Gov. candidates bill taxpayers $23,000 in expenses (feature audio)
Gov. candidates bill taxpayers $23,000 in expenses
by Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
September 29, 2009
Lawmakers are allowed to claim expenses when the Legislature isn't in session, but even some of the candidates say they're concerned about appearances.
Minnesota Public Radio didn't come up with the idea of examining the expense reports of every state lawmaker who is running for governor; it was one of the candidates, Republican Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall.
Seifert raised the issue last week at a St. Paul news conference. He said he was concerned that some candidates may have used their legislative leadership positions to schedule visits around the state to gain publicity.
"I'm just throwing it out there as something that needs attention from people to get ahead of the curve, if you will," Seifert said.
So MPR News checked, and it turns out it was Marty Seifert who claimed more money for expenses over the last four months than any other House member running for governor. The only candidate for governor in the Legislature who claimed more than Seifert was DFL Sen. Tom Bakk.
Expense reports show that Seifert took $6,081 for travel, lodging and daily expense payments. There's nothing illegal about state lawmakers filing expense reports, but they could run the political risk of appearing to campaign on the public dime.
When asked about the figures, Seifert said the issue isn't that candidates for governor are taking expense payments, but that some in power have the right to call hearings and meetings and then claim expenses. Seifert stepped down from his position as House Minority Leader when he announced his campaign for governor.
"I live the farthest from the Capitol of a lot of these folks, but I don't have the ability to at will travel to Crookston, visit a college and do other things and sign a slip for myself," Seifert said.
Seifert singled out three DFL lawmakers over expense reports: House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Chair Tom Rukavina, and House Health and Human Service Policy Committee Chair Paul Thissen.
Marty, haven't you heard the rule of courtroom attorneys - never ask a question for which you don't already know the answer?
His talking points are usually a smear or conspiracy theory. Not a lot of positive leadership.
Kudos to MPR for taking Rep. Seifert's suggestion.
Next up, we'll check out the rumor that Rep. Seifert rode light rail without paying. We need to stay ahead of these questions.