Rep. Tom Hackbarth’s new controversy: Email links union member’s budget concerns to Castro, Hitler

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.

Here’s the back and forth of it (PDF):

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.


“Representative Hackbarth.”

Efforts to get immediate response from Hackbarth were unsuccessful.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth
Rep. Tom Hackbarth

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.

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Comments (19)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/13/2011 - 04:30 pm.

    Tax the other guy seems a popular (populist?) refrain. How about: tax us all!

  2. Submitted by Tim Walker on 06/13/2011 - 04:31 pm.

    And you know what? Hitler was for gun control!!1!1!11!!

    I’ll bet that’s what has Rep. Hackbarth in such a tizzy, what with his fear that Big Government will take away his right to wander around in Planned Parenthood parking lots with a .38 caliber pistol.

    Er, actually, I don’t know what’s going on in that head of his, if anything.

  3. Submitted by Jeff Wilfahrt on 06/13/2011 - 04:44 pm.

    I’d be curious to hear his version of the American Revolution, the Continental Congress, and on and on.

    I wonder what radio station he listens to in his car going to and fro?

    Jeff Wilfahrt, Rosemount, MN

  4. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/13/2011 - 05:42 pm.

    Rep. Hackbarth is, quite frankly, scary. His response to his constituent was only coherent enough to understand that he’s paranoid. Add that to the fact that he was wandering a parking lot armed to meet a woman he met online and/or simply wandering armed through a Planned Parenthood parking lot…one wonders what he’s capable of. While I am one that believes that we should be able to keep and use firearms, I don’t believe that people that pose a risk to society should carry them. Rep. Hackbarth’s actions suggest that he should not only NOT be carrying a gun, but should probably be a member of an institution other than our state’s legislature.

  5. Submitted by will lynott on 06/13/2011 - 05:49 pm.

    Apart from his contemptuous treatment of constituents, this turkey is semi-literate at best. Is this really the best Cedar can do?

    When it comes to constituent service, I think he’s taking lessons from Tony Cornish.

    James #1, we’re already “taxing us all.” Unfortunately, the wealthy are getting a bargain with the current rates. Time to straighten that out.

  6. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 06/13/2011 - 06:16 pm.

    Certainly, the level of thought revealed in Hackbarth’s comments is stunningly low. It should raise questions about his intellectual competence.

  7. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 06/13/2011 - 07:45 pm.

    James Hamilton, who is it that’s saying tax the other guy. “Please tax the richest two per cent of Minnesotans. Ask them to pay their fair share.”

    Did she say stop taxing me and tax them? No, she simply asks that they pay their fair share. Did you know that the wealthy pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than do the middle class? Did you know that the federal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans is at a 60 year low? Did you know that there are 400 Americans who own more that 150 MILLION Americans, and they are being taxed at at lower rate, if at all?

    Again, no one is saying tax the other guy, they are saying tax us fairly.

  8. Submitted by Mark Stromseth on 06/13/2011 - 09:24 pm.

    Well, it’s unfortunate that people who look like the Hackbarth even got elected. Someone who walks around Planed Parenthood parking lots with a loaded gun needs to be arrested and institutionalized for life.

    He’s nothing more than a typical uneducated GOPer. As the better part of the gene pool says: Stupid is as stupid does.

  9. Submitted by John Hoffman on 06/13/2011 - 10:52 pm.

    I do hope his constituents in Cedar, MN are paying attention to his behavior this year. I think he’s come unhinged and I vote him “most likely to be the next elected official to behave badly, be embarrassed, and resign in disgrace”. What a knucklehead.

  10. Submitted by Michael Zalar on 06/14/2011 - 01:59 am.

    I wonder if Rep Hackbarth understands that labor unions were fundamental in fall of Communism (does nobody remember Solidarnosc?)

  11. Submitted by Steven Liesch on 06/14/2011 - 05:40 am.

    Remember,the Republicans are trying to force identity cards on everyone.

    Otherwise known as a picture ID for voting.

  12. Submitted by Nathan Smith on 06/14/2011 - 08:18 am.

    You’re absolutely right, such movements were huge in eroding the control of Soviet Communism. But unfortunately the average American probably has no idea because too few people know much history at all about their own country, never mind what happened in Eastern Europe.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/14/2011 - 09:19 am.

    It’s always interesting when one of these Republicans pulls back the curtain. It’s important to remember that Hackbarth is NOT an anomaly, his views are actually shared by the majority of his colleagues, although their judgment may be better when it comes to disclosing their agenda and the rationale’s behind it.

    I think the problem is that too many Republican have drunk their own cool aid. They’ve mistakenly decided that the fact that they won an election means that they’ve become popular. Hackbarth’s amazement that so many people are demanding a tax hike betrays this disconnect from reality. Polls have consistently shown that the majority of MN’s support Dayton’s proposed tax hike, yet Hackbarth is surprised by his own constituents. Republicans seem to think that getting elected means you get to do what you want. They don’t realize that getting elected means you get to represent your constituents, and you have to represent them all, not just the ones who voted for you.

  14. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 06/14/2011 - 12:51 pm.

    Not only are Hackbarth’s views shared by many of his Republican colleagues, so are his lack of civility and respect for others.

  15. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/14/2011 - 03:55 pm.

    Now Hackbarth is going on conservative talk radio — won’t talk to anyone else — and claiming he was taken out of context. This would be the context in the complete exchange of letters linked in the article and by other media.

  16. Submitted by James Blum on 06/14/2011 - 05:06 pm.

    It’s easy to take shots at Rep. Hackbarth and make jokes, but I sincerely believe he is a person who desperately needs help. Minor eccentricities are one thing, but this is a pattern of behavior that is alarming in a Jared Loughner way. I don’t live very far away from that Planned Parenthood location, and quite frankly it gives me the willies to think I could take my kids to the DQ up the block and he could be hanging out in the PP parking lot with a loaded weapon.

  17. Submitted by will lynott on 06/14/2011 - 06:26 pm.

    Eric #15, did the squawk jock ask how it’s possible to take that email out of context? Alternatively, did Hackbarth then provide the proper context for all to see?

    Oh, thought not.

    Jeez, that out-of-context excuse is so utterly lame.

    Rachel #4, he was not in the Planned Parenthood parking lot to meet a woman. He was there stalking a woman he had met on the internet, to see if she was meeting someone else. With a gun.

  18. Submitted by Zhu Bajie on 06/14/2011 - 07:35 pm.

    I’ve always said, if you want to be poor, vote Republican!

  19. Submitted by Peter Westre on 06/14/2011 - 11:24 pm.

    I just wrote Rep Hackbarth. We’ll see if he responds to my call to engage in civil dialog with others as part of the process to solve the state budget.

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