Sixth Congressional District foes Michele Bachmann and Jim Graves are taking turns knocking each others' business records.
Members of the Republican Party, including the incumbent Republican Bachmann, have made cutting government regulations to support business owners a cornerstone of their platform for years. But now the state Republican Party is attacking the challenging Democrat over his business dealings.
In a memo released to the press, the Minnesota Republican Party said Graves, who owns the Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, didn't pay a subcontractor for work done on a building project during the mid-1980s and that he broke a 20-year agreement with a hotel chain and signed with a competitor.
The memo also said Graves listed on his company website that he was on the board of directors of the United Way of Central Minnesota.
The United Way disputed that and said Graves was involved in "a fundraising capacity sometime around the late '80s/early 90's."
Graves said overall the Republican's claims are misleading, but acknowledged the United Way was a misprint and something that's been corrected.
"First and foremost, we can respond to each of those things in detail," he said.
Graves shot back on the memo, saying it shows Republicans and Bachmann don't know what they're talking about when it comes to running a business.
"Bachmann doesn't understand business and in deference to her, she's not in business, so why would she understand business?" Graves said.
For years — including during her presidential campaign — Bachmann has said she's worked on behalf of business owners to cut red tape and government regulations.
"My record has been very consistent," Bachmann said. "I am a debt cutter. I am a tax cutter. I want to cut spending. And I want to balance budgets."
State GOP Chair Pat Shortridge said the memo is relevant because Graves has made his business background central to his campaign.
"He's had a fairly significant issue in filing paper work on time and filings with government agencies with making sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed," Shortridge said. "Very few politicians, once they get in office, start to take the rules more seriously once they're there."
As far as the memo's claims go, Graves said he's worked with "thousands of subcontractors over the last 35 years."
"You have a dispute with somebody who doesn't do the job — that's what we do," Graves said. "That's what the courts are for and it was resolved."
Graves said changing the hotel affiliation is like "changing your cell [phone] provider;" it's a decision based on what's best for business.
GRAVES RETURNS FIRE
And Graves has also gone after Bachmann on business issues in the 6th District. Graves made an ad alleging Bachmann didn't meet with workers following the Verso Paper Mill explosion and fire in Sartell. But Bachmann said she had a staff member on the scene within an hour of the fire and has since helped the laid-off workers.
Kevin Weyer, a former mill worker who lives in St. Joseph, said he's in the past he's voted for Bachmann because she represents his values — but not anymore.
"I guess Michele's off my ticket," Weyer said. "I vote more Republican, more conservative, but after this — we've asked at every meeting where she was of if anybody's seen her or her representative and it's no every time. After this year I'm not sure where her values are."
Others say they're supporting a fourth term for Bachmann in part because of her economic views.
Ed Springer, from Avon, turned out to see Bachmann earlier this month at Buffalo Wild Winds in St. Cloud.
Springer retired about 10 years ago from his electrical contracting business his sons have taken over. Now he said the business is struggling and, on a fixed income, he is too.
"The economic issues are terrible," Springer said. "It's killing everyone out there ... along with the gas going up; energy in general, and all the prices of everything are going through the roof."
Graves and Bachmann are scheduled to debate three times, the first in St. Cloud on Oct. 30.
MPR News reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this story.