Already, outside groups are pouring money into the area in the form of ads and fliers. That includes a six-figure ad run purchased jointly by AFSCME Council 5 and House Majority PAC, two democratic-leaning groups working to defeat Republican Stewart Mills, who is running against DFL incumbent Rep. Rick Nolan.
The ad includes clips of Mills speaking to a group of voters in the summer of 2013. The ad shows Mills saying, “folks saying the wealthy are not paying their fair share – the 2 percent, the 1 percent, whatever percent you want – is personally offensive.”
The ad goes on to say that Mills is against raising the minimum wage, and wants another tax break for the wealthy. Then the voice-over says “… because paying his fair share is…” and then Mills says “personally offensive.”
Mills’ family owns Mills Fleet Farm, a business where Mills has spent his professional life. In his 2013 speech, Mills said building a better business climate in Minnesota is among the chief reasons he’s challenging Nolan.
The AFSCME/House Majority PAC ad is meant to paint Mills as too privileged to be in touch with the needs and values of people living in the 8th District.
As it turns out, Mills never said in a single statement “folks saying the wealthy are not paying their fair share – the 2 percent, the 1 percent, whatever percent you want – is personally offensive.”
That quote was spliced together from three separate segments of his 2013 speech – sound bites made minutes apart and then reordered. (You can watch the entire speech here. The relevant section starts around the 11 minute mark.)
Nevertheless, Mills is frustrated with how businesses like Fleet Farm are treated in politics.
Here’s an extended quote from the Mills speech:
It is offensive for anybody who operates a business or employs people, what happened in the last round of elections where you had folks saying that the wealthy, the wealthy aren’t paying their fair share, that there’s all these loopholes and they don’t pay any taxes, and we have to make them pay more… We’ve paid all of our taxes, we reinvest the money we make into our business, we provide jobs for people, we provide health insurance for people.
Mills goes on to say that his company, and others in the area that face high taxes, give to local charities and support the community in other ways.
“We do a lot of things for this community, and to be singled out as a deadbeat is personally offensive,” Mills said.
The ad’s assertion that Mills doesn’t support raising the federal minimum wage is true according to news reports from KBJR, the Duluth-based NBC affiliate. Mills spokeswoman Chloe Rockow told the media outlet that Mills thinks there needs to be more, better-paying, high-skilled jobs and that “the way to get those jobs is to grow the economy.”
Finally, the ad says Mills “wants another tax break for the wealthy,” which his campaign says is false.
The ad’s claim falls into a gray area. Mills hasn’t said that he wants a tax break for the wealthy.
But he frequently talks about how high taxes are hurting businesses. For instance, he told MinnPost that to create jobs, business owners who pay income taxes instead of corporate taxes need to be able to grow.
In his 2013 speech, Mills elaborated, saying, “We don’t have big corporations up here, it’s going to be individuals that own businesses that are taxed at personal rates that have the ability to do it, and we have to speak up for the small- and medium-sized businesses and businesses like ourselves, because you know what?…When we’re able to reinvest in our business, we’re able to have construction projects like this which create construction jobs.”
It’s clear that Mills disagrees that business owners and businesses like his don’t “pay their fair share.” And based on previous statements, it’s fair to conclude that Mills believes businesses can’t invest as much as they want in new growth because of taxes.
However, the House Majority PAC/AFSCME ad goes too far because Mills’ comments are strung together out of order and out of context, and because the ending portrays him as offended at having to pay his fair share. But in the full context of the speech, Mills is offended at being called a “deadbeat” in spite of the jobs and other community benefits that stem from his company.
As a result, the ad is misleading.
Chloe Rockow, spokesperson, Mills for Congress
Matt Thornton, spokesperson, House Majority PAC