With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about Minnesota congressional

GOP challenger Torrey Westrom has hefty credit card, student loan debt

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: August 10, 2014 - 7:38 AM

WASHINGTON -- Torrey Westrom, the Republican challenger to 12-term Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson in the Seventh Congressional District, carries tens of thousands of dollars in personal debt for both credit cards and student loans.

Westrom, an attorney and former state senator, owes between $15,001 and $50,000 to U.S. Bank in credit card loans. In addition, he owes between $50,001 and $100,000 to a student loan servicing company, according to personal financial disclosures filed earlier this year.

Westrom's campaign spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said in a statement: "As small business owners, Torrey and his wife have a credit card for business-related expenses."

The Westroms own a real estate rental property business.

He also carries two mortgage debts, one between $15,001 and $50,000 and another between $100,001 and $250,000.

Personal financial disclosures are required annually of all members of Congress and anyone running for federal office.They must disclose assets and salary in huge ranges, like between $15,001 and $50,000 or $50,000 and $100,000.

Westrom's annual salary as a state senator is $31,140. He also noted on his disclosures that he earned $23,000 at Midwest Injury Law, LLC.

Rep. Peterson's disclosures show he has no credit card debt, but carries three mortgages: one between $100,000 and $250,000 on a residence in Washington, D.C., one between $250,002 and $500,000 on a property in Detroit Lakes and $100,001 to $250,000 on a mortgage owed on Peterson Farms. As a member of Congress, Peterson earns $174,000 annually as a member of Congress.

Eighth District ad not completely 'yanked'

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: August 6, 2014 - 1:08 PM

On Wednesday, Republican Stewart Mills bragged to supporters that his campaign got a television ad against him "yanked." But the ad is still running across the state.

The ad, from the AFSCME union and the Democratic House Majority PAC, uses tape to quote Mills as saying he is offended by the idea that high earners are not paying enough in taxes. Mills is hoping to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the Eighth District.

"The idea that the wealthy aren't paying their fair share… 2 percent, the 1 percent whatever percent you want... is personally offensive," the ad quotes Mills as saying.

After the ad was released and aired, the Mills campaign said it was misleading and spliced together sentences.

"To be singled out as a deadbeat is personally offensive," the campaign quotes Mills, a scion of the Mills Fleet Farm fortune, as actually saying.

It asked stations not to run the ad. At least two stations, owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, complied. Hubbard Broadcasting is owned by Stanley Hubbard, a Mills donor and mega-contributor to Republican and conservative causes in Minnesota and nationally.

But other stations are continuing to air the ad.

In fact, House Majority PAC communications director Matt Thornton said, and public documents make clear, the groups have bought more air time to air the ad on other stations after the Hubbard stations declined to run the ad. Thornton said since July 22, the groups have spent a combined $675,000 to run the anti-Mills ad.

The Eighth District race is on the radar for many national groups and is considered one of the most competitive in the county. Nolan has served one term after snatching the district from one-term Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack. Cravaack ousted longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar from his seat.

Here's the ad in question:

Here is the fundraising email Mills sent out:

Below is an Email I Got From My Campaign Manager by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Rochester VA clinic staff ‘felt pressure’ to manipulate wait time data, audit finds

Posted by: Corey Mitchell Updated: August 1, 2014 - 5:31 AM

An internal audit by the VA found that staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Rochester “felt pressure to manipulate” appointment data to hide delays in medical care to veterans.

“The audit information is troubling, but not shocking give the culture we’ve uncovered at VA in recent months and the pressure to hit unrealistic wait-time goals,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee who represents Rochester.

The audit by the VA’s Veterans Health Administration was ordered earlier this year by former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki.

In response to cover-ups of wait times at VA facilities, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress have reached an agreement that will provide $10 billion in emergency funding to the VA to allow veterans to seek private care rather than face long wait times at Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Walz was a member of the House-Senate conference that negotiated the deal.

 “[The audit] underscores the importance of the … legislation we passed. This legislation ends the practice of using wait-time metrics for performance goals.”

Minneapolis VA officials are awaiting a final report from the VA Office of the Inspector General in Washington, D.C.

VA policy is to enter the date the veteran requests as the “desired date” even if that time is not available. That date is then used to track waiting times for veterans to get appointments.

Patrick Kelly, director of the Minneapolis VA Health Care System said: “We don’t have enough information … to really take action on that. When there’s a further level of review, we will then take the appropriate … suggested or needed actions.”

As part of the audit, 43 schedulers in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System – including its network of 13 clinics in Minnesota and western Wisconsin -- were asked whether they were instructed to alter scheduling data or felt pressured to do so. The Minneapolis system has about 900 schedulers total.

Five schedulers in the Minneapolis region said they received instructions to alter appointment data. One scheduler said they were told to track appointments outside the system.

Kelly said the issues were tied to compliance issues at two clinics and “never any issue of integrity or trying to hide anything.”

The report found no offenses in the St. Cloud VA Health Care System. Released this week, the report follows up on an audit of 900 Veterans Affairs’ facilities throughout the United States.

Minnesota House members vote along party lines to sue President Obama

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: July 31, 2014 - 1:48 PM

WASHINGTON -- Minnesota's eight House members voted mostly like the rest of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday on a measure to sue President Barack Obama over executive powers -- the state's three Republicans supported it, the five Democrats voted against it.

At the heart of the House resolution, which authorizes GOP Speaker John Boehner to sue the president, is Obamacare. Republicans say the president has not adequately enforced the law, which they oppose, because his administration has delayed some parts of its implementation, including the requirement that employers provide health coverage.

Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen's spokesman sent over this statement Thursday:

"Congressman Paulsen is concerned about the continued growth of executive power and its impact on our political system. The vote made by the House seeks more accountability of the executive branch through this narrowly defined action. This is more about making sure the president – and any future president – is constitutionally required to faithfully execute our nation’s laws or go through Congress to have them changed."

Joining Paulsen in a yes vote were GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline.

Democrat Rep. Betty McCollum said ahead of the vote she was going to vote "no on the Boehner lawsuit and will instead focus my energy on the needs of the families of the Fourth District."

Democratic Reps. Tim Walz, Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan also voted no.

"Republicans have failed to get their work done in Washington and they use stunts like this lawsuit to distract attention from that simple truth," McCollum said.

With a little help from their friends, Minnesota races litter the airwaves

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Updated: July 28, 2014 - 6:19 PM

A renewed wave of political ads are adding heat to Minnesota's sultry summer television viewing.

With one of the nation's most expensive U.S. Senate races on the air, gubernatorial candidates making their cases and outside groups adding volume, paid political pitches are redoubling their assault.

The candidates and their friends have already spent at least $3 million to air their messages across the state and groups are reserving even more time for later in the year.

In recent weeks, the paid advertising messages came into sharper focus.

On Monday, Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden announced he would broadcast an ad called "Stitches," in which he and his son brag that McFadden took his sons sutures out himself rather than paying medical professions to do it. The ad, which had a limited cable run earlier this year, came on the heels of an ad in which McFadden was hit below the belt by a kid he was coaching in football.

While those ads have begun to get significant notice, Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken's ad budget far surpasses what McFadden has spent. Franken has ponied up more than $1.5 million to spread a message that he cares more about regular Minnesotans than partisan Washington fights.

Franken has more money to spend. He is one of the Senate's most prodigious fundraisers and raised more than all but one incumbent in the last quarter of the year, according to recent reports.

While that premiere race has yet to attract much outside cash in recent months, races lower on the ballot are attracting notice.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson supporters banded together to produce an advertisement designed to support the party-endorsed candidate. Group volunteer Chris Tiedeman, an RNC committeeman, told Politics.MN it would air on television in the coming weeks.

Johnson's campaign said on Monday it would start running its own ads on cable in advance of the primary. Like McFadden's "Stitches" ad,  the Johnson ad has been online for months and, like the McFadden ad, it take a lighthearted approach to a serious issue.

Republican Rep. Kurt Zellers, who will vie against Johnson, former Rep. Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour, started his own paid advertising program last week. Honour’s consultant Pat Shortridge said Honour has spent almost $100,000 on cable ad time and another $42,000 on radio ads. A group largely funded by Honour's former employer, the Gores Group, has also spent more than $200,000 to support Honour.

Meanwhile, the man the Republicans hope to unseat, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has yet to storm the airwaves -- but his friends have started the assault.

The big spending Democratic Alliance for a Better Minnesota put significant cash behind a pro-Dayton ad that began airing recently.

The Alliance, which invested considerable cash back in 2010 to bash Dayton's Republican opponent, used the ad to make a pitch for the idea that Minnesota is better off now than it was four years ago before Dayton was elected.

Television viewers this year had already seen ads trashing Dayton. Early this month, the big spending conservative Freedom Club began airing an anti-Dayton ad on broadcast television.

Updated

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