A Seat at the Legislature Shouldn’t Be For Sale

Last week, something occurred at the Legislature that no one with historical knowledge of the institution has any recollection of happening before. DFL leadership at the Legislature gave a seat at the head of the table at a committee meeting to the chief lobbyist of a special interest group.

A joint meeting of House and Senate education finance committees met to discuss Minnesota’s application and qualifications for the Federal “Race to the Top” money.

Tom Dooher, president of Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers’ union, one of the most influential lobbying groups at the capitol, was invited to sit at the head of the committee table near the chairs of the two committees. Other than the commissioner of education, no one outside the Legislature was at the table. No one from the school boards association, no one representing rural school districts, nor was there anyone representing metropolitan school districts for that matter.

One of the problems with this is that some Legislators who were members of these committees and had a right to be there had no place at the table.

But the main problem with this situation is that it sends a message that if you represent a group that contributes enough money to the right candidates, you have the same standing as the people’s representatives. Education Minnesota spent over $900,000 to elect Legislative candidates in the last election (over $22,000 to elect Tim Faust alone).

No lobbyist should sit at a committee table with Legislators, no matter how noble the cause is they represent. I can only imagine the outrage from the left if Republicans were in charge, and invited someone from the Taxpayers’ League or Chamber of Commerce to sit at a committee table.

I call on Tim Faust to denounce this action by his party leadership.

If my party is in the majority after I’m elected, and they make similar errors in judgment, you can count on me to call them out on it.

Roger Crawford