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.

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Citing fraud, Rep. Rick Nolan to push for Afghanistan construction oversight

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 21, 2014 - 5:52 PM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Rick Nolan is appalled that of the $100 billion American dollars spent on construction in Afghanistan, more than $60 billion is unaccounted for, according to an Inspector General's report.

The 8th Congressional District DFLer has a proposed amendment, which he got into the National Defense Authorization Act, that will prohibit funding for any new construction projects over $500,000, unless the U.S. government can physically inspect or audit those projects.

Nolan's amendment will get some floor time tonight and his staffers say a vote should come tomorrow.

The National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that sets policy and spending for the Pentagon, may get a full House vote as early as tomorrow. Nolan isn't on the Armed Services Committee, but GOP leaders let anyone submit amendments for a bill this big and Nolan's was approved overnight Tuesday by the House Rules Committee.

Staffers say the potential for corruption and fraud is high in Afghanistan and Nolan is disgusted with the abuse of taxpayer money there.

Stewart Mills goes on air against Obamacare

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 20, 2014 - 2:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- Republican Stewart Mills III, who is running to unseat Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District, launched his first ads this week in a substantive buy on television in Duluth and the Twin Cities against Obamacare.

"Every day I see how Obamacare is hurting small businesses and the middle class," Mills says, after saying he grew up in the family company stocking shelves and mopping floors. "As your congressman I'll replace it."

The campaign declined to give specifics but a Democratic source says the campaign sunk $170,000 in the buy on cable and network television in Duluth and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is scheduled to run through July.

In last campaign finance reports, Mills reportedly had $350,000 cash on hand. His portion of his family's farm business is worth between $41 million and $150 million.

“It’s clear why millionaire Stewart Mills is avoiding the issues and hiding behind his TV ads, because when the cameras aren’t rolling he says what he actually thinks,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

This is the latest ad in the putative fight this fall between Republicans and DFLers over Obamacare. Last week, Mike Obermueller, who is running against GOP incumbent Rep. John Kline, launched a pro-Obamacare ad in a tiny ad buy on MSNBC.

Rep. Michele Bachmann muses on foster parenting, napkin skills

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 20, 2014 - 8:42 AM

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michele Bachmann spent two hours on the Hallmark network Monday touting her foster parenting experience and her desire to have a house full of kids above all else. 

She also brandished her napkin folding skills.

In an interview with Mark Steines on Hallmark's "“Home & Family," Bachmann talked about mothering and her and her husband's choice to take in 23 teenage girls over the course of six years as foster parents. She said they had four teen girls at a time, usually for about two years, along with their five biological children. They often took in girls with eating disorders, she said. 

"Are you crazy?" Steines said.

Bachmann said she is the "old woman in the shoe" and that she always wanted a house full of kids and to be "a happy mom."

She described family vacations in parks playing baseball and softball and with dogs and going down to the river and "skipping stones."

"It sounds "Little House on the Prairie" but I mean honestly it was just very simple," she said. 

She said they stopped taking foster youth when her oldest son turned 16 because she sensed her biological children needed her in their older years.

Bachmann also showed off her deftness in napkin folding during a "tea party." She said she learned the avocation in a class she took to make new friends. Watch that segment here

Asked about her legacy, Bachmann said she has accomplished it with raising her five biological children.

"They are great kids and they've turned out," she said. "God forbid if I was hit by a bus today, I'm done. These kids have turned out, they're doing great. There is nothing better. That's the legacy."

Mike Obermueller: A Democrat running on Obamacare

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 16, 2014 - 4:34 PM

WASHINGTON -- Mike Obermueller's latest ad is certainly not the Democratic cookie cutter approach to winning an election this fall.

Taking pot shots at his GOP incumbent opponent Rep. John Kline in the 2nd Congressional District, Obermueller is actually running on the Affordable Care Act.

In a goofy one-minute ad that shows a bunch of men and women dancing around an office, Obermueller says his opponent's repeated criticism, including his multiple defunding votes, of the new health care law is "music" to the ears of insurance executives.

"If Congress repeals Obamacare, insurance companies will go back to charging whatever they want, charging women more for health coverage, denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and even dropping coverage when you get sick," a man's voice intones, while supposed insurance executives party down between file cabinets and conference tables. "If John Kline got his way, 11 million Americans would lose their coverage."

The ad will have limited viewers because it's a very small buy on cable only. A Republican source said the one-minute ad will run three times on MSNBC, costing the campaign $400. 

Obermueller said Friday he would like to raise more money to keep the ad up for as long as possible and buy some time on network television. None of Minnesota's network stations, KMSP, KSTP, WCCO or KARE report any Obermueller buys, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

"Republicans have had the microphone for too long alone on this issue," Obermueller said. "We need to work to improve and fix this law ... not repeal it."

Obermueller's unique approach embracing Obamacare could prove risky in a state where it still isn't polling well. In a Suffolk University Political Research Center poll out April 29, 45 percent of Minnesotans called the law "generally bad" for the state and 41 percent said the Affordable Care Act is "generally good."

Kline's spokesman said Friday that Obermueller was desperate to revive a failed campaign. Obermueller lost to Kline two years ago by 8 points.

"Mr. Obermueller is grasping at straws to do anything he can to resuscitate his failed campaign based on a track record of supporting billion-dollar tax increases on working families and voting to specifically tax our veterans and our seniors," said Troy Young, in a statement.


Reps. John Kline, Keith Ellison both get bills out of House this week

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: May 9, 2014 - 3:17 PM

WASHINGTON -- Before heading out for a week recess, Reps. John Kline and Keith Ellison got measures passed out of the full House this week.

Kline's measure, which passed Friday by 360 yes votes, makes it easier for already-existing charter schools to replicate and give states opportunities to use federal dollars to start new ones. It is part of what he originally tried to accomplish with reform of No Child Left Behind, but the Education Secondary and Elementary Act has been stalled in Congress for several years.

"Our work to provide more education options for students isn’t done yet," Kline said, in a statement Friday. "I encourage my Senate colleagues to join us in supporting the charter school movement by bringing this important proposal up for a vote without delay.”

But it's unclear whether the Senate will take up the measure. When it was introduced, Sen. Tom Harkin, the chair of the education committee in the other chamber, said he was more interested in a full overhaul of the education law, which dates back to the George W. Bush administration.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison got his first bill through the GOP-controlled House in this Congress earlier this week -- a victory for a member in the minority party. His bill, improves oversight of gaming establishments, check cashing, money service businesses, jewel merchants, mortgage brokers and reduces duplication for regulators and businesses.

Ellison's bill, which passed in a voice vote, was supported by Republicans, including Rep. Erik Paulsen.


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