Although we moved to South Dakota last September, the pro-Swanson Alliance for Jobs Committee sent us the independent expenditure mailer on the top of this post. We're not voting in the Minnesota primary as that would be quite naughty, especially since we voted in the South Dakota primary earlier this summer.
One sentence caught our eye: "You shouldn't hire a football coach if he leaves the field at halftime and you shouldn't pay a congressman $175,000 to miss almost 60% of his votes.
However, unless Walz has abandoned a long-term policy about his congressional pay, since the last official House report on disbursements (page 8 here) he hasn't been paid $175,000 this year for his congressional work. Or for any year he's served in Congress.
Instead, as Dave Orrick at the Pioneer Press reported in Tim Walz has released 10 years of personal tax returns. Here’s what they show:
- In 2016, Walz reported $149,690 in wages from the House of Representatives and his wife reported $58,629 from Mankato Area Public Schools (Independent District 77), where she is employed as an assessment coordinator.
- Walz, who was elected in 2006, has forgone cost-of-living wage increases during his House tenure. According to an Oct. 31, 2017, letter to Walz from the House’s office of Members’ Services, those increases were deducted from his pay. “To date you have returned funds to U.S. Treasury reducing the national debt by the amount of $81,684.00.” The actual salary of House members today is $174,000 a year.
Note that Walz didn't use the cheap trick of publicly declaring that he'd forego a raise, then quietly collect it in the coming years. Nope, he has continued to return all years COLAs to the U.S.Treasury.
We've contacted the Walz campaign to see if the Southern Minnesota congressman has continued his policy on his own salary through 2018.
On Thursday, MPR's Brian Bakst reported in Swanson launches negative TV ad in DFL race for governor:
Potential DFL voters have also started receiving mailings from a pro-Swanson independent group that makes the same case. They use the same statistics and argue that Walz has a habit of missing work while still being paid by taxpayers.
Swanson's campaign didn't make her available to comment Thursday, and she had no public events.
She has been in a strong position in the race, given that she's widely known and has been elected statewide three times.
The strategy to attack Walz could be a sign that dynamic has changed. The missed-votes message is one some Republicans were also testing out earlier this year, so it appears the Swanson team sees it as resonating with certain voters.
At the Dakota County Fair where he was campaigning Thursday, Walz said it was disappointing that Swanson went on the attack. The attention suggests that momentum is on his side and his rival is trying to slow it, he added.
Walz didn't dispute that he has missed votes in Congress this year, but he said he has been doing his job by providing input on a new federal farm bill and veteran affairs oversight.
"No one has ever accused me of not being a hard worker. No one has ever accused me of not delivering," he said, adding that there's a risk involved with Swanson going negative.
"The public is not in any mood for nonsense. They're in a mood for solutions; they're in a mood for seeing things get done. And trying to play one group off another or trying to wedge this issue probably doesn't work."
We're down with what endorsed DFL gubernatorial Erin Murphy said about the matter:
Murphy, who has the DFL endorsement for governor, said she's not sure why Swanson launched the attack now but indicated that Walz's congressional attendance is fair game.
"All of our records, our participation in the work that we're doing is subject for the voters to consider," she said. "I have shown up to do my job at the state Capitol and am showing up all over the state of Minnesota to earn the vote and the trust of the people of Minnesota."
The attendance record is certainly fair game, but we can see why the Alliance for Jobs might not want to bring up Walz's real salary history.
Who is the Alliance for Jobs?
In Meet the major 'independent expenditure' committees involved in Minnesota's 2018 election (so far), MinnPost's Peter Callaghan reports:
The committee: Alliance for Jobs
Who they’re for/against: pro-Lori Swanson
Alliance for Jobs carried $125,000 over from 2017 and has raised another $210,000 this year. It has sponsored at least two direct mail pieces supporting Lori Swanson-Rick Nolan gubernatorial ticket. In mailing, Swanson is portrayed as someone who will stand up to President Trump on issues such as the travel ban and the separation of families at the southern border.
The big donors to Alliance for Jobs in 2018 are Vance Opperman, president and CEO of Key Investment (which, among other things, owns MSP Communications), who gave $75,000; John and Sue Morrison, who gave $25,000 this year (on top of the $25,000 they gave last year); and Dr. S.K. Dash, founder of biotech company UAS Labs, who gave $10,000 (plus $5,000 last year); and John Fruth, founder of Ocular Sciences, who gave $100,000 after the most-recent state report was filed.
Fruth, Dash and the Morrisons have also each given the maximum-allowed $4,000 directly to the Swanson-Nolan campaign.
Perhaps the PAC could pay some reseachers to fact check with that sort of change lying around. But at least they're not coordinating with Swanson's paid campaign staff. As the Associated Press noted in Lori Swanson accused of pressuring staff to help with political work:
Swanson’s campaigns — past and present — have traditionally spent little money on campaign staff. Despite spending more than $660,000 between her June 4 launch and July 23, her campaign did not pay a dollar in staff payroll.
Campaign spokeswoman Ruth Stanoch told the Associated Press that Swanson’s campaign is staffed entirely by volunteers — old friends and allies who jumped at the chance to put her in the governor’s office. Instead, Swanson’s campaign has focused its spending on advertising, including a recent attack ad that highlighted Walz missing more than 60 percent of votes in Congress this year.
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