The Potluck

Sitting lawmakers will no longer be able to work as lobbyists as new law takes aim at GOP leader

By: - July 1, 2021 12:57 pm

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, addressed reporters on Oct. 19, calling for the state to fully reopen amid the pandemic. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer

Sitting lawmakers will no longer be able to work as lobbyists, after a Republican amendment taking aim at House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was adopted nearly unanimously in the House and later approved by the Senate as part of a broader tax bill. 

Offered by state Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, the measure will outlaw such work arrangements and comes more than a year after Daudt raised eyebrows by announcing his job with Stateside Associates, an Arlington, Va.-based lobbying firm

Daudt has steadfastly defended his job, saying he would not lobby the Minnesota Legislature. His job announcement as director of public affairs said he would not be involved in lobbying at all.

“In his role, Daudt will support Stateside’s clients with a wide range of public affairs solutions, availing them of his deep knowledge of the legislative process, public policy experience and access to elected and appointed leaders and officials in all 50 states,” the 2019 announcement said. 

 Critics, however, said such a distinction made little sense. 

“The line between legislators and lobbyists is largely undefined,” Drazkowski said as he introduced his amendment. “This provision will increase transparency in state government, root out political corruption, terminate conflicts of interest and return power and control of Minnesota government to the people of our state.”

Drazkowski said in March 2020 that his office had never received calls from Stateside Associates prior to Daudt’s hiring.  “In all our years of serving in the Minnesota Legislature, we have never once received a call from a Stateside Associates lobbyist until Rep. Daudt started working for them,” he said then. “Rep. Daudt is trying his hardest to pump swamp water from Washington D.C. directly into Minnesota.”

Stateside has many corporate clients, including Delta Air Lines, Comcast and FedEx.

The measure will take effect January 3, 2023 once DFL Gov. Tim Walz signs the tax bill, which he is expected to do on Thursday.

The language would also extend to lawmakers who work for a business “whose primary source of revenue is derived from lobbying, government  relations or government affairs services” or “from facilitating government relations or government affairs services between two third parties.”

Daudt, who abstained from the vote, declined through a spokesman to comment. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, also abstained from the vote.

She avoided criticizing her GOP counterpart in the House, explaining during a post-session press conference that she saw her role in the vote as “quasi-judicial” and that she intended to “stay above the fray.”

The amendment received little debate but nonetheless received overwhelming bipartisan support. 

Former Minnesota lawmakers have long accepted work as lobbyists, capitalizing on their experience and relationships with ex-colleagues to represent a wide variety of clients who have business before the Legislature. 

Currently, there are no restrictions that prevent lawmakers from leaving office one day and lobbying their colleagues the next.

*A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the vote on the amendment was unanimous. It received a single “no” vote.

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