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Swanson campaign responds to sexual harassment allegations against former aide to Rep. Rick Nolan

MinnPost file photo by Peter Callaghan
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and Rep. Rick Nolan at their campaign announcement in June.

After remaining silent for more than a day, the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Lori Swanson and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has responded to a MinnPost report that Nolan hired on his 2016 campaign a longtime aide who left his congressional office in 2015 due to allegations of sexual harassment.

On Friday, Swanson’s rivals in the DFL primary, state Rep. Erin Murphy and U.S. Rep Tim Walz, condemned the way Nolan’s office handled the allegations against his longtime friend and legislative director Jim Swiderski, which included groping a 20-year-old intern. Some progressive groups, such as TakeAction Minnesota, called for Nolan, who is running for lieutenant governor, to drop out of the race.

In his most recent statement, released Friday afternoon, Nolan reiterated that “in hindsight,” Swiderski should not have been hired by his 2016 campaign, and apologized to the women his former aide harassed. Nolan, who touted his work on behalf of women during his political career, also apologized for “any insensitive comments I have made.” (MinnPost obtained a recording of Nolan lamenting white-collar workplace norms, saying “a woman’s got every right to be as fragile as she wants.” He also referred to Swiderski as the “boyfriend” of one of the women he harassed.)

In her statement, Swanson praised Nolan’s “long, effective, and distinguished track record representing Minnesota and has fought for gender equality throughout his entire career.”

Swanson’s campaign spokesperson accused the women who talked to MinnPost of being motivated by politics, since one of them currently works on behalf of a candidate who is running against Swanson and Nolan in the upcoming DFL gubernatorial primary.

Calls for Nolan’s exit

On Friday afternoon, members of progressive groups TakeAction Minnesota, OutFront Minnesota, the DFL Feminist Caucus, plus the Land Stewardship Project and Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis spoke at a press conference at the State Capitol to denounce Nolan's action with regard to Swiderski.

“Congressman Nolan has a choice to make in this moment,” said Elianne Farhat, the program director for TakeAction, which has endorsed Swanson’s opponent, DFL Rep. Erin Murphy, in the race for governor. “He is choosing to do nothing. He chose to do nothing when women came to him in his office. Congressman Nolan is making the wrong choice and he is the wrong choice for Minnesota. It is time for him to step down.”

MinnPost spoke to three former staffers for Nolan who accuse Swiderski of sexually harassing them. When staffers raised allegations against Swiderski in the spring of 2015, Nolan and his most senior aides allowed the legislative director to resign rather than face formal disciplinary consequences.

MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
“Congressman Nolan has a choice to make in this moment,” said Elianne Farhat, the program director for TakeAction.

Months later, Nolan’s campaign hired Swiderski to do work for the congressman. When Nolan staffers found out, they complained to campaign manager Joe Radinovich, who then fired Swiderski.

Though it’s too late for Nolan’s name to be dropped from the primary ballot, “That does not mean that Lori Swanson cannot take dramatic and decisive action and clearly communicate the path forward for her ticket,” Farhat said.

Aldona Martinka, the chair of the DFL Feminist Caucus said she hoped Swanson would make a statement that explicitly condemned Nolan’s behavior.

“I would like to see statements talking about how awful this is and denouncing the actions and lack of actions in her running mate’s office,” she said.

The DFL Party Stonewall Caucus, which represents LGBT interests, also called on Nolan to drop out of the race, saying in a Facebook post that it “expect[s] [Swanson] to hold her running mate accountable, and to set a positive example for the kind of behavior DFLers will and won't accept, within our campaigns and in governance.”

Some progressive advocacy groups issued statements condemning Nolan’s handling of harassment allegations but did not explicitly call on him to drop out of the race. Abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota, which endorsed Murphy in the governor’s race, said Swanson and Nolan should denounce this “disgusting and unacceptable behavior.”

The governor’s field responds to allegations

On Friday, Swanson’s rivals for the DFL gubernatorial nomination made their first public statements about Nolan’s handling of the sexual harassment allegations against his former legislative director.

Murphy, the party’s endorsed candidate, said that Nolan “enabled a predator while engaging in truly reprehensible behavior himself.” Prior to Swanson’s statement Friday afternoon, Murphy had called out Swanson for remaining silent on the story: “Engaging in sexual harassment or sexual assault — or sweeping it under the rug — is unacceptable,” she said.

MinnPost photo by Greta Kaul
On Friday afternoon, members of progressive groups TakeAction Minnesota, OutFront Minnesota, the DFL Feminist Caucus, plus the Land Stewardship Project and Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis spoke at a press conference at the State Capitol to denounce Nolan's actions with regard to Swiderski.

Walz, Nolan’s colleague in the Minnesota congressional delegation, also issued a statement, calling what happened in Nolan’s office an “inexcusable failure of leadership.”

“This type of behavior would not be tolerated in a Walz-Flanagan Administration,” he said. “I’ve called on our Republican opponents to break their silence on important issues before, and I’m calling for the same leadership from Attorney General Lori Swanson now.”

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Comments (44)

That seems bad

But Take Action Minnesota is wrong about everything (Dai Thao for mayor!) so I’m not sure what to think.

Please Clarify

Take Action is wrong about what? It was Nolan's staffers that made the allegations. Take Action is only calling on him to quit the race, just as others calling for the same.

I understand Take Action has endorsed Murphy, so they have a dog in this fight. But they are a bit player in this drama.

Disappointing coverage

I'm confused by why MinnPost is criticizing the Swanson/Nolan campaign for "remaining silent for more than a day". Don't you want them to investigate before responding? It's much easier to issue condemnations, particularly if facts are secondary or already known.

I also find it disappointing that MinnPost is comfortable naming the Swanson/Nolan campaign but is being coy by not naming the Walz campaign, whose staffer was a major source for this story. If you want transparency, it should be full, not selective.

This reminds me of the piece that Eric Black did on Lori Swanson a few weeks back. He had one source, a disgruntled employee who had been fired in 2010 by AG Swanson for insubordination. The fired employ was Swanson's secretary, now working on the Murphy campaign, who was incensed that Swanson had not followed the secretary's instructions to not consult with her predecessor. Secretaries don't get to run the State Attorney General's office.

I've been a faithful follower of MinnPost and have not seen any equivalent treatment of the Walz or Murphy campaigns.

Full disclosure, I support Swanson/Nolan, but that's probably obvious.

I'm sorry this story is

I'm sorry this story is damaging to your preferred candidate. But how is the lack of similar stories about the other candidates somehow unfair? Should MinnPost be inventing questionable activities by Walz, just to keep things balanced?

Because it seems to me that, unable to dispute the factual basis here, you're attempting to play the a card known as Lamestream Media. I realize it worked well for Trump, but that doesn't mean it should be emulated.

Additionally, I think your characterization of the Black piece to be dead wrong. Possibly willfully so, given your support for Swanson. I'd encourage anyone else reading this to go and read that piece for yourself, instead of taking this gentleman's word.

By all means read the Eric Black piece

Here's a direct link.

https://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2018/06/ex-swanson-aide-didnt-wh...

Be sure to read the comments section.

I liked Swanson as AG

But this current controversy echoes the Eric Black piece and the recollections of Swanson's former executive assistant. True or not, it appears (appearances matter in politics) that she relies too heavily on more experienced men to assist her. The only value I can see in Nolan as a choice in running mate is his Iron Range connections as a counter to Walz' power in the south. Otherwise its an odd choice in this political climate where diversity and a new generation will be center stage. In that sense being tied to Hatch and Nolan really isn't doing Lori any favors.

Nonsense

I agree that the other stories were hit pieces, and commented accordingly. But this one is a real story, and one that reflects extemely poorly on Nolan.

But what was really disgusting was Lori Swanson’s pathetic reaponse - focusing on the motivations of the victims. It was Trump-esque behavior.

Lori Swanson is unfit to be the govenor of this state.

Dirty politics

Disgusting politics, This coming out close to primary reels of dirty politics.Erin Murphy also went after Franken. I am disappointed in the Walz campaign for joining this campaign to attack Nolan
.this has helped me with my decision since I have been back and forth between Walz and Swanson.
.I know who I am voting for now..

I Heard Tell

That politics ain't beanbag.

And if this is dirty politics, Minnesota is squeaky clean.

Definitely dirty

I agree that it's dirty to allow sexual harassment in the workplace. Why would you vote for that? What makes you think this kind of behavior wouldn't continue in the Swanson governorship?

Please Clarify Something For Me

Are you more disgusted with the revelations of overlooking sexual harassment than you are by the sexual harassment itself?

It kind of reminds me of Jon Grunseth suing the hotel that leaked the guest register showing his extra-marital hook-ups.

Dirty politics

I just find it strange that the 3 year old accusations came after the names were on the ballot. I am curious to know if anyone else on Nolans Staff was also aware of this.Why aren't they speaking up.?

Names on the Ballot

Until the DFL convention, Lori Swanson was a candidate for re-election as Attorney General. She did not file to run for Governor until just before the deadline for filing (June 5). Rep. Nolan was named as her choice for Lieutenant Governor at the same time.

There hasn't been a lot of time for vetting.

"I am curious to know if anyone else on Nolans Staff was also aware of this." Maybe, maybe not. A sexual harasser seldom advertises his conduct to everyone in the office.

Shades of '78

I started in DFL politics in 1979, suffering thru the remains of the devastating results of the 1978 general election for the DFL. It seems that the win-at-all-costs efforts in some DFL primary elections always brings out the mutual-assured-destruction tactics of campaigns.

To be sure, I am not diminishing the repugnant behavior of the individual nor the poor office-management of dealing with the offender.

But, this is shades of the scorched-earth style of DFL primary campaign politics; if I cannot win the primary election, then I want to make certain that you cannot win the general election.

This is not new and will NOT this be the last time this happens in DFL politics.

Polls pretty much indicated that the Swanson-Nolan ticket is headed to a primary win. Maybe the race will tighten to within a point or two on election day. Currently with about three weeks remaining, the reality is that the DFL-endorsed candidate sits in third place and likely does not have enough time or resources to campaign their way to a primary victory. Perhaps the DFL Party apparatus can make up the difference.

My guess is that every vote that the DFL-endorsed candidate gains in the next few days is taken away from the second place candidate. It just strikes my that the Swanson-Nolan ticket has a large enough margin to lose some support and still win the plurality in the primary.

Then the party repair process begins. The DFL SCC will have to decide if if wants to endorse either Swanson or Walz tickets. These no-holds-barred primary battles make that less likely and makes the general election more difficult to win with a Murphy loss. But the recent Sanders-Clinton party battle pretty much demonstrated that the issue-left has a preference of losing on merit that winning to govern.

2019 could be 1979 all over again.

Seriously?

Sure I can support a woman who chooses a man who can state - as an excuse - the generalization that white collar women are more fragile than blue collar women? Nolan clearly doesn't understand how he's both forgiving/allowing sexual harassment in the workplace to go on by blaming the women for being "fragile" and siding with men who I'm sure he thinks were just trying to be nice and were misunderstood. He doesn't get this important issue. Swanson chose him. We all make mistakes, but what will she choose for the state of Minnesota as governor? We deserve better/smarter leadership for our state.

Did you miss that fact that Swiderski was fired?

" . . . siding with men who I'm sure he thinks were just trying to be nice and were misunderstood."

If you're referring to Swiderski, Nolan pushed him out once and then fired him. Nobody does that to someone who they think was "just being nice and were misunderstood". Nolan we clearly (and appropriately) outraged by Swiderski's behavior and ended his career.

No

But perhaps you missed the fact that Nolan allowed Swiderski to resign rather than fire him. Perhaps you missed this, "Months later, Nolan’s campaign hired Swiderski to do work for the congressman. When Nolan staffers found out, they complained to campaign manager Joe Radinovich, who then fired Swiderski."

At the risk of being redundant, here's some simple sentences for you: Nolan didn't fire Swiderski. Nolan allowed Swiderski to resign. Nolan rehired Swiderski later. (and now a complex sentence for the sake of variety) When Nolan's staff complained (note NOT to Nolan) to their manager, the staff manager fired Swiderski. Why wouldn't the staff go directly to Nolan? That is perhaps the most telling detail regarding his managerial style. Perhaps you could discern what working in his office would be like?

So much for "zero tolerance" from Nolan.
So yea - what else could Nolan think? Oh, white collar women are more fragile. Sheesh.

And Swanson is like - that's the guy to be my running mate?

Kind of poor judgement no?

I seem to have missed something....

What was Swiderski convicted of?
He had his career ruined on the basis of allegations of inappropriate behavior. He certainly paid a price.

Price?

He paid a debt owed on assumed privilege.

S was protected by his friend Nolan (and this is NOT to be mistaken for an "old boys network" - no way!). It was decided - based on the evidence on hand and multiple victims of his harassment (you know - more than one or two?) - it took a fair amount of pushing to get him gone (why now?) All should get familiar with the facts as stated in the article. You want to be on S's side on this? It's too bad you say? You then denying claims, photos, and texts from multiple unrelated parties as proof? Poor S for misunderstanding what he thought his perks were!

It's hard not to feel sick.

I wish S. nothing but bad luck in "China."

And why now some ask? Sexual Harassment and sadly even rape (as featured by the Strib's Sunday article) take far too long to meet with any kind of justice for either party.

If your standard for

If your standard for punishment is "must have a criminal conviction," I encourage you to read the Star Tribune's series on how sexual assault is actually treated: http://www.startribune.com/when-rape-is-reported-in-minnesota-and-nothin...

Responsible journalism

Please identify which of the two authors is connected to the Walz campaign.

Another Rick Nolan story

In this issue of Minnpost we see not one, not two, but THREE stories critical of Rick Nolan. What do they have in common? They are all written by Sam Brodey! After this overkill of a legitimate story I am not curious to learn more about Rick Nolan, but to learn, "Who is Sam Brodey?" What are his biases? What motivates him? Where does he come from? Does he or someone close to him have a beef with Rick Nolan? What are his personal politics? Does he favor one of the other candidates running for governor? For me the reporter has become the story.

step one, step two

Step one, blame the victim, step two blame the messenger. Who's playbook are we using here?

Could be this simple

Maybe he just doesn't like seeing women sexually harassed.

Brodey

Sam Brodey is the Washington DC correspondent for MinnPost. Who would you prefer write a story on sexual harassment in the DC office of a member of Congress, someone assigned to the Minnesota educational beat?

This is possibly the silliest obfuscation yet on this story.

Wow...

It's a little revealing to see all of these presumed Swanson/Nolan supporters file the same complaints against Brodey and Minnpost that right wingers typically file against the "liberal" media. For those of us who think the Democratic Party should be a liberal alternative this might tell us who Swanson and Nolan are appealing to.

Listen, just because you don't like a story, or facts that damage your interests in some way are revealed, doesn't mean "bias" and unbalanced "media" are stomping on you. The facts here are undisputed, if you can't deal with the facts, attacking the messenger won't fly in THIS room. This isn't FOX.

What Matters

What matters is not who is making allegations, or why,or when they come out. What does matter is, are they true?

Actually, it does matter when the allegations come out. If Swanson were to win the primary and these allegations come out during the general election, we'd likely be looking at a third term for Scott Walker, I mean, Tim Pawlenty, and extreme voter restriction, tax give aways to the wealthy, right to free load, etc.

Nolan handled this poorly, and Swanson's reaction has been weak tea to say the least. Swanson's clever ploy to get votes in the 8th CD during a heavy turnout DFL primary has backfired. Not too surprising given that she apparently hatched this campaign over night. I'd prefer a guv who is more strategic.

the 5 minute news cycle

MinnPost lost me with "after remaining silent for more than a day..."

Not just a witch hunt, but a 21st century real-time witch hunt, with response times now measured in minutes... wait, now it's milliseconds..... Now, even trying to understand a situation before responding is an admission of guilt.

Witch hunt?

Yes, Trump has tried to define a which-hunt as any time the press reports anything he says; but I'm not sure that kind of rhetoric will work on Nolan's behalf (It doesn't even seem to working for Trump). This response would be no less vapid or misguided if they'd issued it a week rather than a day after the story broke. If it took these guys more than ten minutes to "understand" the situation they were in, that in and of itself disqualifies them. And if it took them more than 24 hours to come up with THIS response... stick a fork in them... they're done.

The Real Story

Why is MinnPost publishing articles relating to allegations from several years ago just 3 weeks shy of the primary?

This is dirty politics at its finest.

The real story is the articles were based on information from a woman who is a staffer from the Walz campaign and another is a large Murphy supporter. Kare 11, a reputable news source, responsibly reported these basic facts:

www.kare11.com/article/news/lori-swanson-defends-running-mate-rick-nolan...

MinnPost should either 1) retract its articles trashing Nolan and Swanson's campaign because it was duped by several biased individuals with a political agenda or 2) come out as a biased news source that is more than happy to manufacture fake news.

Sorry not sorry

Sorry your candidate is affected by negative factual press that she completely deserves.

Are the Allegations False?

Sorry, no retractions should be called for unless the story is false.

I note that the "basic facts" KARE 11 reported do not include a claim that the allegations are false.

Allegations

Has he been charged or convicted criminally? Has he been sued civilly? Has a judge or jury found the allegations to be true? Does he have a different version of the events?

As an employer, if allegations like these are made you may simply terminate the accused as it is not worth the time or hassle associated with employees working in an uncomfortable environment. Just because an employee is terminated doesnt mean the allegations are 100% true.

Branded!

Is this the standard you would apply to a Republican operative in the same position?

Funny thing is, I thought the party that made a point of respecting the rights of women--you know, disdaining candidates who brag about sexual assault--would be a little more enlightened about trusting the claims of multiple women. I guess that doesn't hold true when it's someone you want to support.

As the late Sam Rayburn so aptly observed, "It all depends on whose ox is being gored."

Leadership under scrutiny

With popular politicians of both parties being forced out of their positions regularly over sexual harassment, it's strange to think that the Swanson/Nolan team seemed unaware that they were vulnerable on this. Whether it's "dirty politics" or something else is hard to say, but it does seem odd to me that they weren't better prepared. For me, as an undecided voter, it does raise a question about Swanson's readiness for the job.

MinnPost's Agenda

It's becoming increasingly clear to this voter that MinnPost is using its platform to try and inform the electorate about newsworthy facts surrounding political candidates. Have you no decency?

Outrage!

Outrage!

Newsworthy Facts

I am not sure why Minnpost doesn't report on the parties respective positions but instead reports on allegations against a Nolan staffer back in 2015 who Nolan fired.

I have lost respect for Walz and Murphy for planting this story and Minnpost for running with it. I guess if you are behind in the polls, you get desperate and do anything to get ahead. Do you really want to support a candidate who stoops to this level?

Yeah, fake news! Obviously

Yeah, fake news! Obviously planted! When I can't dispute the substance of a story, I also try really hard to change the topic!

Dirty politics

Ruth Stanoch, Swanson’s campaign spokesperson, went further, suggesting the women came forward for political reasons.

“MinnPost has stated that central players in its anonymously-sourced story now work for Tim Walz/Erin Murphy. Two weeks ago, a poll was published showing Swanson-Nolan with a commanding double-digit lead over Walz and Murphy,” Stanoch said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that candidates who are behind in the polls seek to exploit this matter for their political advantage.”

And it seems abundantly clear

And it seems abundantly clear that you really want to support a candidate who tacitly condones sexual harassment, blames the victims, and covers for their gross friends. Sounds like someone who used to work with Mike Hatch, indeed. And it seems that whenever these stories come up, legions of men crawl out of the woodwork to complain about they have to hear about it. Cry me a river.

The facts are that Rick Nolan protected his long-time friend from any repercussions of his serial sexual harassment. And then complained about how fragile women are nowadays for not wanting to be sexually harassed. And then Lori Swanson backed him up on that and cast aspersions as to the motives of the people telling the story... the story of which has been confirmed by Nolan and his staff.

If you want to question the motives of these women who reported this, that can cut both ways. I notice your account was only created a few days ago, you've only commented on this story, you've already misrepresented the facts on the ground, used 'whataboutist' arguments and terms like 'fake news'.

Current experience tells Minnpost readers pretty much everything they need to know you and your motivations.

Politics as usual

Women should be objecting to being used in this way. Rick Nolan has a long history of standing up for what is right. And in this case he actually fired the staff person after the allegations were brought up. Yes, seemingly he was hired again by someone but then let go after objections. So Nolan is STILL guilty and should have his career ended. Sure, everyone is against sexual harassment in the workplace, but using such vague, old allegations will not serve women well in the long run. It will trivialize the subject and cause an angry reaction among fair persons.

Um

He *didn't* fire the assaulter. He let him quietly resign - no investigation, no punishment, no real consequences. That's one of the problems with Nolan - that he'll sweep this under the rug to protect his skeevy friend.

Rather than telling "women" what they should object to...

Gary Farland, your remarks should be preserved for use in lectures on "mansplaining"! Is it really possible that you're comfortably telling "women" in general how they should deal with these Nolan revelations? I'm an actual woman, and can assure you that I am not "being used" in any sense by this story.

And then there's the issue of YOU getting the story wrong. Surely even a MAN should want be certain they have the facts straight before they comment on what they think the story is. There's nothing vague in the allegations. I fear you may have merely skimmed the extensive MinnPost piece, and come to some conclusions based on what you imagine it said. Please read it properly. Meanwhile, here's a synopsis (from the article):

"Former staffers say that in the summer of 2015, Nolan and his two most senior aides allowed Jim Swiderski to resign his post and tell colleagues he was looking for new opportunities rather than make him face formal disciplinary consequences after several female staffers raised harassment allegations. Months later, Swiderski was hired to do work for Nolan’s 2016 re-election campaign."

In sum:

1. Nolan did not "fire" his longtime friend, Swiderski-- he, along with his top aides, gave him a soft exit opportunity, which allowed the guy to escape prosecution.

2. A few months later, Nolan suggested Swiderski return to work on his campaign, and he was hired.

Nothing about this situation "will trivialize the subject" of sexual harassment in the workplace. This IS the subject!

To top it off, a Nolan recording has surfaced, in which he says ‘There's a lot more fragility in the professional world than there is in the industrial, hard-working world’-- and to me, that indicates a pretty basic misunderstanding of both sexual harassment and how women are functioning today in different work situations. The implication is that women in blue collar situations are somehow toughing it out-- "women in the factories are a lot tougher" and tell harassers "to buzz off", with the implication that a sharp verbal correction will take care of the problem; while the dainty ladies of the white collar world certainly have a right to find harassment distasteful, but are needlessly "fragile" in their reactions. He clearly finds the "buzz off" supposed solution the easy and superior one, and disapproves of any other sort of response.

I'd add his remarks to yours for the mansplaining lecture! https://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy/2018/07/recording-rep-rick-nola...