House Ethics Committee to investigate GOP congressman for financial misconduct

The U.S. House Ethics Committee will review allegations that U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn used his office budget to pay a business owned by his staff and that his campaign accepted free office space from a political donor, a violation of federal election law.

The decision to further investigate the congressman from Minnesota's First Congressional District follows a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE, which is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of Congress and, when appropriate, referring matters to the Ethics Committee.

According to the report of the OCE: “There is substantial reason to believe that Hagedorn used official funds to contract for services with companies owned or controlled by his staff members…. There is substantial reason to believe that Hagedorn used private office space at no cost or for a rate below fair market value."

The vote to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee for more investigation was 6-0.

The OCE investigation began after Reformer contributor Dan Newhauser reported in 2020 that Hagedorn spent more than $400,000 of taxpayer money on contractors owned by his staff in one case and the brother of his former chief-of-staff in another.

Newhauser then reported for Politico that Hagedorn appeared to be enjoying rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor.

Elliot Berke, an attorney for Hagedorn, responded to the Ethics Committee chair and ranking member, alleging there were “material misstatements made to the OCE" and “unfounded conclusions reached by the OCE in its referral."

As for the free office space allegation, Berke writes that Hagedorn has been “targeted" by “leftist groups."

The Office of Congressional Ethics also found that there was “substantial reason to believe" wrongdoing by U.S. Reps. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., Mike Kelly, R-Penn., and Alex Mooney, R-W.V., on unrelated matters.


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Ethics Committee to investigate Minnesota Republican for financial misconduct

The U.S. House Ethics Committee will review allegations that U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn used his office budget to pay a business owned by his staff and that his campaign accepted free office space from a political donor, a violation of federal election law.

The decision to further investigate the congressman from Minnesota's First Congressional District follows a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, or OCE, which is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of Congress and, when appropriate, referring matters to the Ethics Committee.

According to the report of the OCE: “There is substantial reason to believe that Hagedorn used official funds to contract for services with companies owned or controlled by his staff members…. There is substantial reason to believe that Hagedorn used private office space at no cost or for a rate below fair market value."

The vote to refer the matter to the Ethics Committee for more investigation was 6-0.

The OCE investigation began after Reformer contributor Dan Newhauser reported in 2020 that Hagedorn spent more than $400,000 of taxpayer money on contractors owned by his staff in one case and the brother of his former chief-of-staff in another.

Newhauser then reported for Politico that Hagedorn appeared to be enjoying rent-free use of a campaign office supplied by a political donor.

Elliot Berke, an attorney for Hagedorn, responded to the Ethics Committee chair and ranking member, alleging there were “material misstatements made to the OCE" and “unfounded conclusions reached by the OCE in its referral."

As for the free office space allegation, Berke writes that Hagedorn has been “targeted" by “leftist groups."

The Office of Congressional Ethics also found that there was “substantial reason to believe" wrongdoing by U.S. Reps. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., Mike Kelly, R-Penn., and Alex Mooney, R-W.V., on unrelated matters.

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Minnesota House Democrats boot Rep. John Thompson from their caucus over 'credible reports of abuse'

Rep. John Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, whose public controversies have created a series of political headaches for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, was expelled from the House DFL caucus Tuesday, according to a statement from House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Majority Leader Ryan Winkler.

“Rep. Thompson's actions, credible reports of abuse and misconduct, and his failure to take responsibility remain unacceptable for a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives," the joint statement said. “It would be best for Rep. Thompson, his family, and the institution for him to resign. In the absence of a resignation, the Minnesota House DFL has voted to remove Rep. Thompson from the caucus."

Although a pariah among his Democratic colleagues, Thompson remains a representative in the Minnesota House, which has never expelled a member. Removal from the House requires a two-thirds vote of the entire chamber.

A Ramsey County court this week asked the state of Minnesota to take Thompson's license for failing to pay a fine resulting from a July 4 traffic violation. He was found guilty by a Hennepin County jury in July for disorderly conduct stemming from an incident at North Memorial Health in 2019. Fox 9 reported in July that between 2003 and 2009, police reports revealed allegations that he punched, hit, and choked women, including in front of children, though he was never ultimately charged with those crimes.

Thompson published a lengthy statement on his Facebook page Tuesday, which says in part that, “Allegations about something that allegedly happened to me 20 years ago does not disqualify me from doing my job today. As a matter of fact, it only gave me strength to fight harder and help transform the communities I am fighting for."

Thompson won a DFL primary in 2020. Shortly after, he traveled to the suburban Hugo home of former Minneapolis police union leader Bob Kroll and his wife, WCCO reporter Liz Collin, for a Black Lives Matter protest in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd. Thompson was filmed shouting obscenities and veiled threats about the city burning: “This whole (expletive) state burned down for 20 (expletive) dollars. You think we give a f— about burning Hugo down?"

Thompson's Facebook statement acknowledged mistakes: “Have I made some bad decisions in the past? Yes. Have I been through the storm and back? Yes. Am I a passionate and vocal Black man? Yes."

Thompson's political activism was catalyzed by the police killing of his friend Philando Castile, who was shot in the summer of 2016 by a St. Anthony police officer and who was acquitted of wrongdoing.

He says his wife encouraged him to start seeing a “culturally intelligent male mental health specialist" in 2016, an incredibly difficult year for him. In addition to Castile's killing, Thompson's mom died and his son was “shot in the crossfire of gang violence."

Thompson wrote that his family has sought mental health help for their children “because of the slander that they see about us in the media."

The latest round of trouble for Thompson began in the wake of a July 4 traffic stop, when he showed a Wisconsin drivers license, which raised questions about his residency. He accused the officer who stopped him of racially profiling him.

He said in the Facebook post that he has a Minnesota driver's license now.

He signaled that he doesn't plan to resign and will continue to be “an agent of change."

“It's what I have done, and what I plan to continue doing," he wrote.

That's likely to displease his fellow Democrats, who have sought to unload Thompson for months given the easy target he creates for Republicans in the 2022 election at a time when crime is at the top of the electoral agenda.

And it is not just suburban and rural Democrats who fear association with Thompson. After the July domestic violence allegations, Sahan Journal reached out to all 21 members of the People of Color Indigenous Caucus in the Minnesota Legislature — a diverse group of urban, progressive lawmakers — and not a single one would comment on Thompson's travails.

Six of those members — Reps. Aisha Gomez, Athena Hollins, Esther Agbaje, Fue Lee, Hodan Hassan and Jay Xiong — released a statement Tuesday in which they do not specify how they voted in the expulsion matter. They say they do not condone Thompson's behavior but also called the row a lost opportunity “to find accountability in a way that seeks redemption and transformation."

The statement from the six Twin Cities Democrats also blames “the systems that fail Black families regarding domestic violence, exorbitant fines and fees, and lack of services (that) are also weaponized when convenient to ensure Black families remain in a state of despair."


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Mike Lindell's embarrassing and dangerous fellow travelers among GOP elected officials

Jennifer Carnahan's spectacular implosion as chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota is not even the most concerning recent event for Republicans or — more importantly — the rest of us.

Yes, her close ties to indicted donor and party operative Anton Lazzaro — followed by a cascade of stories of her bullying behavior — are tawdry and dispiriting to those of us who would hope Minnesota's best would volunteer for public life.

The more important event, however, took place recently in South Dakota, where the frenetic pillow mogul Mike Lindell held a three-day conference in which he purported to offer proof that the 2020 election was stolen.

Which, OK, fine. The man with the colorful past of cocaine, champagne and what he called a “fake" bankruptcy wants to stay famous and sell more pillows. Who cares, right?

The problem is that a parade of Minnesota Republicans followed him over there, people with real power and influence over our state's future, including GOP Reps. Erik Mortensen, Glenn Gruenhagen and Eric Lucero, apparently among others.

You can actually smell freedom over here," Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said on social media from South Dakota.

Perhaps COVID-19 has knocked out Drazkowski's sense of smell, because that odor wasn't the smell of freedom. It was the smell of equine dung being served up by Lindell.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is both a Republican and a network engineer with 20 years of experience, so he's well positioned to gauge the veracity of Lindell's claims. He put it plainly: “There's no there there."

Garofalo thinks there's legitimate debate about how the rules surrounding mail voting were changed last year without legislative input, and he wants to require voters to present a valid ID at the polls.

I don't agree, but at least he lives on planet Earth: “Those issues have nothing to do with tabulating the votes," he said of Lindell's claims of Chinese election theft. “That's internet hucksterism."

As Garofalo notes, the presidential election in Minnesota just wasn't that close. President Joe Biden's win was nearly identical to President Obama's victory over Mitt Romney in 2012. And, if Democrats were going to fix the election, why would they give up a U.S. House seat, state House seats and allow the Republicans to keep the state Senate?

It's almost embarrassing to have to explain how the vote fraud nonsense is wrong, like explaining to someone how a pyramid scheme will eventually collapse, but let's do it anyway:

After every election, a random group of precincts in every congressional district is chosen for review, totaling roughly 440,000 votes after the 2020 election, spanning more than 200 precincts. Guess what: The hand tallies were virtually identical to the machine tallies.

(People who keep asking for an “audit" don't seem to know or care that we already do this after every election.)

This has been true in other states. Georgia, for instance, completed a hand tally of every vote cast, and the result was the same.

The primary conceptual problem with these assertions of widespread fraud is that our election system is decentralized. The secretary of state does not count ballots. The votes are tallied in every county. Major fraud would require a lot of people's participation, even as a lot of other people from both parties are looking on.

Aside from the looniest Q-Anoners, Minnesota Republicans know all this. Senate Majority Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said this at a recent party social: “Three precincts that we looked at in St. Cloud, where one of our guys lost by 300 votes and there were some college town area, a Somali area, and I wanted to know, so we did a recount of three precincts and looked at all the data. Compared to the machines, it was the same. Hand count was the same as the machines."

(It's a tad offensive that he thinks Somali-American voters are suspect. Also, the “one of our guys" he's referring to is the late-Sen. Jerry Relph, whose daughter believes he caught COVID-19 at a crowded GOP Senate victory party the week of the election. He died a few weeks later, but I digress.)

The point is: Gazelka knows the election was not fixed.

But Gazelka still “sent a team," as he put it, including Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, to the Lindell-apalooza.

Lindell offered up $5 million to anyone who could disprove his claim the election was stolen based on the “evidence" he offered up. Big problem for Lindell, as the Washington Times reported: “The cyber expert on the 'red team' hired by Lindell now says the key data underpinning the theory that China hacked the 2020 election unveiled at the Cyber Symposium is illegitimate."

And now someone wants the 5 million bucks.

Local news in South Dakota reported that Bill Alderson of a Texas-based cybersecurity training outfit called Security Institute paid his own airfare and lodging to go to the Lindell event. He previously worked with the Pentagon after 9/11 and in Afghanistan. Having proven Lindell's whole theory was nothing but a buncha hokum, he's put in his application with Lindell's lawyers for the money.

He'll never see it, because the con just goes on and on.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Tyler Kistner, who is again running against U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, is claiming he would have won if not for (non-existent) voter fraud, of which he has zero evidence. I got some audio of Kistner talking at a GOP picnic, in which he said, “They did an audit of just five precincts in Dakota County. In just those five precincts they looked at, there was over 1,500 votes that went towards me."

Not true. After the hand recount of those precincts, he lost four votes.

These lies are not without consequence.

“Huge, long-term damage to our collective, mutual trust in the system," Secretary of State Steve Simon told me. “It's really damaging and harmful. And Jan. 6 is just the most obvious expression," he said, referring to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Thanks to Lindell and his fellow travelers here in Minnesota, Jan. 6 may have been just the beginning of something truly sinister, not the end.


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Minnesota GOP chairwoman resigns after explosive allegations rock the party

Jennifer Carnahan, who rocketed from nowhere to prominence in Minnesota politics just four years ago, resigned as chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota Thursday in the face of explosive allegations that she presided over a toxic organization rife with sexual harassment, bullying and paid-for secrecy.

This article was originally published at the Minnesota Reformer

Carnahan will leave with a severance package of roughly $38,000, equivalent to three-month's salary, after an 8-7 vote of the party's executive committee, with Carnahan voting 'aye' in a move that is sure to anger activists.

“She didn't deserve a dime of severance, and has shown no empathy for the victims. Everyone is very disappointed," said Dustin Grage, a GOP consultant who had been pushing for Carnahan's ouster.

A week ago, Carnahan — who is married to U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn — was safely ensconced as a party leader after a robust reelection victory this year, despite the GOP's continued statewide electoral losing streak including a disappointing loss here by former President Donald Trump.

Then came the indictment of her friend and major party donor Anton Lazzaro — as well as a local leader of the college Republicans — on federal sex trafficking charges. Lazzaro through his lawyer has denied the allegations.

Carnahan said she had no knowledge of either Lazzaro's activities or claims of sexual harassment by party staff, but what followed was a cascade of accusations that Carnahan was abusive to staff, outed a former political director as queer and failed to properly deal with allegations of sexual harassment.

The party executive committee met Sunday night and rescinded non-disclosure agreements in what wound up being a key turning point, as Carnahan could no longer count on the silence of former party staff.

Four former party executive directors who worked under Carnahan released a statement Wednesday, describing a “toxic environment," in which they were subject to “inappropriate behavior and manipulation."

In a statement on Thursday, Carnahan blamed a “mob mentality" that has sought to “defame, tarnish and attempt to ruin my personal and professional reputation" but nonetheless said serving as state party chair was “the honor of a lifetime."

“I never imagined my life would move from being abandoned as a baby next to a garbage dumpster on the back doorstep of a rural hospital in South Korea on the day I was born to serving as chairwoman of the Republican Party of Minnesota," she said.

The party's state central committee must now pick up the pieces about 14 months before a midterm election in which Republicans hope to unseat DFL Gov. Tim Walz, win the majority of the Minnesota House and expand their narrow majority in the state Senate.

Already facing a financial disadvantage, the party's small and large fundraising programs are now at risk, as donors consider the wisdom of paying Carnahan's severance package, as well as the possibility of civil settlements and legal fees.

Carnahan's chief selling point to party insiders was having closed out the GOP's long term debt.


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.



Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan resigns during Thursday night meeting www.youtube.com

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