GOP lawmaker presses for answers about Democrat's U of M job

Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis
Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, testifies at the state Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, on his bill to boost Minnesota’s renewable energy standard to 100 percent by 2050.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

A Republican state lawmaker is calling for House DFL leaders to take action against one of their freshmen members after questions were raised about the lawmaker’s recent outside employment.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, contends that Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, received preferential treatment when he was hired for a policy research fellowship at the University of Minnesota Institute’s Environment Energy Transition Lab to work on clean energy and climate change issues.

Former DFL state Sen. Ellen Anderson made the hire. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

Swedzinski called on House Speaker Melissa Hortman to suspend Long from his positions as assistant majority leader and vice chair of the House Energy and Climate Division while the matter is investigated.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

He said emails he obtained through a public records request raise many questions about the hiring process.

“It seems like from the emails that Rep. Long was the intended person for this money long before the position was created,” he said.

Long, who has since resigned the post, was earning about $34 per hour.

Swedzinski said he also wants to know the identity of a donor who funded the fellowship. The name was redacted in the documents he received.

“It may not be a blatant in your face thing, but I think there are definitely some questions that need to be asked and looked into,” he said.

Hortman released a statement that said she will withhold comment until she can review the documents.

Long denies any wrongdoing and said there is nothing to investigate. He insists that he applied for the position and went through a competitive public hiring process.

Long said he submitted his resignation earlier this week because of Swedzinski’s data request, which he described as “politically motivated.” His last day is Sept. 20.

“Unfortunately, climate change has become politicized, such that even research is seen in a partisan light,” Long said. “So, it became clear that my presence there was a distraction with some of the partisan attack on my position. So, unfortunately I resigned.”

The questions surrounding Long’s arrangement only highlight gaps in disclosure requirements for members of Minnesota’s part-time Legislature.

Lawmakers are required to provide little information about their outside jobs on required public disclosure forms.

In legislative directories, a quarter of the 201 current legislators list “attorney” or “consultant” as their occupation. But the public has little way to determine who is paying their fees, with past attempts to demand more transparency defeated on the grounds it would violate client privacy.

Other legislators simply leave the occupation section blank all together.