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.