Public affairs personnel representing the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine are pushing back on Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson’s latest ad that states that if Gov. Mark Dayton is re-elected, “PolyMet is dead.”

In an email to undisclosed recipients, including supporters on the Iron Range, PolyMet spokesperson LaTisha Gietzen wrote that Johnson’s assertion is “simply not true.”

“As you know, we have made great progress this year with the SDEIS.  And recent comments by DNR Commissioner Landwehr and PCA Commissioner Stine create optimism that the EIS will be finalized in early spring and the state permitting process completed within 150 days after that,” Gietzen wrote.

“Politicizing the environmental review undercuts the process and will not help us achieve our goal to build a sustainable mine and create jobs,” Gietzen wrote. “It’s unfortunate that the PolyMet project has become the focus of so much campaign rhetoric during this election season. The good news is we should only have to endure it another 11 days before the election.”

Republicans have been using PolyMet to capitalize on a wedge between DFL voters. Some DFLers on the Iron Range are concerned that the environmental impact of the mine will be too much for the area’s renowned waterways. But as jobs in the area become more scarce, other DFLers say the jobs created by the mine are too important to pass up.

Early on in the campaign, candidates visited the Iron Range to pledge their support for the project in an effort to woo disgruntled DFL voters to their side of the aisle.

The most recent salvo comes from Johnson, who used it in his latest ad to make his case to voters that he stands with greater Minnesota. He’s said the environmental review process, which has been going on for nine years, has gone on too long.

For his party, Dayton has said he’s “intentionally remaining undecided and unresolved until all of the evidence is in.”

Johnson’s campaign was not immediately available for comment.

Johnson spokesman Jeff Bakken said PolyMet was informed in advance about the ad. “PolyMet is a business and we understand and respect the company doing what it feels it needs to do to protect its business interests.”

Bakken went on to say that, “It’s unfortunate that Governor Dayton has made PolyMet a political issue. Dayton has gone from promising…that he’d be a champion for PolyMet to now not even being willing to disclose his position on the project (and calling Jeff a “huckster” for saying he would be an advocate for mining). As Jeff has said, if the governor supported PolyMet, he’d say so before the election. His silence and broken promise to the Iron Range speaks volumes about what he’s going to do if re-elected.”

UPDATE: PolyMet spokesman Bruce Richardson said that the email was meant to reassure supporters that there’s “no need for panic.”

Richardson wouldn’t comment on how either party has used the PolyMet mine as a political issue this election year. But he said that the email was necessary because “when something is said that could have implications for how people view the company – if you’re a shareholder and you hear something like that – you may have a reaction.”

The email is below:

 

From: “LaTisha Gietzen”
Date: October 24, 2014 at 11:22:09 AM CDT
Subject: Political Ad referencing PolyMet

Good morning,

We have been informed that the Jeff Johnson Campaign for Governor has launched a TV ad in the Duluth/Range market which includes a statement that if Governor Dayton wins, the PolyMet project is dead.

While it’s difficult to determine what, if any impact the ad may have on the company, this assertion is simply not true.  As you know, we have made great progress this year with the SDEIS.  And recent comments by DNR Commissioner Landwehr and PCA Commissioner Stine create optimism that the EIS will be finalized in early spring and the state permitting process completed within 150 days after that.

Politicizing the environmental review undercuts the process and will not help us achieve our goal to build a sustainable mine and create jobs.

It’s unfortunate that the PolyMet project has become the focus of so much campaign rhetoric during this election season. The good news is we should only have to endure it another 11 days before the election.  In the meantime, we thank you for your patience and support as we continue to move this project forward.

LaTisha Gietzen 

Public and Community Relations

poligraph-accurateIn the last days of the election campaign, the liberal group Alliance for a Better Minnesota is pouring money into the U.S. Senate race to try to make sure Republican Mike McFadden doesn’t defeat Sen. Al Franken.

The group’s latest spot, which is costing more than $480,000, targets McFadden for his views on how to sustain entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

“McFadden says he wants to raise Medicare’s retirement age and said he would consider privatizing Social Security. Privatizing Social Security means risking our retirement savings in the stock market. That might be good for Wall Street and millionaire investment bankers like McFadden, but not for us.”

For the most part, this ad is correct.

  1. Listen Poligraph: Oct. 24

The Evidence

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is a well-funded group that supports Democratic candidates. It gets most of its money from wealthy individual donors, including Gov. Mark Dayton’s ex-wife, and from unions.

The group’s latest ad against McFadden plays on two themes we’ve seen a lot of this year and in other election years: an appeal to seniors, some of the most reliable midterm election voters, and the proposition that McFadden, being wealthy, isn’t like most Minnesotans. (McFadden’s opponent, Sen. Al Franken, is wealthy, too.)

Earlier this year, McFadden told MinnPost that he would consider raising the eligibility age for Medicare. MinnPost reporter Eric Black had to drag it out of McFadden. Here’s the exchange:

MM: So on Medicare you’ve got two issues: you’ve got a demographic issue and a cost issue. And I think we need to look at the retirement age and what age an individual becomes eligible for Social Security, excuse me, for Medicare.

EB: Obviously look at raising it?

MM: Yeah. Absolutely. And you know, Eric, if we were progressive, when this was put into place when the average lifespan was significantly lower than it is today, you’d almost put it in as a formula, take the average lifespan minus some number of years.

McFadden doesn’t go so far as to say he “wants to” raise the Medicare eligibility age as the ABM ad states. But McFadden is clearly open to the idea.

It’s also true that McFadden said he would consider privatizing Social Security. To most, privatizing Social Security means having workers put their Social Security contributions into a personal account and then investing those funds to grow their retirement savings.

Here’s how McFadden responded to a question from MPR News’s Tom Scheck in an interview from July, 2013 regarding the programs sustainability.

MM: “Also, I’d like to see them have more choices in terms of how they think about their retirement plan and how they put dollars away.”

TS: “Does that include perhaps allowing some of that public money to be invested in the stock market, what some people say is privatization?”

MM: “Potentially. Potentially. I’d want to look at that Tom. I think everything needs to be on the table. We need to save these programs. They are important to our seniors.”

In both the case of Medicare and Social Security, McFadden is careful to say that any changes he’d support in the Senate to ensure the survival of both programs wouldn’t affect those who are nearing retirement, though he hasn’t said exactly who would be affected by the changes he’s considering supporting.

Whether privatizing Social Security is a good thing is a matter of debate between conservatives and liberals and has been for decades.

Back in 1997, Dan Mitchell of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote that, “Replacing the payroll tax with a system of private savings accounts would boost the anemic level of savings in the United States. It also would boost the creation of jobs by sharply reducing the tax penalty imposed on employment.”

Meanwhile, around the same time, two experts at the Brookings Institution agreed that shifting to a private system could boost savings – but it may also be risky and come with disparities.

“The worker’s ultimate retirement benefit would depend solely on the size of the worker’s contributions and the success of the worker’s investment plan. Workers who made larger contributions would receive bigger pensions, other things equal,” the duo wrote.

The Verdict

The Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s ad says that McFadden wants to raise the eligibility age for Medicare. That’s not quite true, though McFadden has said he’s open to the idea to keep the program alive.

Aside from that nuance, the Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s ad gets McFadden’s record on entitlement programs mostly right. But it’s a matter of reasonable debate whether moving to a privatized retirement system is a good idea.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

The Republican Party of Minnesota today agreed to change a television campaign ad critical of Gov. Mark Dayton, after a woman complained about the use of her dead grandson’s picture. (MPR News)

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson is going up with three more ads before he faces off against Gov. Mark Dayton on Nov. 4. (MPR News)

In the final stretch of the campaign, the conservative Minnesota Jobs Coalition is targeting vulnerable House DFLers in a six-figure television ad buy. (MPR News)

Former Secretary of State and likely 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton rallied voters for Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken. (AP/MPR News)

Vice President Joe Biden did the same with 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan. (AP/MPR News)

NPR also covered Biden’s rally with Nolan. (NPR)

Gov. Dayton is taking heat for avoiding reporters with questions about a key insurance provider’s exit from the state’s health care exchange. (AP via KSTP)

National Politics

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that streamlining government agencies will be a central goal in the new Congress. (Politico)

Cutting federal health and retirement spending has long been at the top of the GOP agenda. But with Republicans in striking distance of winning the Senate, they are suddenly blasting the idea of trimming Social Security benefits. (Washington Post)

Economic anxiety is a major undercurrent of this election. (Politico)