Nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.
While we were looking for information about freshman Representative Jason Rarick for our last post, Two photos on Coalition of MN Businesses 17A education postcard worth a thousand words, we stumblegoogled over the Pine City Republican's Facebook page.
Not only has the 24-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 110 received the endorsement of the 49ers (the International Operating Engineers Local 49, not the football team), he recently scored a selfie with former DFL state senator Florian Chmielewski.
Although Chmielewski is still a lively part of the eponymous Chmielewski Funtime Band and a legend in the world of polka, he last served in the state legislature in 1996. According to Wikipedia:
In 1996, Chmielewski became embroiled in the "phonegate" scandal. It was revealed that Chmielewski had given family members state long-distance access codes, allowing them to make phone calls at state expense. Chmielewski was ultimately defeated for re-election in 1996, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor.
Few Minnesotans remember Phonegate, though it popped up in a 2015 article in the Star Tribune, Minnesota Legislature exempted itself from sunshine law:
There is one thing the public can get its hands on from every Minnesota lawmaker: long-distance telephone bills. Remember those?
Back in 1993, the Legislature was stung by a scandal over the misuse of a toll-free number for legislators that was lent out to friends and relatives, who racked up an $85,000 phone bill on the House majority leader’s account.
“Phonegate” led to criminal charges, resignations and a law mandating that telephone records absolutely, unequivocally are public to anyone who asks for it. Marty said the law requires him, every month, to sign off on paperwork for bills totaling maybe four bucks.
Bluestem last posted about the former senator--retired by voters in 1996--in our 2012 post, The awkward moment when Minnesota remembers the political history of the M4M Seven.
Screengrab: Jason Rarick and Florian.
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