Kurt Daudt talks a lot about "households budgets," and how Minnesota's expenditures should not outpace the amount being spent by the regular citizens of Minnesota. Just as people must keep their personal spending in line, so, too, should the state, argues Daudt, the Republican House Speaker from Crown.
These are lessons Daudt has learned personally. But the public didn't know just how well he'd learned them until early Tuesday morning, when Minnesota Public Radio published a report detailing Daudt's recent — as in, earlier this month — trouble with credit card and unpaid taxes on land he owns.
The timing of this story sure is awkward for Daudt: The 2016 legislative session starts in a matter of hours, and, as GOP leader, Daudt will take the key position arguing for what the state should do with a $900 million surplus. At noon, the third-term legislator from east-central Minnesota will take to the rostrum to officially inaugurate this year's session. All eyes will be on him; most will already know about his personal financial issues.
As of December, MPR reports, Daudt owed about $9,300 in credit card expenses to U.S. Bank, a debt that originated in 2011. The civil claim against the Republican leader was settled earlier this month, and his attorney, Reid Lebeau, a lobbyist who regularly represents Republican legislators and causes, did not specify settlement terms.
Daudt faced two other unrelated claims, amounting to a total of more than $3,800, last spring, and a court found in favor of Capital One Bank in both cases. In the single most curious passage in MPR's report, it's stated that the judgments were then "vacated" at the request of the creditor, which then inexplicably asked that the case be dismissed "with prejudice," with no further cost to either side.
Out of some 650 recent debt cases MPR reviewed, exactly four had been vacated, like Daudt's, and in two of those, the defendants had filed for bankruptcy.
MPR notes that Capital One was represented by Messerli & Kramer, a local law firm that also lobbies the legislature. (Messerli & Kramer employs a fleet of lobbyists to represent a diverse group of clients, including the Ford Motor Co., the AIG insurance giant, and US Bancorp., Daudt's less-forgiving creditor in his other case.)
Daudt also recently paid up on a small tax debt he owed for land he owns in Isanti County. How recent? Last night, MPR says, not long after he learned MPR was writing a story about his other cashflow problems.
Daudt first agreed to an interview with the radio station, then no-showed, and instead issued a statement explaining that he, "like many Minnesotans," had lost his job — Daudt formerly worked as a car salesman — and taken on debt as a result of the recession.
"When I stand up for middle-class families who are feeling squeezed, it is not a talking point, it is real life," Daudt said.