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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Swedzinski urges Speaker Hortman to address questionable lawmaker hiring

Thursday, September 12, 2019


ST. PAUL, MN—On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, sent a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, requesting that Democrat Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, be suspended from his position as Assistant Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the House Energy and Climate Division pending an investigation into his employment at the University of Minnesota, which reportedly ended Wednesday with Rep. Long's resignation. According to emails obtained by Rep. Swedzinski, the position was funded by a redacted donor, and Rep. Long was closely consulted through every step of the process, including the creation of the position description, his work week schedule, and ensuring that the position would not overlap with the 2020 legislative session. 

"When a former Democrat lawmaker solicits funds from an anonymous donor to hire a sitting Democrat lawmaker, there are major questions that demand a full investigation by Speaker Hortman and DFL leadership," Swedzinski said. "Rep. Long was able to write his own position description, set his own hours, and tailor his hours to ensure he was fully employed while the legislature was out of session. Until we know for sure that this hiring did not run afoul of our ethics and campaign finance laws, Rep. Long should be suspended from his leadership positions within the Democrat caucus."

In an interview with the Pioneer Press, Rep. Long reportedly "insisted he applied for the job like anyone else" and " disputed the suggestion that Anderson created the job specifically for him," saying “I went through a public hiring process." However, Rep. Long's name was included in budget documents that pre-date the existence of the job description which he helped create. Rep. Long's name was also used in the file name for the position description long before it was posted. An internal email dated May 24,  2019 stated “We got $50k from [REDACTED] to hire Jamie Long for one year.” The position was not publicly posted until mid-June.

In the letter to Speaker Hortman, Rep. Swedzinski raised concerns about the source of the donation that funded Rep. Long's position, and whether Rep. Long should have registered as a lobbyist. According to an email from Rep. Long's supervisor at the Energy Transition Lab (former DFL lawmaker Ellen Anderson), Rep. Long's position would involve "engaging and educating legislators and other decision makers," which could constitute lobbying activity prohibited under House rules. According to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Lobbyist Handbook, "Lobbyists are individuals who are hired, or who act on their own, to try to influence governmental action by communicating with […] government officials." House Rule 9.10 states that "A member must not accept compensation for lobbying."

A copy of the letter to Speaker Hortman is attached. Please contact me if you are interested in obtaining the document file with responsive data from Rep. Swedzinski's request.