Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, facing an increasingly tough reelection battle in northern Minnesota, went on the attack Monday against DFL challenger Rick Nolan, highlighting what he said were the Democrat’s past business failures.
Detouring from his northern Minnesota district to hold a solo press conference for state Capitol reporters in St. Paul, Cravaack unleashed reams of opposition research on Nolan’s business difficulties in the 1980s, when he was in the export business and led then Gov. Rudy Perpich’s Minnesota World Trade Center (WTC) Corp.
(Update: Nolan’s campaign called the attack over events that happened three decades ago a sign of desparation).
Nolan’s problems at the debt-wracked WTC have long been chronicled. But Cravaack took the criticism to a new personal level by detailing Nolan’s failed U.S. Export Corp., which defaulted on a $300,000 loan in 1985, leading to Nolan’s personal bankruptcy filing in 1987.
Both episodes happened after Nolan served three terms in Congress from 1975 to 1981.
“This is former Congressman Nolan’s record as a businessman, civic leader, and steward for Minnesota taxpayers,” Cravaack said. “It is a checkered past, with prominent examples of neglect, mismanagement and self service.”
Nolan has campaigned on his past government and business experience, including a sawmill and pallet factory he owned in Emily, Minn.
(Update: “Nolan’s a businessman and an entrepreneur,” said campaign manager Mike Misterek, noting that Cravaack has had no similiar experiences in starting and running a business. “Like any entrepreneur, you take risks, and sometimes you have humbling moments.”
Cravaack’s broadside comes as Democrats have claimed to be ahead in the traditionally DFL-leaning district, which includes the Iron Range. Cravaack’s press conference also comes as the American Action Network, a right-leaning group headed by former U.S. Norm Coleman, announced a $100,000 ad buy against Nolan, bringing to well over $4 million the amount that has been spent by outside groups in the race so far.

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