"Draft David Hann for Governor" movement marred by conflict-of-interest controversy

Was Hann looking to line his pockets when he authored a MinnesotaCare-slashing bill? Some DFLers are curious.
Was Hann looking to line his pockets when he authored a MinnesotaCare-slashing bill? Some DFLers are curious.

On Saturday, the MNGOP met in Blaine to discuss the butt kicking the party received last month and to look ahead to the 2014 election.

-- John Kriesel for governor? "I would never rule out a run," he says
-- Hann: Some state employees "do nothing," salaries "a clear misuse of public dollars"
-- Hann calls Archbishop Nienstedt a socialist for caring about the poor

One of the big talkers heading into the next election pertains to who the MNGOP will run against Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, and an early leader in that clubhouse seems to be new Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. In fact, at Saturday's meeting, Hann backers, including defeated Sen. Benjamin Kruse of Brooklyn Park, distributed stickers, shirts, and cards hyping a "Draft David Hann for Governor" campaign, the AP reports.

Hann says he won't make a final decision about whether to run against Dayton until the middle of next year at the earliest.

But while he's receiving buzz as a gubernatorial candidate, Hann, along with Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, also finds himself at the center of a conflict-of-interest controversy involving his dual roles as author of health care privatization legislation and licensed health insurance salesman.

We first told you about the controversy earlier last month. It's now the subject of an MPR feature that focuses primarily on Gottwalt, the legislator and insurance salesman who pushed a MinnesotaCare-slashing bill through the House.

From MPR:

State Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, led the GOP effort to cut spending in the state's Health and Human Services budget when the Republicans controlled the Legislature. Now, both he and his Senate counterpart [i.e., Hann] have business links to the insurance industry, which has some other lawmakers asking whether the arrangement violates ethics rules...

Gottwalt, who served as chairman of the House Human Services Reform Committee, sponsored a bill that was designed to divert some recipients of the state-subsidized health insurance program MinnesotaCare to the private insurance market...

In July, more than 4,000 Minnesotans were dropped from MinnesotaCare and given the option of enrolling in the new insurance plan, the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program. It was Gottwalt's plan, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law as part of the deal that ended the state government shutdown.

As we told you about last month, during the last legislative session, Hann and Gottwalt chaired the Health and Human Service Committee in each of their respective chambers. They pushed a privatization agenda while at the same time working toward licensure to sell health insurance, and both legislators are now listed as associates with the Boys and Tyler insurance company.

Hann, the chief author of the Senate version of the bill that slashed MinnesotaCare, told MPR what he did "was perfectly legal and legitimate."

"I did not have a license at the time I [authored the bill], was not contemplating having a license at the time I did that," Hann said. "After the fact, I got a license, [which] would no different than anybody in the state of Minnesota who decided to get a license after the law was passed."

But some DFLers aren't satisfied by that rationale and are calling for the ethics committees in each chamber to investigate whether Gottwalt and Hann's employment with Boys and Tyler represents some sort of quid pro quo for authoring legislation that stood to bolster the company's bottom line.

The House ethics committee's incoming chair, Rep. Tom Huntley, D-Duluth, told MPR: "If these are payoffs, then the ethics committee needs to look at it."

In any event, the conflict-of-interest controversy will surely be a recurring headache for Hann if he pushes ahead with a 2014 gubernatorial run.

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