DFL Lawmaker Cleared of Wrongdoing in Accepting University of Minnesota Position

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A report released Monday “completely exonerates” Minnesota Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis) from allegations of illicit lobbying activity, according to House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park).

State Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) demanded a full investigation in September after he obtained documents through a public records request appearing to show that Long planned to engage in “lobbying activity prohibited under House rules.”

Long was hired in July as an “energy research project specialist” at the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab housed in the Institute on the Environment, which was overseen by former DFL Sen. Ellen Anderson.

One email obtained by Swedzinski suggested that Long’s position would involve “engaging and educating legislators and other decision makers.” An additional email said the university received $50,000 from an anonymous donor, later discovered to be a grant from the McKnight Foundation, to “hire Jamie Long for one year.”

Long resigned from the position in September and maintains that he “went through a public hiring process” like anyone else would. Swedzinski, however, said that’s false, since records showed Long’s name was “included in budget documents that pre-date the existence of the job description which he helped create.”

The report released Monday said some university officials were referring to the position as the “Jamie Long position” as a shorthand.

“When a former Democrat lawmaker solicits funds from an anonymous donor to hire a sitting Democrat lawmaker, there are major questions that demand a full investigation by Speaker Hortman and DFL leadership,” Swedzinski said in a statement at the time. “Rep. Long was able to write his own position description, set his own hours, and tailor his hours to ensure he was fully employed while the Legislature was out of session.”

According to a Monday press release, Speaker Hortman directed the House Research Department to retain an outside investigator on September 20 to review the questions raised about Long’s employment with the university. Amy Schwartz, an attorney with the law firm Ballard Spahr, was hired to complete the investigation.

A copy of Schwartz’s report on her investigation states that the university was tailoring the position description to “match Rep. Long’s optimal requirements,” but Long was not aware of this fact and “never saw a position description until the position description for the role was publicly posted on June 17, 2019.”

In terms of lobbying activity, Schwartz says that her investigation “did not uncover any evidence that, in his role at the [Energy Transition Lab], Rep. Long communicated with public officials for the purpose of influencing legislative action.”

“The report we received from a neutral third party completely exonerates Representative Long from all allegations of impropriety made by Representatives Swedzinski and Daudt,” said Hortman, referring to House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), who is facing calls to resign for accepting a position with a lobbying firm while still serving as a legislator.

The university reassigned Anderson from the Energy Transition Lab to work on other projects. University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel said in the report that “writing a job description with an individual in mind is not again university policy,” but “asking a candidate to assist in creating a job description is not a common practice.”

The full report on the investigation can be viewed below:

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Minnesota House of Representatives Chamber” by Chris Gaukel. CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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