Staff Directory 6370520

Jim Spencer

Washington Correspondent | Newsroom
Phone: 612-270-1266

Washington correspondent Jim Spencer examines the impact of federal politics and policy on Minnesota businesses, especially the medical technology, food distribution, farming, manufacturing, retail and health insurance industries.  


Previously, he worked as an enterprise reporter in Minneapolis, writing on topics including Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, lake pollution caused by residential development, unintentional shootings of children, suicide among senior citizens, and budget cuts to homebound care for the disabled.
Recent content from Jim Spencer
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, is joined at a news conference by members of the Democratic Caucus, from left, Rep. Sean Patrick Ma

What Minnesota would get out of the stimulus bill

The House Oversight Committee released a spreadsheet Friday showing that the COVID relief package will provide Minnesota with $4.722 billion. Of that amount, $2.597 billion…
Rep. Dean Phillips speaks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing last September. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Rep. Phillips' subcommittee debates minimum wage hike

Panel seeking input from small businesses on what effects a wage hike would have.
Former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, left, speaks with Chairwoman Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., right, before he testifies before a joint hear

Intelligence lapses and military tactics drove Capitol attack

Senate hearing co-chaired by Amy Klobuchar exposed missed intelligence.
Medtronic operational headquarters in Fridley. (Star Tribune file photo)

Coronavirus pandemic continues to drag Medtronic earnings

Third quarter earnings are down 10% over last year.
Smoke fills the walkway outside the Senate Chamber as insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump are confronted by U.S. Capitol Police officers

Klobuchar to lead hearing asking 'what went wrong' in Capitol attack

It's time to "figure out what went wrong" with security on Jan. 6.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks to reporters after the Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial in the Senat

Sens. Klobuchar, Smith say impeachment votes will go down in history, determine legacies

Acquittal won't be the last word on Trump and his supporters, they say.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., arrives as the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump starts in the Senate, at the Capitol in Washingt

Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith sit in judgment at Senate trial

As both jurors and witnesses to Jan. 6 riot, the state's senators say Trump deserves conviction.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough spoke during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on C

At critical moment, Minnesotans play key roles under Biden

WASHINGTON – Minnesotans are poised to influence the policies and messages of President Joe Biden's administration as it confronts domestic political turbulence and uncertainty abroad,…
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during a confirmation hearing for Secretary of Veterans Affairs nominee Denis McDonough before the Senate Committe

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in new role, pushes overhaul of nation's antitrust laws

The new antitrust subcommittee chair says current standards favor big business.
A man reads information after receiving the coronavirus vaccine at a vaccine center in Santa Barbara, Calif., Jan. 26, 2021.

Vaccinations must be Job 1 for Biden administration, Minnesota business leaders say

D.C. officials urged to work together to mitigate virus.
U.S. Congressman Pete Stauber spoke to the crowd at “Reagan Day at the Ranch”, a Republican event held annually in Taylors Falls, in Chisago Count

Rep. Stauber, some GOP colleagues call on Biden to dump Interior nomination

Minnesota congressman says New Mexico's Haaland should withdraw over mining stance.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., celebrates with U.S. President Joe Biden as he prepares to deliver his inaugural address on the West Front of the U.S. Ca

An emotional Inauguration Day for Minnesotans in Congress

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar got the Biden inauguration going with a call to protect democracy.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Fischbach swept into office riding a wave of support for President Donald Trump, toppling longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Pete

Freshman Rep. Fischbach faces challenges as a loyal Trump ally

WASHINGTON – Michelle Fischbach's first major vote in Congress sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election.The newly elected Republican representing western Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District…
A member of the National Guard closed a section of security fencing outside the Capitol in Washington, on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021.

Nation's capital locks down ahead of Biden inauguration

The deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump has cast an ominous shadow over the ceremony, already scaled back because of COVID-19.
Best Buy is suspending donations to Congressional members who voted against certifying results from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Best Buy suspends donations to congressional members who voted against certifying election

Other Minnesota companies examining policies in light of insurrection.
Lawmakers evacuated the U.S. House floor Wednesday just before a violent mob stormed into the chamber.

Lawmakers' sense of security shattered

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and her staff are old hands at dealing with threats of violence and death provoked by President Donald Trump's…
Fencing is placed around the exterior of the Capitol grounds, Thursday morning, Jan. 7, 2021 in Washington. The House and Senate certified the Democra

At battered Capitol, a shaky sense of calm the day after attack

Trump supporters still lingered around U.S. Capitol Thursday, but threat of violence was at bay.
Lawmakers prepare to evacuate the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in W

'It didn't seem real, until it did,' says Star Tribune reporter at U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON – The first hint of trouble came less than an hour into the debate in the U.S. House chamber about certifying electoral votes from…
Spencer

Star Tribune reporter in Washington witnessed U.S. Capitol scene

WASHINGTON – The first hint of trouble came less than an hour into the debate in the U.S. House chamber about certifying electoral votes from…
Fousseny Cisse, 15, cleared fields on a cocoa farm in the Ivory Coast in 2001, far from his home in Mali.  The cocoa business is notoriously rife with

Courts may decide if Cargill, Nestle can be sued over child labor

U.S. Supreme Court justices may step into a clash over human rights and the reach of U.S. companies in foreign countries.
Dr. Jeremy Friese will become an executive with Olive after the AI company bought Verata Health, which Friese founded.

Minneapolis-based Verata Health bought for $120M

Olive, based in Columbus, Ohio, plans to use Verata's technology to streamline the prior-authorization process, officials said.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., speaks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Minnesotans in Congress hope for $908 billion COVID relief deal

Klobuchar and Phillips working toward a bipartisan package.
Medtronic is among the Minnesota med-tech firms that has reached out to the Biden transition team. Its CEO said the company was in "constant touch" wi

Minnesota companies reach out to Biden transition team

As President-elect Joe Biden was making his first transition moves, Minnesota's Medical Alley trade group wrote him a letter."Today, I offer to you the talent,…
Medtronic operational headquarters in Fridley.

Medtronic CEO says hospitals able to handle elective surgeries even with COVID-19 surge

Its net income was down 64%, but sales have been rebounding this quarter.

C.H. Robinson warns U.S. companies could be missing chance at tariff refunds

C.H. Robinson warns of a year-end deadline to claim millions of dollars.
The Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2014.

Mayo Clinic sued after former employee improperly accessed patient health records

Suit seeks class-action status for 1,600 patients, including 1,000 from Minnesota.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Tina Smith urged students at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to recruit at least three friends to vote.

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Tina Smith staves off Jason Lewis, wins second term

Appointed nearly three years ago as Al Franken's successor in the U.S. Senate, Smith won her first full term from voters.
Medtronic operational headquarters in Fridley.

Medtronic to pay $9.2M fine on kickback charges regarding S.D. neurosurgeon

Company admits no liability in resolving allegations including Medicaid, Medicare violations.
The 2020 U.S. elections are flush with cash, much of it coming from corporations.

Minnesota's biggest companies open their wallets to political candidates, and risk

Political giving is a two-edged sword as companies often lose control of where their cash goes.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) attends a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting in Washington, Oct. 15, 2020, on the fourth day of the confirmation

Minnesota Sens. Klobuchar, Smith, join Democratic opposition on Supreme Court pick

Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith joined their Democratic colleagues Monday in casting votes against Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's nominee to…
Stanley Hubbard, head of Hubbard Broadcasting, has a long history as a major political donor in Minnesota and nationally.

Stanley Hubbard, one of Minnesota's biggest CEO donors, says moderation wins in end

When politicians get too close to the edges, they get voted out of office, Stanley Hubbard says.
President Donald Trump greets supporters at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2020.

Emmer: GOP's chances in U.S. House depend on Trump

Polls show that Republicans face setbacks in the U.S. House.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., questioned Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett during the third day of her confirmation hearings Wednesay before the

Sen. Amy Klobuchar keeps focus on election in Supreme Court battle

The Minnesota senator's confrontations with Judge Amy Coney Barrett won her moments in the national spotlight.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., puts her face mask back on after speaking during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett befor

Klobuchar slams 'sham' hearing for Supreme Court pick in personal terms

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., recalled her husband's and her father's battles with COVID-19 on Monday as she implored Americans to be vocal…
FILE -- The Kwai Tsing container terminal in Hong Kong, April 7, 2020.

Tariffs create mixed bag for U.S. farmers, builders

Some benefit, but others with no apparent ties are feeling the crunch.
Infuse Bone Graft by Medtronic.

Medtronic product removed from market in Australia, which is now investigating its use

Medtronic denies any wrongdoing in its marketing or sales of Infuse.
The Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant in Claremont, Minn.

Ethanol waivers become central issue in presidential battle for Minnesota farm votes

The issues heated up this week with three days of President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
A tanker truck loaded with ethanol left Al-Corn Clean Fuel ethanol plant in Claremont, Minn., in April 2020. The EPA has refused to grant retroactive

EPA rejects quota reductions in victory for corn farmers, ethanol producers

Agency denied Big Oil requests for 2011-18 that allowed lower biofuels production.

Medical device trade association says U.S. companies can meet COVID needs

The statement by the AdvaMed CEO came as the FDA published a list of items in short supply.
Medtronic's operational headquarters in Fridley.

Medtronic's income down 44% in first quarter, but still better than expected

Suspended elective surgeries damaged performance, which was still better than expected.
3M has filed several lawsuits and cease and desist orders regarding N95 masks.

3M gains another victory in efforts to thwart N95 price gouging, fraud

California joint case with Amazon results in judgment, injunction against several companies.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, shown in February.

Minnesota joins suit to protect election mail

Suits allege new Postal Service policies could slow down delivery of ballots in November.
Jim Miller, who spent 35 years working at the U.S. Postal Service, said his former colleagues are “aghast” at policies.

In battle over mail-in voting, the mail in Minnesota is running late

With plenty of examples of slow mail delivery in the Twin Cities, some customers feel as if they have become collateral damage.
Shown is a 2015 photo of the Port of Los Angeles, one of the key cargo destinations in the U.S.

Minnesota exports drop 17% because of the coronavirus

Industries such as communications equipment, agricultural and construction machinery hit hard in June due to virus, report says.
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, shown in 2019.

58 Minnesota firms with political connections received large PPP loans

State officials defended their participation in the program, noting they followed all of the rules and used the money as it was intended.
The U.S. Capitol in Washington on Friday. White House officials and Democrats blamed each other for the looming expiration by day’s end of a $600 we

Checks aside, D.C. finds little to agree on for new stimulus plan

Minnesota delegation disagrees on size and scope of new aid, showing the scope of partisan fight taking place nationally.
In Minnesota, consumers can have coverage under short-term health insurance plans for up to 12 months.

Report finds short-term insurance policies touted by White House lacking

U.S. House report recounts dozens of cases of consumers denied coverage for medical conditions with policies pushed as alternative to ACA.
President Ted Marti said his PPP loan enabled Schell Brewing to retain 95 jobs; it “means the difference between a not-very-good year and a disastro

Minn. breweries, golf courses, law firms get $1M-plus in loan help

The forgivable loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program can mean "the difference between a not-very-good year and a disastrous year," a brewery leader says.
Dance at a distance: The floors of Jeanne Johnson’s South Metro Dance Academy are marked to separate dancers to allow for social distancing during h

It's hard to avoid backspin as Minnesota dance schools reopen during COVID-19

South Metro Dance Academy, like other person-to-person businesses, has been shattered by COVID-19
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In an article in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, a broad range o

Panel of scientists recommends stronger guidelines on PFAS

Right now, only a few specific ones have been banned or limited in use.
President Trump decided to suspend H-1B visa applications, citing the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Minnesota business groups oppose visa suspensions for foreign workers

President Trump's order called shortsighted, draws opposition.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., listened to video testimony from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter during a Senate Judiciary Com

St. Paul mayor asks Congress for sweeping police reforms

He is seeking broad national police accountability reforms, including standards that would outlaw chokeholds or neck restraints like the one that cost George Floyd his life at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Virus downturn leaves winners, losers among Minn. companies

Virus downturn leaves winners, losers among Minn. companies

Factors such as existing cash reserves and credit lines played a role, but so did luck. Companies generally responded quickly to pandemic-forced disruptions in the economy, but the costs of COVID-19 have not spread equally.
Jerry Essary of Sauk Centre and his nine-year-old son, Colton.

If Minnesota emergency order lifts Friday, flood of evictions, foreclosures will likely follow

State's protections could end Friday, fed order might follow.
3M headquarters in Maplewood(GLEN STUBBE/Star Tribune)

With two new lawsuits, 3M has filed 14 claiming N95 fraud

Ohio company called "ringleader" in fraudulent sales in California.
President Donald Trump signed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 in the Rose Garden of the White House Friday.

Trump signs Dean Phillips-sponsored update of forgivable loans for small businesses

The Paycheck Protection Program was extended and payback terms altered.
Rep. Dean Phillips

U.S. House passes small-biz aid bill introduced by Minnesota's Dean Phillips

The legislation, which also must be passed by the Senate, would extend repayment deadlines and loosen some of the spending rules for the small business loans.
Attorney General Keith Ellison, seen here at a press conference with Gov. Tim Walz, says the most prevalent coronavirus scam complaints in Minnesota c

'Truly scurrilous behavior' by scammers increases as pandemic continues

An upending of social norms helps set the stage for a growing roster of unsavory pitches.
Medtronic experienced a sharp drop in sales and profits as the coronavirus forced hospitals and clinics to cancel many procedures that use its product

Medtronic's profit and sales fall sharply, as hospital procedures ramp down

The medical device maker saw its sales drop 25% in the February-April period.
FILE -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta, on Feb. 28, 2020.

UnitedHealth, HealthPartners offer employer guides to get employees back to workplaces

One an app, the other a bundled group of services, they are based on CDC guidelines.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, greets Marc Perrone, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union with an elbow bu

Senate panel debates employer immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits

Congress is considering whether immunity should be granted for a limited time as businesses reopen.
The bar area at the Famous Dave's location in Maple Grove shown in a September 2016 file photo. (Staff photo by Jeff Wheeler)To counter sales declines

Owner of Famous Dave's, Granite City chains gets $13 million federal loan

Famous Dave's, Granite City owner says firm needed access to capital.
A worker packed N95 masks at a 3M plant.

3M files 5 more lawsuits claiming fraud in sales of N95 masks

The manufacturer says businesses tried to sell Florida officials nonexistent N95 masks. 3M said it will donate any damages recovered to COVID-19-related nonprofit organizations.
A small crew at the JBS Worthington Pork Plant began to euthanize pigs Wednesday without processing them into food products. The move is designed to h

JBS reopens Worthington plant to kill pigs without processing them

Minnesota's biggest pork processing plant reopened for grim duty: killing pigs without turning them into food. The job will help farmers who are contending with barns that are full and crowded by new pigs being born every day.
A shopper surveys the overflowing selection of packaged meat in a grocery early Monday, April 27, 2020, in southeast Denver. With closures in meat pro

Trump order compels meat processing plants to reopen

The rare move to use the Defense Production Act to compel plants to stay open comes as union leaders press for more testing of workers.
President Donald Trump signs a coronavirus aid package to direct funds to small businesses, hospitals, and testing, in the Oval Office of the White Ho

Small business loan recipients include not-so-small Minn. companies

At least four publicly traded companies, one with more than $100 million in sales, received forgivable loans.
COVID-19 signage at the employee entrance of JBS USA plant in Worthington, Minn.

Meat plant workers need greater protection from COVID-19, union says

Minnesota's congressional delegation has grown increasingly active in its call to protect workers in the pork, beef and poultry industries.
Bourget Imports partners Terry Marek and Annette Peters in their Eagan warehouse. Peters worked frantically to get an early Paycheck Protection Progra

Dogged Minnesota wine importer finally landed vital federal help, but 'it is just a bridge'

PPP check is allowing Bourget Imports to keep paying its employees, but funds expire in June.
3M headquarters in Maplewood.

3M files suit against Florida company for price gouging

Company tried to sell N95 masks to a federal stockpile at inflated prices.
Sleep Number Corp. has furloughed 40% of its 4,400-person workforce and cut hours for the rest, and the CEO stopped collecting cash compensation.

'Technical depression' upends big Minnesota companies

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of the state's major corporate players reeling. Six of Minnesota's largest publicly traded companies have announced temporary reductions in operations. Four have furloughed large portions of their workforce. More have issued dire warnings to investors.
3M headquarters in Maplewood. (Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) ORG XMIT: MIN2004062102061629

3M suit: Distributor tried to sell N95 masks to NYC for 600% above list price

New Jersey supplier allegedly claimed it was affiliated with company.
Richfield-based Best Buy first accessed its five-year revolving loan until Feb. 1 and on March 19 tapped the entire $1.25 billion. It also suspended i

Minnesota companies borrow billions to pad cash flow

Companies are tapping revolving lines of credit to help secure cash flow during an increasingly volatile economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They also are tightening expenses, some by laying off or furloughing workers, others by putting off capital expenditures, all with the goal of conserving cash.
Medical equipment makers like Medtronic rely on parts from suppliers in many countries and are worried that a U.S. wartime production law may invite r

Medtronic, other med-tech firms fear parts shortage if Trump invokes wartime production law

Trump is under pressure to force companies to make ventilators for the U.S., but it's not so simple.
Service Manager Keith Wilson tests a TV100 ventilator at medical equipment manufacturer Bio-Med Devices in Guilford, Conn. on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Minnesota faces chaotic global battle for more ventilators

Minnesota is scrambling against worldwide competition to line up the ventilators it needs to limit the death toll from a coming surge of patients critically ill with COVID-19.
Ecolab corporate headquarters building in St. Paul.

Ecolab seeing sharp rise in sales of disinfectants that can neutralize coronavirus

Sales have risen 10-fold for some Ecolab disinfectants that neutralize the novel coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic.St. Paul-based Ecolab already has 13 separate products