As a newly formed grassroots organization working for real representation in Minnesota’s Third District, we’re grateful for the support we’ve received from people in the district who are fighting for the American dream—for all people.
There is so much at stake. This past year the policies, communication and actions of President Trump have alarmed not just American citizens, but leaders across the world stage. Many believe we are closer to nuclear war than we’ve been for decades. The current GOP, with Trump’s support, has waged an assault on the middle class, working to eliminate health insurance programs for families and children, planning to reduce Medicare and Medicaid, defunding the government by giving tax breaks to the wealthy, yet raising taxes on many in the middle class.
Congressman Erik Paulsen has voted lock-step with his party to advance policies that hurt Minnesotans. His votes demonstrate that he is simply a party puppet who supports policies that enrich the donor class, not the working class or the middle class. What's more, some of his votes hurt Minnesotans specifically as compared to the nation as a whole—and that’s why we’re working to replace him with someone whose values and priorities match those living in the Third District.
We know it won’t be easy because we’re fighting big money. The GOP's Congressional Leadership Fund whose donors include the Koch brother’s American Action Network organization, are staked out in the district. Already door-knocking and fundraising, they're working hard to re-elect Paulsen in 2018.
Just how deep do these pockets go? The Congressional Leadership Fund raised 13 million dollars from January to June, and they’re already spending that money in at-risk districts like ours all over the country. But we’re here to counteract their messages. We’ll be organizing throughout the district to make sure that voters understand how Paulsen’s votes negatively impact Minnesotans, and advance the dangerous Trump agenda. We're focused on our goal—to replace Paulsen in 2018.
Minnesotans deserve real representation. We’ll keep fighting for a better Minnesota, a better America and a better world.
Wishing you a happy new year!
Minnesotans for Real Representation
There have been numerous demonstrations calling for Rep. Erik Paulsen to hold town hall meetings but he’s refused. We recently found a video recording of a town hall meeting Paulsen held on August 2, 2010 courtesy of Michael McIntee. After watching that, it’s easy to understand why Paulsen doesn’t hold town halls; he’s awful. It almost makes you feel sorry for him, until you realize that what makes his performance so abhorrent is his blind adherence to conservative memes that primarily benefit businesses and the donor class but penalize the middle and lower classes and increase economic inequality.
In light of the recent vote on the $1.5 trillion Republican tax plan that will increase the national debt in order to give tax breaks to large corporations and the donor class, his 2010 town hall meeting was almost laughably ironic. He claimed then that the most difficult problem facing the country was the projected increase in the national debt. One constituent astutely pointed out that we need taxes to pay for our schools, roads and so much else that contributes to our quality of life and noted that if Congress let the Bush tax cuts expire and returned to the higher level of taxes that existed during the Reagan administration, the national debt problem would be less. Paulsen responded that he didn’t want to terminate the Bush tax cuts because that would “punish” businesses and ruin economic growth. In fact, the evidence shows that to be false. As noted in an earlier blog, in 2012, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service published a report that flatly contradicted the conservative ideology that lowering tax rates boosts economic growth.
At the 2010 town hall, Paulsen was also confronted by a constituent who said that people voted for him because they thought he was a moderate but that after being elected, he has acted as a conservative ideologue. See the video at 38 minutes, 52 seconds. Paulsen denied the claim, saying “I vote what’s right for the district . . . based on constituent feedback”. That is also demonstrably false.
As noted in our last blog, the day before Paulsen voted to repeal and replace Obamacare on May 4, 2017, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a poll showing that residents of Hennepin County, Paulsen’s constituents, overwhelmingly supported Obamacare and opposed repeal and replacement of the law. Paulsen knew or should have known of those poll numbers and he’d previously gotten an earful of “constituent feedback” from the protests against repeal and replacement right outside his office window.
Paulsen’s vote for the House Republican tax plan was clearly not what’s right for the district. Lori Sturdevant pointed out in a recent Star Tribune Op-Ed that the House bill’s elimination of the long-standing deduction for state and local taxes is a particular blow for all Minnesotans and especially to Paulsen’s constituents in the Third Congressional District because half of us claimed that deduction in 2016. According to an article by the Hennepin and Ramsey County Commissioners, the loss of that deduction puts pressure on state and local governments to spend less on education for our children and grandchildren, on infrastructure which all of us use, and the social safety net for those who cannot help themselves. Those public resources, paid by taxes, of value to us all, are what make our communities thrive. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said ”Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Eleven Republican Congressmen from other high tax/high services states refused to vote in favor of the House bill when they saw how it would adversely affect their constituents. But Paulsen voted against the clear interests of his constituents to support a conservative ideology that has never worked to the greater good of us all.
Cartoon by Marshall Ramsey
Before 2017, Erik Paulsen, like most House Republicans, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (i.e., ACA or Obamacare) more than sixty times without a viable replacement. They knew those votes were a meaningless exercise when Obama was President because he would veto any repeal legislation.
But after Trump was elected and Paulsen knew he would sign a repeal of Obamacare, Paulsen again repeatedly voted to repeal it, apparently without any consideration for the millions of Americans who would lose their health insurance coverage under the Republican plan. Republicans were in such a rush to push their plan through the House they didn’t even wait to get the Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation of its impact. Paulsen simply didn’t care how many people would lose their health insurance.
Why are we bringing this up again now that the Republican Repeal and Replace debacle is over (at least for the time being)? Because a closer look at Paulsen’s behavior on that issue is instructive about his motivations and indicates who he really listens to and what he represents.
When Paulsen voted to repeal and replace Obamacare with a plan that would deprive millions of Americans of health insurance, was he voting to represent the views of the constituents in our congressional district? No. A poll commissioned by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and published on May 3, 2017, the day before the House vote on healthcare, found that “Minnesotans living in and around the Twin Cities overwhelmingly support the ACA and oppose efforts to repeal and replace the law.” Paulsen had to be aware of that. For several months before that vote, many of Paulsen’s constituents contacted his offices in Eden Prairie, MN and Washington to say they disapproved of repealing Obamacare and asked him to hold town hall meetings so they could better inform him of their views. Paulsen refused to hold any town hall meetings. When his office was asked how many people had called to express support for, or opposition to, the repeal of Obamacare, the staff admitted they kept track of those numbers but refused to disclose them. If the majority of office contacts had been in favor of repeal, don’t you think Paulsen’s office would have disclosed that?
When the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare was finally voted on in the House on May 4, 2017, it passed by only four votes and Erik Paulsen was one of them. Why did Paulsen vote to repeal the healthcare law despite the fact that he knew that was contrary to the wishes of the majority of his constituents? Part of the reason was no doubt due to his conservative trickle-down ideology. But you can’t help wondering how much of it was due to prodding and support from the American Action Network.
The American Action Network (AAN) is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, meaning it is supposed to be a social welfare group that spends less than 50% of its money on politics. Under Citizens United, the amount of donations and expenditures is unlimited. Such organizations typically influence elections through advertising and conservative groups far outspend liberals. 501(c)(4) groups like AAN do not have to identify their donors. Thus, the membership of AAN’s “network” is secret. The “About” page of AAN claims that it is mission is to advocate for “center-right” ideas. But if you search for the term “conservative” on their website you’ll see they often reveal their bias and explicitly call themselves conservative.
American Action Network has advocated repeal of Obamacare since the law was passed in 2010 and claims it spent more than any other group to repeal it. In the 2016 election, AAN spent almost $400,000 in our district in door-to-door and phone call get-out-the-vote efforts for Paulsen. A couple of months later, in January 2017, AAN launched a digital and TV ad campaign here and in a number of other Congressional districts urging repeal of Obamacare and replacement with a Republican plan that AAN claimed would provide more choices, better care, with lower costs and claimed that people with pre-existing conditions would be protected. You can see that ad here. They also ran ads specifically praising Paulsen for “fighting for” the Republican plan. Of course the AAN ads failed to mention that under the Republican plan tens of millions of Americans would lose their healthcare insurance, the Medicaid program would be cut severely and that individuals with pre-existing conditions would be at risk.
On May 5, 2017, the day after Paulsen rejected his constituents’ views and voted for the Republican plan, AAN announced a $2 million TV advertising blitz to thank Congressmen who had voted for repeal. AAN’s Executive Director said, “Conservatives applaud President Trump and Speaker Ryan’s strong leadership to ensure conservative lawmakers kept a long-held promise and delivered historic reforms.” That says a lot about the degree to which AAN and Paulsen are conservative and also makes you wonder who Paulsen made his “promise” to. We thought he had promised to represent the constituents of Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, not some secret right wing network with a conservative agenda
ERIK PAULSEN: NOT SMART ENOUGH TO REPRESENT MINNESOTANS ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES? OR JUST BEHOLDEN TO THE KOCH BROTHERS?
We need a Congressman who is smart enough to understand that climate change is real, that human activity is clearly involved in causing it and that we, as a society, need to develop solutions to this problem that threatens the planet. We can’t afford to have a climate change denier representing us in Washington.
The evidence demonstrating that humans are responsible for global warming is overwhelming--97% of scientists say that is a fact. In 2008, even the Republican candidate for President, John McCain, affirmed the reality of climate change and the need to deal with it. Until January 19, 2017, the day before Trump was inaugurated, the U.S. EPA website noted that global warming since the Industrial Revolution cannot be explained by natural causes alone and that “it is extremely likely that human activities have been the dominant cause of that warming." That EPA webpage was almost immediately removed by the Trump administration, but that does not change the facts. This move demonstrates the extent to which the Trump administration will go to willfully deny reality.
When Erik Paulsen was asked whether humans are contributing to global warning, he stated, “I’m not smart enough to know whether it’s true or not”. That “aw shucks” self-deprecating dismissal of the issue is not acceptable. We need a Congressman who is honest enough to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence and actively work to support responsible measures to address the impact of climate change. The greater good of public citizens and future generations should not be sacrificed to protect corporate special interests that profit from activities that contribute to climate change.
Paulsen likes to portray himself as someone who respects the environment. For example, in 2013 Paulsen introduced the National Park Service 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Act which would use funds collected from the sale of commemorative coins to help finance National Park Foundation programs that preserve and protect National Parks. He has also posted videos of his visits to the Boundary Water Canoe Area with his family.
But those symbolic and personal gestures are far outweighed by his consistent votes over the years in favor of special interests, especially those that contribute to his campaigns and fight against environmental protection measures. Paulsen can point to very few votes siding with environmentalists. The overwhelming number of his anti-environment votes is such that the League of Conservation voters only gives him a 17% favorable rating.
Why is that? Is Paulsen really “not smart enough to know” that human activity is affecting climate change? Does he simply not care? Or is he knowingly and willfully ignoring the evidence to protect businesses that produce carbon emissions and benefit from the looser environmental standards that Paulsen supports? The latter option would be consistent with Paulsen’s trickle-down economic ideology of accommodating business at all costs. In fact the Koch brothers, who have a horrible record on environmental issues and aggressively fund conservative politicians, consistently contribute to his campaign and lobby him.
Charles and David Koch together control one of the world’s largest fortunes with over a $100 Billion in annual revenue and their political network has spent hundreds of millions of dollars advancing their conservative libertarian agenda by supporting the Tea Party and conservative Republicans. Koch Industries also has a long history of polluting the environment and opposing regulations to protect the environment. In 2014, Rolling Stone published a very detailed account of the Koch Industries history of pollution and violating environmental protection measures. The Kochs challenged that article but the magazine published a detailed response rebutting their criticisms.
A recent New York Times article notes that since 2008 the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel industry executives have crafted a campaign compelling the Republican leadership to either spout the lie that climate change is a hoax or to claim that the science is just not clear enough to determine the issue. The Koch position is that government protections intended to slow climate change are “making people’s lives worse rather than better” and that such regulations will make “very little difference in the future on what the temperature or the weather will be”.
Federal Election Commission records show that Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Committee (KochPAC) has been a consistent supporter of Paulsen since 2008. The Kochs’ principal political advocacy group is Americans for Prosperity and it now gives Paulsen a score of 91%.
We know you’re smart enough to know that climate change is real, Erik Paulsen. Your charade of claiming you’re not is only a flimsy cover for what you think is more important—protecting the interests of the Koch brothers and their ilk.
Rep. Erik Paulsen has, of course, voted for the Republican tax plan and, despite all the evidence to the contrary, falsely claimed it“is geared absolutely toward middle-income folks”. Most economists believe that the Republican tax plan is in fact skewed in favor of the wealthy and polling shows that the voters likewise believe it disproportionately benefits the rich. The GOP bill is one of the least popular tax plans since the Reagan administration. Its passage will likely harm the U.S. economy in the long run and may well be the downfall for Republicans like Paulsen who supported it come November 2018.
The majority of American voters are absolutely right to be very concerned about the Republican tax plan. By 2027, people making $40,000 to $50,000 would pay a combined $5.3 billion more in taxes, while the group earning $1 million or more would get a $5.8 billion cut, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office. That only increases the already abysmal economic inequality in this country. Such a sacrifice by the lower and middle class might be tolerable if, in the long run, the plan produced the economic growth Republicans claim it will. But in a recent survey of thirty-eight economists by the University of Chicago, only one said the proposed tax cuts would yield substantial economic growth and all said the cuts would add to the long-term federal debt burden. Edward D. Kleinbard, a former chief of staff at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation who now teaches law at the University of Southern California was recently quoted in the New York Times as stating: “It’s not aimed at growth. It is not aimed at the middle class. It is at every turn carefully engineered to deliver a kiss to the donor class.” Indeed, before the vote, Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York told reporters, “My donors are basically saying get it done or don’t ever call me again.”
Tax cuts that will balloon the federal deficit is only the first step of what the Republicans have in mind. Republican’s will now say that the increased federal deficit—which they increased with this tax bill favoring the wealthy—will require cuts in federal spending. And where will they make those cuts? In social safety net programs, of course. Even before the vote on the tax bill Senator Marco Rubio called for offsetting tax cuts by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits, something Republicans have been dreaming about for decades. They’re like an evil Robin Hood in reverse—steal money from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich—and then take away Social Security and Medicare benefits to pay for the shortfall in the deficit.
The Republican tax and budget plans mirror what was tried (and failed) in Kansas under Republican governor Sam Brownback. In 2012, Republican majorities in Kansas embarked on a “march to zero” for the state’s income tax, eliminated taxes on businesses whose owners filed their taxes as individuals rather than corporations (the so-called “pass through” tax break). This was supposed to spark economic growth and trickle-down benefits for everyone but the growth never materialized, the legislature did not cut spending to match the lower revenue, Kansas ran up hundreds of millions in annual deficits and the state has been in a continuous budget crisis. Republican Kansas state legislators warned Washington it should heed what happened in their state. But Washington Republicans, including our own Rep. Erik Paulsen, were blinded by their trickle-down ideology and went ahead to satisfy their donors.
An interesting article in the Washington Post by Robert McElvaine, a historian who studies the Great Depression should have given Republicans pause before they voted their plan into law. McElvaine believes that the present GOP Tax Bill is straight out of 1929 and will push the economy off a cliff. What are the similarities between the politics and economy of the 1920’s and today?
Then, as now, we have Republican control of government with trickle-down policies providing massive tax cuts for the already rich, a push for de-regulation of business in general and Wall Street in particular and an already over-priced stock market. Below is a graph of Robert Schiller’s "cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio" (CAPE ratio) for the U.S. Stock market. Note that there are only two times in history when the CAPE ratio has been this high—in October 1929 and at the height of stock market in 2000 just before the tech bubble burst.
History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. And business cycles are real. If there is an economic downturn in our near future, can you imagine what it would be like under the leadership of Donald Trump and our present Republican-controlled House and Senate?
We need to change the direction of our country and our politics. We can help do that here in the Third Congressional District by replacing Erik Paulsen who whole-heartedly supports trickle-down economics.
A lot of people think Rep. Erik Paulsen is a "Minnesota Nice," moderate Republican. But as the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, we’ve seen Paulsen follow right along. While his votes should represent a district that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election by a substantial margin, a closer look at both his supporters and his votes reveals that he is not just conservative, he is an ideologue for his party.
Despite the fact that Paulsen claims he did not vote for Trump in the 2016 election, to date he has voted in favor of the Trump agenda 98.1% of the time. This is clearly out of step with the views of the majority of citizens in the Third Congressional District who voted for Hillary Clinton.
Paulsen’s American Health Care Act Votes
Paulsen’s support of the Trump agenda includes his vote in favor of the Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act (repealing Obamacare), despite the fact that only 17% of Americans supported it. Moreover, he made that vote before the Congressional Budget Office had an opportunity to evaluate how many millions of Americans would lose their health insurance. Paulsen didn’t care what the number was—which turned out to be tens of millions of people—because he, like other conservative House Republicans, simply did not care.
Repealing the Stream Protection Act
Supporting the Trump agenda, Paulsen also voted to repeal a regulation which protected thousands of miles of streams from coal mining debris (see also Vox.com),
Allowing the Mentally Incompetent to Buy Guns
He also voted to disapprove a common sense rule submitted by the Social Security Administration that would have placed restrictions on gun purchases by individuals who have been deemed so mentally incompetent that they are unable to manage their own federal benefit payments. Allowing the purchase of guns by mentally incompetent people to satisfy the extreme NRA agenda is out of step with the sensibilities of Minnesota's Third Congressional District.
Selling Consumer’s Internet Privacy
Paulsen also voted to disapprove a rule submitted by the Federal Communications Commission protecting the privacy of customers of broadband and other telecommunications services. This bill was so contrary to common sense Minnesota values that even the Republican-controlled Minnesota State Legislature shortly thereafter enacted a state law to protect Minnesota consumers.
Protecting Donald Trump
Seventy-five percent of all Americans and even a majority of Republicans believe Trump should disclose his tax returns, as has every other President since Richard Nixon. Still, Paulsen has repeatedly voted along party lines in the House Ways and Means Committee to help shield Trump’s tax returns from public view (see articles in The Atlantic & City Pages).
Paulsen’s Links to the Koch Brothers
In retrospect, we shouldn’t be surprised at Paulsen’s extremism because the signs were there all along. When he was a Minnesota state legislator he was a member of the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), funded by the Koch brothers and other CEOs, and today ALEC proudly claims him as an alumnus. He has continued to receive political contributions from the arch-conservative Koch brothers as recently as September 2017.
Support for the Tea Party
At a January 12, 2012 Tea Party event, Paulsen was secretly recorded saying, "Two years ago you wouldn't have seen the Tea Party Groups that are cropping up. And now they’re here and WE'VE got to keep them here and WE have to keep the energy and passion alive". See this CD3 YouTube video at 1:00:26 . The majority of voters in the Third Congressional District has never been in favor of the extremist Tea Party or identified with it.
Paulsen’s Ratings Speak for Themselves
It’s also informative to consider the evaluations of Paulsen’s record available at Votesmart by organizations on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. For example:
Minnesotans for Real Representation is a grassroots organization in Minnesota's Third District with the goal of replacing Erik Paulsen in 2018.