Jim Hagedorn’s death could have meant the end of the House Ethics Committee investigation into whether he had allowed the use of official funds for impermissible expenditures … but the Committee has not announced its conclusion yet. Now questions are already being asked about Hagedorn’s replacement — Brad Finstad.
There were numerous issues for the Ethics Committee to investigate Congressman Hagedorn … starting off with his use of the Members Representational Allowance. The MRA is to be used for congressional office expenditures including Franked Mail.
If you do not know about Franked Mail, a February 7 2019 Congressional Research Service provides some background on the rules : Franked mail may be used only for matters of public concern or public service. It may not be used to solicit votes or contributions, to send mail regarding political campaigns or political parties, or to mail autobiographical or holiday greeting materials. House Members are prohibited from sending mass mailings fewer than 90 days prior to any general or primary election in which they are a candidate,
The Senate has their own set of rules which are similar with a 60 day window prior to Election Day.
Each session of Congress sets its own rules and It is possible that the House may have updated their rules as to the “blackout period” to match the Senate’s 60-day cut-off date as to when mailings may not be sent using taxpayer’s money as well as what media could be used.
For example, this Congress now allows the use of commercial radio to spread their message … for example, on May 10 2022, taxpayers paid for Pete Stauber to run radio ads warning Eighth District constituents that “some on the left have a defund and disparage the police policy agenda” and another reporting what constituent services his office offers. These commercials may not be cheap as Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio has reportedly “has spent nearly $60,000 on two radio commercials so far this year.” [Source : https://darik.news/washington/congressmen-use-tax-funded-radio-ads-to-promote-their-work-news-sports-jobs-2/723854.html] How much did taxpayers pay for Stauber’s “commercials” is unknown … but in the Second Quarter Statement of Disbursements, there were payments of over $90,000 (two payments to Main Street Media Group totaling $15,015; one payment to The Lukens Group for $5,025 and six payments to KAP Franked totaling $69,995.32)
To know that the taxpayers are paying for the Franked Mail (or radio spot), the phrase “Paid for by official funds authorized by the House of Representatives” must be stated.
Jim Hagedorn’s use of Franked Mail prompted the Ethics Committee investigation as it was revealed that there was concerns over who did the printing of the materials and that company’s relationship to a Hagedorn staff member.
With Jim Hagedorn’s death, Minnesota First District voters went to the polls and elected Brad Finstad on August 9th and he was sworn in on August 12th. [Fun Fact : August 12th is 88 days from Election Day].
My mailbox got its first piece of Franked Mail from Congressman Finstad on September 10 — 59 days before Election Day. Thus the question … is Congressman Finstad trying to spend taxpayer dollars before he is prevented to by the “blackout” rule ? We don’t know how much the mailer cost nor who the printer was … as that most likely will not be reported until after Thanksgiving. The website listing approved mailings notes Congressman Finstad’s name but has not been updated yet with the formal approval of the mailing [https://masscommsdisclosure.house.gov/] … most likely because many employees of the House were on recess.
The mailer does not contain any statement on issues … instead just a reminder that Congressman Finstad is “Working for You” … and a statement that he was sworn in on August 12th. Interestingly there is NOT a photo of the swearing in …. as that would have featured Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who facilitated the oath of office on the House floor (Note the portrait of George Washington) … instead there is a faux-swearing in photo featuring the Republican leader of the House, Kevin McCarthy in front of a photo of Ronald Reagan and a group of American flags.
For any candidate to complain about wasteful government spending and then use taxpayer dollars to fill our mailboxes with misleading photographs is clearly political. Actually, Brad Finstad is clearly electioneering at the expense of the taxpayers.
Surprised … nah. Thus far, Brad Finstad has kept a low profile … barely sponsoring pieces of legislation … in fact, only only five thus far.
The first one was House Concurrent Resolution 33 Supporting the Local Radio Freedom Act. Yep, as the mailer says, “Congressman Finstad hit the ground running” … sponsoring a “resolution” that is being pushed by the Radio Industry … including his donor Hubbard Broadcasting.
His first real bill is HR 6858 American Energy Independence from Russia Act … which requires the importation of oil from Canada via the TransCanada Keystone Pipeline in Phillips County, Montana … sorta interesting since the project’s corporate backer—the Canadian energy infrastructure company TC Energy— officially abandoned the project in June 2021. It also supports issuing oil and gas leases on federal lands [Fun Fact … Fiscal Years 2014 through 2019 Applications for “Permit to Drill” resulted in 19,941 applications being approved with slightly less than half in use … that’s less 4,000 per year with FY2019 reporting 4,219 approved by the Trump Administration. Compare that to what the Biden Administration has approved over the twelve months ending in July 2022 — 8,785. Thus the Biden Administration is approving more drilling applications but that does not mean that more oil drill rigs are in operation. According to the Baker-Hughes Drill Rig activity report for the week ending July 29 2022, the US Oil Rig Count was 605 (still below Pre-Covid levels of 664) and last week’s report domestic oil drill rig operations are DOWN to 591 for Sept 9, as BigOil cuts production to keep pump prices UP.]
Another bill that Congressman Finstad has co-sponsored is HR 7768 Farm Credit Administration Independent Authority Act … which addresses whether to collect, or not collect, lending data. FunFact : The Finstad For Congress committee received multiple donations from employees of Compeer Financial (a Farm Credit Agri Bank) — the bill removes any collection of lending data requirements … gosh, anybody wonder who benefits from that?
The third bill that Congressman Finstad has co-sponsored is HR 8069 Reducing Farm Input Costs and Barriers to Domestic Production Act which will address the fertilizer problem except the Biden Administration has already announced $250 Million grant program (Source https://t.co/qrUvsUj761 ).
The last bill is HR 8769 IRS Reduction Act which will RESCIND funding designed to improve the efficiency of the Internal Revenue Service including the processing of tax returns. Apparently, Congressman Finstad did not read the Hagedorn Report when Congressman Hagedorn acknowledged the processing problems at the IRS and how his office is working with the IRS. (Source https://www.postbulletin.com/opinion/letters/letter-hagedorns-office-helped-get-my-tax-refund) And I can personally attest to the problem as my 2020 refund finally arrived on July 13 2022 as the IRS blamed the lack of workers as they expect to see 52,000 IRS employees retiring over the next six years.
If you thought Congressman Finstad was gonna be a different kind of politician … well, Brad Finstad appears to be a crafty and misleading – willing to walk up to the line – spending taxpayer dollars promoting himself and benefiting his donors … while taxpayers wait for our tax refunds.
Of course, Congressman Finstad could just do a few things to answer these concerns.
Regarding the mailings, Jim Hagedorn said he didn’t know about the companies’ connections to his staffers before concerns were raised, so all Congressman Finstad has to do is publish a copy of the purchase order so taxpayers know who is getting our money and how much the taxpayers are paying for his messaging.
Why publish a photo suggesting your loyalty to Kevin McCarthy when the Oath of Office requires Members to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” ? Voters are tired of political antics and politicians who pick party over their interests.
Addressing the legislation that Congressman Finstad has sponsored, why these ? With 8,799 bills and 104 Concurrent Resolutions, why these ? How will these bills serve the needs of First District … and which of his donors advocated for these bills ? A recent national story [https://www.businessinsider.nl/minnesota-ice-cream-scoopers-can-make-17-an-hour-as-the-state-scrambles-for-workers/} focused on the lack of workers in Mankato including Jones Metal Products — a manufacturing facility that Jim Hagedorn visited in 2019 and heard of the need for more trained workers … it is now getting so desperate for workers that Mankato businesses are flying workers in and paying for hotel rooms … isn’t it time to admit that America’s future requires immigration reform?
Minnesota’s First District constituents deserve a Representative who will be proactively honest and forward looking. Fortunately, voters will have another election in just 56 days and that will determine if Brad Finstad’s antics fooled anyone.