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House Speaker Kurt Daudt goes Martha Stewart at taxpayers' expense

Who would've thought that the House Speaker, an Isanti County country boy, would have corinthian leather taste?

Who would've thought that the House Speaker, an Isanti County country boy, would have corinthian leather taste?

State Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was salty during the early springtime in 2014.

Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature, Daudt carped, were squandering $90 million in taxpayer cash for a new four-story Senate Office Building. 

“Here we are," said Daudt. "Democrats in St. Paul are about to spend between $60 and $90 million of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to build themselves an office building. This looks horrible.”

But about the same time Daudt was railing about waste, he was working behind the scenes to secure a posh redecoration of his own digs as part of the Capitol's massive renovation, according to a GOP legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to run afoul of Daudt. 

"Kurt's not a bad guy," says the source. "But this is fucked because here he was beating the shit out of the Democrats at the same he was angling and negotiating to decorate his new office with fancy shit. It eats away at our credibility."

The Capitol is currently undergoing a $300 million refurbishment. The idea is return it to the grandeur of its origins in 1905. Included will be $4.5 million burned on furniture and interior finishes.

Earlier this year, however, it was determined that wasn't enough. Another $2 million was appropriated.

According to the GOP lawmaker, that cash is earmarked for such things as a $10,000 ceremonial door for Daudt's office, vintage hardwood floors that the speaker "insisted on," and "fancy leather furniture" that will hark back to the days when Theodore Roosevelt was president.

"I didn't know about this and I don't know anyone else who did," the source says. "Now we find out [Daudt] went behind everyone's back to decorate this ceremonial office. It doesn't make much sense."

Messages left at Daudt's office went unreturned. But in an AP story published in the Pioneer Press, Daudt justified the additional expenses because the initial plans were "at a quality level subpar to what people would have expected in a renovation of this nature."

Daudt's foray into Martha Stewart living is not quite a done deal. The Capitol Preservation Commission must still sign off on it. That starts Monday afternoon when the 22-member panel convenes.

The meeting is open to the public.