The sand mining industry has recently gotten organized as well. The Minnesota Industrial Sand Council was formed about three weeks ago, with Red Wing Mayor and Capitol lobbyist Dennis Egan as its executive director. The council, which is part of Aggregate & Ready Mix [Association] of Minnesota, has hired the Minneapolis-based Larkin Hoffman law and lobbying firm as its lobbyists. The group includes sand-mining companies as well as railroad, trucking and petroleum interests.
“We’ve got mining operations that have been in Mankato and Shakopee and St. Peter and Winona. These are Minnesota folks,” Egan said. “When they hear their operations and their livelihood potentially is going to come to a screeching halt, they said: ‘We need a voice at the Capitol, because that’s now where the conversation is going.’” . . .
Egan's new job suggests several vexing questions about transparency and the potential appearance of conflicts of interest. Are disclosure rules for the City of Red Wing and the state of Minnesota adequate for citizens to have confidence in their local government as the city's mayor speaks on behalf of a controversial industry?
The hiring also recalls earlier stories of local government officials and staff in Minnesota and Wisconsin being hired by the frac sand industry or using their positions to negotiate advantages for their own holdings, as the Star Tribune reported in Local officials dealing themselves a piece of frac sand boom.
Update: The Star Tribune's Tony Kennedy--who's been on top of the way the industrial sand industry is bending local government officials-- turns in a great article on this issue in Red Wing's mayor gets second job with frac sand lobbying group. end update
Red Wing's Silica Sand Mining Moratorium became effective on October 29, 2011 ended in October 2012, but as the Rochester Post Bulletin reported in mid-January in State lawmakers push for study on silica sand mining:
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said he will push for a more extensive review of the potential effect of silica-sand mining. Specifically, he backs the idea of a statewide Generic Environmental Impact Statement and a temporary moratorium while the study is completed.
"We have a lot of questions out there without any real valid answers," Kelly said. . . .
Newly elected Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, said he plans to author legislation aimed at addressing some of the concerns, but he still is hammering out the details. . . .
And as Bluestem reported last August, Goodhue County extended its frac sand mining moratorium through September 6, 2013. A good place to learn about the local concerns is the Save The Bluffs website.
Certainly, people in Goodhue County and Red Wing are buzzing enough to reach out to Bluestem with questions about the hire. Already, residents and readers are sharing their dismay in the PIM article's comment section.
And then there's that Facebook page, wherein the Mayor of Red Wing claims he "Lives in St Paul, Minnesota." His business address on Facebook is Red Wing, although that might not be enough to make Red Wing residents believe they have his undivided attention or loyalties.
Egan's lobbyist background
The mayor is entering his first full four-year term, having won a 2011 special election to fill the vacancy left by former mayor and state senator John Sterling Howe in 2010. The Red Wing Republican Eagle reported in Egan sees promise in Red Wing, files for mayor on December 20, 2010:
Helping Red Wing achieve economic development is one his main motivations, said Egan, 47, who serves as the director of Public Affairs for Cook Hill Girard, a lobbying firm in St. Paul.
Egan said his job allows him to travel across the state, speak with local leaders and has introduced him to a host of issues public policy matters from energy to agriculture and taxes to transportation.
He's also served three years as president of the Red Wing Chamber of Commerce and on Howe's Blue Ribbon Task Force on economic development.
Cook Hill Girard was known as a lobbying firm with Republican ties, according to industry reports; at the beginning of 2011, the firm became Cook Girard as with Kurt Zellers' lobbyist confidante Todd Hill forming Hill Capitol Strategies, which grabbed clients like Corrections Corporation of America.
Egan went his own way, establishing Egan Public Affairs. His current clients include Minnesotans for Safe Fireworks, the MN Private College Council and the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners. He formerly lobbied for the Altria Group, aka Phillip Morris.
The lobbyists registered for the Aggregate Ready Mix Assn of MN all work for Ewald Consulting, with the exception of association president Fred Corrigan.
The Minnesota Industrial Sand Council is not registered with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board; MISC has no website and is not featured on the ARMA-MN website. Although lobbyist data for Larkin Hoffman Daly & Lindgren Ltd staff turns up in the board's database, none are associated with ARMA-MN. Update: The Aggregate & Ready Mix Association of MN lobbyists at Larkin Hoffman are Amy Zipko & Peder Larson.
Update: Egan is now registered as a lobbyist for the Aggregate Ready Mix Association of MN.
Beyond the revolving door
In December 2003, Star Tribune staff writer Dane Smith reported in Leaving through the lobby;
More than 40 former legislators, plus other public servants, are registered lobbyists in Minnesota:
. . . Critics of this well-worn path are renewing calls for change, including such provisions as a one- or two-year waiting period before someone may start lobbying after leaving public office, and more detailed disclosure of lobbying finances.
"The air hangs thick with these connections, and these people tend to lobby in areas that they specialized in while they were in the Legislature," said state Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, who along with House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, has long supported passing a law that would require a one-year waiting period before former legislators or other public officials could become lobbyists. State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, has introduced a bill that would impose a two-year moratorium on legislators and high-level staff members in the legislative and executive branch.
According to the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., the federal government and 22 states have some form of braking action on the revolving door, usually one- to three-year waiting periods. . . .
Minnesota does not appear to have any laws that prevent local elected officials from lobbying the state legislature on behalf of industries that affect city and county government.
A lobbying industry insider told Bluestem that while mayors often lobby for their cities and groups such as the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the source could not recollect an instance in which a mayor served as state spokesperson for an industry causing conflict in the town he or she was elected to serve. The source also noted the paucity of regulation of the "revolving door" (or city hall insider, as this case may be) laws in Minnesota.
Others are not being so charitable, as Mayor Egan - the voice of frac sand mining! a post by a local blogger reveals.
Screenshot: What's Dennis Egan mayor of again?
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