The Republican leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives is joining a Virginia-based government relations firm as its director of public affairs, sparking criticism from Democrats who see it as a conflict of interest for the five-term lawmaker.
Stateside Associates announced the hiring of Rep. Kurt Daudt on Friday. The Republican from Crown will continue to serve in the state Legislature and as GOP caucus leader.
In a release, the firm said Daudt will “support Stateside’s clients with a wide range of public affairs solutions, availing them of his deep knowledge of the legislative process, public policy experience, and access to elected and appointed leaders in all 50 states.” The part-time role does not involve lobbying, according to the firm.
The move was met with criticism from local Democrats. Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin called on Daudt to resign from one of the roles, arguing that he is “opening himself up to massive conflicts of interest by working for a lobbying firm” while serving in the Legislature.
“The people of Daudt’s district deserve a representative who works on their behalf, not someone looking to sell his access to the highest bidder,” he said.
The firm’s client list includes major national corporations, including Comcast, FedEx, McDonald’s and PayPal.
Daudt defended his decision, saying in an interview with the Star Tribune that he will not lobby or work on issues related to Minnesota. He said he consulted with the House legal counsel before accepting and was told it did not run afoul of any chamber rules. House rules prohibit members from being paid to lobby but do not otherwise restrict members’ outside employment.
“My No. 1 priority is still being focused on my work in the Legislature and serving my constituents and serving as the leader of my caucus,” Daudt said.
Minnesota’s part-time Legislature meets about five months a year. Lawmakers draw an annual salary of $46,500, not counting per diem payments and other reimbursements meant to cover the cost of travel and living in St. Paul during the session. As a result, the vast majority of the 201 state lawmakers hold outside jobs, including many of the Legislature’s top leaders.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, works as in-house counsel for Linkup, a job search data group, a spokesman confirmed, while Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, owns his own insurance agency. House Speaker Melissa Hortman, an attorney, does not currently work outside the Legislature, a spokesman said. Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is retired. Daudt, who as a leader makes $65,000 a year, has not held outside employment in years.
The potential for conflict between professional and public duties, and gaps in the disclosure requirements, has sparked controversy in the past. Earlier this year, Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, resigned from a job with the University of Minnesota after internal documents requested by House Republicans raised questions about preferential treatment during the hiring process.