Marty Seifert

It was a classic semi-sliming.

At a news conference Wednesday, Marty Seifert, perhaps a leader in the pack of Republican gubernatorial candidates, sort of implied that three DFL gubernatorial hopefuls — Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Tom Rukavina and Paul Thissen — MIGHT be using taxpayer money to help in their respective campaigns for governor.

Seifert, a state rep from Marshall who stepped down as House minority leader when he announced his candidacy, said that other legislators running for governor should not hold outstate committee hearings as a cover for campaigning for higher office. Legislators can charge the state for per diems and mileage when they hold hearings away from their St. Paul offices.

“I don’t know if they are doing that, but I want to throw it out there,” Seifert said. “I’m just trying to get ahead of the curve. I’ve been hearing from folks about plenty of hearings and the like.”

He then named Rukavina, Thissen and Kelliher as three who, because of their House leadership positions, could call such hearings.

Is he saying that the three are calling for committee meetings in Greater Minnesota, making some self-serving headlines in local newspapers and then billing the state for their travels?

“They shouldn’t do that,” he said. “We should always do things for the right reasons.”

Are they or aren’t they?
But are they making bogus committee trips?

“I don’t know if they’re doing that,” he said.

Rep. Paul Thissen
Rep. Paul Thissen

Thissen, who represents Minneapolis, was the first to respond to the sort-of-charge from Seifert.  As chairman of the Health Care Human Services and Oversight Committee, Thissen said that his committee did meet with hospital administrators throughout the state when Gov. Tim Pawlenty whacked $381 million from the General Assistance Medical Care program in his efforts to balance the budget without raising taxes.

The action raised grave concerns among hospital administrators from around the state, with many saying their hospitals won’t be able to remain solvent without program revenues they receive for treating the poorest of the poor.

Republican and DFL legislators alike attended those meetings with hospital officials around the state, Thissen said.

“This is the most important issue facing hospitals,” he said. “… The problem with holding everything in St. Paul is the people in Greater Minnesota don’t get heard. They need to be heard. This is an extremely critical issue.”

But did he receive per diems or mileage for holding those hearings.

“No,” said Thissen. “No per diems, no mileage.”

And those were the only hearings he’s held outside St. Paul, Thissen said.

Rukavina’s colorful response
Not surprisingly, Rukavina, an Iron Ranger who represents Virginia, was a little more colorful in his comments about Seifert’s implications.

First of all, he said, he has not held a single public hearing since he announced he was a candidate for governor a few weeks ago.

Rep. Tom Rukavina
Rep. Tom Rukavina

But, as chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee, he did hold hearings at MNSCU campuses in the Twin Cities area after the governor cut an additional $50 million from the $30 million the Legislature already had cut from the University of Minnesota and MNSCU systems.

And yes, Rukavina did charge mileage — 31.8 cents per mile — to drive from Virginia, a one-way trip of 210 miles.

“I can’t afford not to,” said Rukavina. “I think most people in this state think we make about $100,000 a year. I had a bet with a janitor once at a meeting up here. He was talking about how much money we make and I said, ‘I bet you $100 that you make more than I do.’ He asked me how much a legislator makes and says, ‘OK, you win. I owe you $100.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I know you can’t afford to pay me $100. I couldn’t afford it either.”

(State legislators are paid $31,140 a year.)

Anyhow, Rukavina said he’s not going to let Seifert’s innuendos stop him from doing his job as a legislator.

“When I became chairman of my committee three years ago, my pledge was to go around the state and learn as much as I can about our universities,” said Rukavina. “I still care about this state even if the governor doesn’t. … I’m going out there to see the devastation those $80 million in cuts are causing. I’m betting that Seifert supported those decisions by the governor.”

Kelliher’s campaign manager, Jaime Tincher, sort of sighed about the fact that the slime season already has begun.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher

“Margaret has taken her per diem only when she’s doing her work as the speaker [of the House],” Tincher said.  “She’s very clear about the difference between what her official business is as the speaker and her campaign.’’

Recall that Seifert immediately stepped down as minority leader when he began exploring running for governor. Kelliher, who represeents Minneapolis, is showing no inclination to leave her powerful position as speaker as she campaigns for a political promotion.

“Just throwing out” stuff about potential opponents wasn’t Seifert’s primary mission at the Wednesday news conference.

 Instead, he unveiled “Marty Seifert’s Leadership Plan for Minnesota.”

Like Rep. Paul Kohls, who unveiled his plan on Tuesday, Seifert made no mention of social conservative issues.

 But unlike Kohls, Seifert did take on two favorite targets of conservatives in talking about how to address Minnesota’s problems. Both welfare recipients and illegal immigrants were part of his seven-point agenda.

He wants to repeal “sanctuary city ordinances for illegal aliens” in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And he wants to reform welfare in Minnesota “to bring about accountability, work and responsibility.” 

Seifert’s No. 1 priority is to cut regulations, licensing and taxes that he says makes Minnesota so unfriendly to business. As an example, Seifert passed out to reporters a letter he received from a man who wanted to set up a vodka distillery in Windom. Minnesota regulations, Nathan Busch wrote, would have required him to pay $30,000 a year in annual fees. He decided to build his distillery in Iowa, where the fees were $350.

Because of its regulations and fees, Seifert said, Minnesota has lost three distilleries in recent years, not to mention a privately funded cancer treatment facility.

Other parts of his plan call for:

• Reforming health care with “sweeping tort reform” and more competition in insurance choices.

• Designing a K-12 bill that creates equal funding across all districts.

• Ending pork-barrel spending. (The one example he provided dealt with the sheet music museum in Chatfield, which had sought $400,000 for renovations, but that money already had been vetoed by the governor.)

• Passing “sweeping ethics reform” that “will hold office holders to higher standards.”

That’s when he mentioned the DFLers and the ethics issues, though, like he said, he wasn’t making a charge.

“Just throwing it out there,” Seifert kept saying.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 09/24/2009 - 10:39 am.

    How much do they make when you include per diem?

  2. Submitted by Fred Fuhldang on 09/24/2009 - 11:57 am.

    Seifert could be using state money to buy hookers and blow. I’m not saying that he is, but he could be. Does he attend any outstate committee meetings in his role as a legislator? If so, he’s using the taxpayer’s dime to fund his campaign, according to his logic.

  3. Submitted by Mike Wyatt on 09/24/2009 - 12:46 pm.

    “Because of its regulations and fees, Seifert said, Minnesota has lost three distilleries in recent years, not to mention a privately funded cancer treatment facility.”

    Hey Marty, which party likes fees in lieu of taxation? Seems you and your buddy Pawlenty had a large hand in this.

    Please… if you have nothing new to say, Mr. Seifert, then just remain silent. The ‘ol immigrants and welfare recipients dead horse is tired of being beaten.

    Funny how Mr. Seifert railed against allowing patients with severe or terminal illness from having safe access to medical marijuana, but he is all in favor of setting up vodka distilleries in this state? Which is it, “Mr. Morality?”

    Don’t let his exclusion of social issues from his commentary fool you. He’s a far right bible thumper just like Pawlenty.

    Ethics reform; give me a break. The GOP championed repealing the motor voters laws to make it harder for people to vote. Why did Norm Coleman, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Pawlenty write to George W. Bush asking for the pardon of Frank Vennes Jr.’s cocaine, gun running, and money laundering charges from the 1980’s? You know, the same Frank Vennes Jr. who was the right hand man of Tom Petters. You know, that ponzi scheme guy? The same Frank Vennes Jr. that Mrs. Pawlenty served on the Board of MN Teen Challenge with? The same MN Teen challenge that lured “Christian” businesses to invest in the Petters ponzi scheme.

    Ah yes, the GOP, leader in “ethical” reform and actions. Good luck, Mr. Seifert, you’re going to need it. Now shut up.

  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/24/2009 - 12:51 pm.

    “I don’t know if they are doing that, but I want to throw it out there.”

    Sure. As though it weren’t just another accusation accepted as fact by some people.

  5. Submitted by Dave Thul on 09/24/2009 - 02:01 pm.

    Peter-
    it varies quite a bit.

    Sen Bakk received over $49,000 above and beyond salary in 2007, which was the highest. (http://tinyurl.com/ydqbct4)

    For last year, Kelliher and Rukavina were #2 and #3 in per diem paid. Seifert was 22nd, and Thissen was 7th from the bottom of the list. (http://tinyurl.com/y9far2w)

  6. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 09/24/2009 - 03:47 pm.

    This whole story is pointless but dear god Tom Bakk made 49,000 in per diem. He is the most grossly underqualified tax chair in the history of the position. I hope he used some of that for tax training. This is a partial year job right? And he still collected 49,000. Any remarks he makes about fiscal responsibility are completely false. It makes the bike path to nowhere look like a good use of taxpayer funds. 49,000!

  7. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 09/24/2009 - 04:52 pm.

    It’s only reasonable to expect outstate legislators to have higher mileage expenses, and the speaker too is going to have a lot of traveling to do. Maybe we should ask whether people who would make good legislators are being stopped by running by the low salary, especially since it comes with all sorts of guff for getting paid.

    Of course, Seifert shouldn’t supplement his salary through embezzling party funds. I’m not saying he is, “but I want to throw it out there”. Just “getting ahead of the curve”.

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/24/2009 - 05:00 pm.

    Perhaps when the GOP can put forth some good candidates instead of these “values added” pious individuals that seem to be pushed upon the republican party. Then they might have an opportunity to chair the tax committee. I had no idea that these GOP candidate’s values were more divine than the rest of ours.

    I wish them the best of luck with their phony campaign for less government and tax cuts.

    The state department of Management and Budget, reports that the two-year budget starting in July of 2011, is projected to come up $4.4 billion short. Some, like State Economist Tom Stinson, worry the problem will continue.
    “We are unlikely, very unlikely, to grow our way out of the problem,” Stinson said.
    Stinson said there are several factors in play. He said a struggling economy; globalization and an aging population that will rely on more government services will keep the state in tough budget times.
    “The problem is more than an accounting problem,” he said. “We face a fiscal ‘Catch-22’ that has important implications beyond narrow state government concerns.”

    “The problem is more than an accounting problem,”

    Get that part Joe….. No more one time money, or so called cash management “techniques”.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/24/2009 - 07:17 pm.

    Seifert really ought to learn something about government. If he really wants to “repeal “sanctuary city ordinances for illegal aliens” in Minneapolis and St. Paul” he should be running for mayor, not governor.
    The governor can’t repeal anything, and the state legislature cannot repeal a city ordinance.

  10. Submitted by Howard Miller on 09/24/2009 - 07:40 pm.

    Mr. Siefert’s “non-slime” has classic mechanics – planting seeds of doubt. Suggest it is possible that a public official acted illegally, stopping short of leveling the charge and demanding investigation. So reporters approach the “possibly criminal” official, ask him or her if they’re breaking the law – even better if the question is asked at a public meeting or press conference – that way the accusation will be spread to more people who, having the seed of that “illegal act” weed planted in their mind, they’ll wonder. Of course almost everybody who is actually guilty protests of their innocence, and knowing that, the weed of doubt will not die just because the official swears it’s not true. It’s a weed … and it will keep growing and spreading, especially among those who are inclined to distrust government – a large part of the US population it seems at times.

    Use of that tactic makes me think quite poorly of Representative Seifert.

  11. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 09/28/2009 - 08:23 am.

    Maybe Rep. Seifert should have asked the media to investigate whether any of his DFL gubernatorial candidates have anti-American views. Just throwing it out there, ya know.

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