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.
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.