After a Minneapolis Star Tribune editorial took Congressman Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) to task for pushing a land swap deal that would greatly benefit the mining industry, Cravaack penned an op-ed saying that the Star Tribune editorial is an example of what is the matter with politics:
“Just last week, the Star Tribune editorial board insinuated I am pushing the land exchange to receive future campaign contributions from ‘large international mining companies.’ Never mind I will be self-term limited out of office before any mining would begin; this kind of casual, baseless accusation of criminal wrongdoing demonstrates what is wrong with our politics today.”
Cravaack also claims that the deal, which would swap 86,000 acres of school trust land in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for an unknown tract in Superior National Forest, is a clear winner for Minnesota’s schoolchildren that was blocked only because of “environmental special interests.”
Unfortunately, the Star Tribune had already blasted this line of argument as “largely a fairy tale” since the deal would “mostly benefit industry” and have only a “microscopic” impact on school children (only 0.29% of Minnesota school spending comes from school trust lands).
Behind all of Cravaack’s indignation about future contributions is an inconvenient fact: mining interests are already pouring money into his campaign coffers and doing so at an increasing pace.
- While the mining industry contributed $1,850 toward his 2010 electoral campaign, through June it has already put $29,950 toward getting their new ally re-elected—a 15-fold increase, according to a Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Federal Elections Commission and Center for Responsive Politics,
- Maybe Cravaack was just upset at the allegation that he would take money from “large international mining companies”? No luck there. Cliffs Natural Resources, a Fortune 500 company that does business in Brazil, Canada, and Australia, is one of Cravaack’s top 20 donors this election cycle, its employees and PAC having given $6,050.
- When House Republicans passed a bill to shorten the review process for federal mining permits to 30 months at most, Cravaack made sure to add an amendment to make the bill apply to currently pending applications. Duluth Metals—which has given Cravaack $3,450—majority-owns a copper-nickel mining project that is currently under review.
It’s hard to guess how much mining money Cravaack will take in by November, but one thing is sure: it’s going to be hard to say it’s a coincidence.
So, Cravaack is right: the Star Tribune editorial really does illustrate what is wrong with politics today—but only because it shines a light on the undue influence that special interest donors may be having on his actions.