It appears that some legislators are feeling the tension of the showdown over the budget. Or perhaps, Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, was just having a bad day.
Hackbarth, an eight-term legislator, fired off a strange response to one of his constituents, a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. In his e-mail, Hackbarth managed to tie Castro and Hitler into the current budget tussle.
In her e-mail to the representative, Robin Seifert wrote: “You have a choice. As a legislator, you could chose to ask the most fortunate among us to pay their fair share or you could inflict severe pain on the middle-class and vulnerable Minnesotans. … Please tax the richest two per cent of Minnesotans. Ask them to pay their fair share.” She ended with a “sincerely.”
In other words, not an unusual constituent-to-legislator communication.
In fact, public employee unions are urging their members, and others, to send similar letters and emails to their legislators. Hackbarth’s response, via email, however, was unusual.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing from folks? All similar letters to yours.
“Are you a Union member? If so, are they the communist giving you this propaganda?
“Do you know the who, what, when, where, why, and how, of Fidel Castro?
“Hitler rose to power using and blaming the jews for the destruction of the German economy. Castro built his army of murderers by blaming the rich bankers and capitalist for destroying Cuba and taking advantage of the Cuban people.
Efforts to get immediate response from Hackbarth were unsuccessful.
Not surprisingly, when MAPE learned of Hackbarth response, the organization’s executive director, James Monroe, fired off an open-letter to the representative that reads in part:
“While I appreciate your willingness to respond to your constituents, I am deeply troubled about what you wrote and ask you to shed light on linking a public employee union with the rise of Adolf Hitler and murderous armies of Fidel Castro? Representative Hackbarth, do you really equate advocating for the middle class and Minnesota’s vulnerable citizens as communist propoganda?”
Monroe’s open letter – which was both mailed and emailed to Hackbarth – was not immediately answered by the legislator.
Hackbarth had a public relations problem a few weeks after last year’s elections when he was found in the Planned Parenthood parking lot in St. Paul, wandering around armed with a .38 caliber pistol.
At the time, he said he didn’t realize he was parked at the Planned Parenthood site and was in the neighborhood seeking a woman he’d met online. He was not charged, but the awkward situation cost him a chance to end up as chairman of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
In fact, Hackbarth remained mostly silent during the session, especially when reporters were nearby.
Public employee unions have been waging a major effort in support of Gov. Mark Dayton’s call for a tax increase on the wealthiest in the budget dispute. The public employee unions — MAPE, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Minnesota Management Association – have launched a major media campaign in 26 legislative districts in the state.
The intent is to swing six members of the House and four members of the Senate to the Dayton/DFL side in the budget showdown.
According to AFSCME, the ads, pressuring local pols to support the Dayton plan, will get 2,750 plays – 750 times on broadcast television, 2,000 on cable channels – in each of the targeted districts.
The unions also are running phone banks and doing literature drops in districts of the targeted pols.
Those being targeted (all, except Sen. Terri Bonoff, are Republicans) in the Senate are:
David Brown, Becker; John Carlson, Bemidji; Roger Chamberlain, Lino Lakes; Ted Daley, Eagan; Al DeKruif, Madison Lake; Joe Gimse, Willmar; Benjamin Kruse, Brooklyn Park; Ted Lillie, Lake Elmo; Jeremy Miller, Winona; Carla Nelson, Rochester; John Pederson, St. Cloud; and Pam Wolf, Spring Lake Park.
House members are:
Diane Anderson, Eagan; King Banaian, St. Cloud; Mike Benson, Rochester; Roger Crawford, Mora; Greg Davids, Preston; Dan Fabian, Roseau; David Hancock, Bemidji; John Kriesel, Cottage Grove; Carolyn McElfatrick, Deer River; Rich Murray, Albert Lea; Branden Petersen, Andover; Kirk Stensrud, Eden Prairie; and Kelby Woodard, Belle Plaine.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.